Feisty councilman wasn't the butt of goof, Norwegian comics claim

Feisty councilman wasn't the butt of goof, Norwegian comics claim

October 19, 2007 Staten Island Advance

Pia Haraldsen
Producers of the Norwegian entertainment show that sent a comedian to interview Staten IslandĀ Councilman James Oddo about next year's presidential election did not mean to offend him or take advantage of his known habit of speaking his mind, the television network said earlier today.

Yeah, right.

In a profanity-laced tirade, Oddo recently threw Pia Haraldsen and her camera crew out of his City Hall office after she asked him about Hillary Clinton's chances in the race because of "that embarrassing situation with the cigar" and whether Barack Obama can run for president because he's African-American.

The segment's goal, according to a spokesman for the Norwegian network, is to highlight what many perceive as the "dumb-blonde syndrome," with a young, blonde reporter sent out to cover a topic she knows nothing about.

Our New York street sense tells us they're full of baloney. They were hoping the young blonde would get Oddo to say something ignorant or outrageous.

Oddo's anger apparently made for good television -- and Internet video. Portions of the show, posted on YouTube, have been viewed by more than 51,000 people around the world. SEE THE VIDEO

The show "Rikets Rost," or "The Voice of the Nation" -- roughly the equivalent of the "Daily Show" or "Saturday Night Live" -- features skits and the fake interview format made famous by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G and Borat characters, to bait the interviewees into saying or doing something over-the-top.

"We're sorry if he didn't feel comfortable [with the interview] but a lot of people thought it was funny to watch," Jorund Rasdal Unneland, a spokesman for the Norwegian channel TV 2, said yesterday. "Creating a situation where the person being interviewed has some problems understanding what's going on because it's a tad absurd, that's where the comedy lies. I believe most people, at least in Norway, understand that this is about the ignorant, blonde stereotype's lack of knowledge."

Oddo was selected at random among City Council members, Rasdal Unneland said.

The show, which aired in Norway Oct. 4, attracted 500,000 viewers, and placed just outside the top 20 most viewed programs last week, according to TNS Gallup, which rates which shows have the most viewers. Norway has two major networks and a number of cable stations.

In the portion of the show not posted on YouTube, Oddo had explained that "Republicans tend to be more conservative, more fiscally conservative. We like to spend less, we like to tax less. We tend to be very tough on crime."

But when Ms. Haraldsen asked Oddo "what will your candidates do for the Lapps" -- an ethnic minority who live in Northern Norway, Sweden and Finland -- Oddo shrugged and said he didn't know what the Lapps are.

"You know, the Lapps in the North," Ms. Haraldsen explained. "The small guys with the strange hats who drink a lot and have this rope that they catch reindeer with."

At the end of the segment, Oddo opens his office door, telling her and her crew to "get the [expletive] out of my office" and threatened to throw their cameras out of his window.

Also in the hour-long show -- in which the report about the presidential election was only a minor part -- Ms. Haraldsen also interviewed state Sen. Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan) and New York University politics professor Steven Brams.

Connor was asked "Who are the most popular candidates in the Southern states like Chile and Argentina?" while Brams was questioned what the next president will do about the war in Vietnam. Once corrected, Ms. Haraldsen asked, "Has the war spread to Iraq?"

Ms. Haraldsen had previously gotten into hot water with the Swedish prime minister and recently was kicked out of the office of German deputy environmental minister Mikael Muller.

"The show has been a big hit," Rasdal Unneland said. "Some people have been irritated, while others have been able to take the joke. Most people have been able to take the joke."

Oddo, who has said he was annoyed that the TV crew wasted his time on a busy day, also has said he's sorry he embarrassed his mother and constituents by using salty language. However, he does not apologize for the sentiment.

On the show, Ms. Haraldsen said that, if anything, she learned one feature about American politicians: "Foreign politicians are much more entertaining than [politicians] in Norway."

Comments (1)

Hob Resident
Said this on 10-11-2007 At 01:14 pm
Too bad pansy Mayor Roberts didn't have balls like that guy!!!

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