In Your Pants!

Given the sad but expected announcement that Craigyferg is leaving CBS before they can force him out, I just thought I’d top this 2010 post as my own personal tribute.

A little while ago I had the chance to be in the audience (and the green room, thanks to a phone call from my esteemed pal who works in show biz) of Craig Ferguson’s “Late Late Show” in LA. If you haven’t seen this guy – and I assume most of you haven’t, as he gets almost no publicity of any kind – he’s probably the funniest and most creative force in late night TV right now. For all the controversy about Conan and Jay, the hubub about Jay vs. Dave, it’s Ferguson who takes chances and flies blind every night. He’s the only network personality who still has some of the dangerous creative fire that drove Letterman and Conan’s success in their early days at NBC. Here’s a clip of one of Craig’s more popular bits, a visit from Secretariat:

One thing you notice a bit from watching Craig’s show but much, much more in person is this – that sucker is cheap. No band here – just a “DJ”. The tiny studio seats less than 200 people. And no highly paid Andy Richter as a sidekick, we have a robot created by one of the “Mythbusters” guys, who goes by the name “Geoffrey Peterson“:

It’s safe to say there’s nothing quite like Craig Ferguson on American TV – maybe there never has been. He’s a true improviser, with all of the non-interview portions of the show going basically unscripted. His mind runs a mile a minute, like a pinball bouncing from one gag to the next. It leaves his guests exhausted sometimes – they just can’t keep up. His warmup comic felt the need to warn the audience not to gasp when Craig says something really outrageous (often) and to laugh even if they don’t get the joke right away (it takes a second to catch up, sometimes). I can’t think there are too many talk show hosts who need that kind of interference run for them, but this guy is different – he’s dark, self-deprecating in much the way Letterman was in the 80’s, a recovering alcoholic still very much at war with his demons.

Craig is also, among other things, a huge “Doctor Who” fanatic – yes, that’s a TARDIS on his desk. As someone who grew up watching Who when only hard-core geeks knew about it and had to stay up till 1230 AM on Sundays watching on PBS, the notion of a network TV show in the US devoting an entire hour to it was unthinkable. Yet that’s just what Ferguson did – and in this clip you can see both his love for “Who” and his truly off-center comic aesthetic:

The other specialty of the house here is puppets – alligators, ferrets, bunnies… They play a huge part in the show. It all seems incredibly lightweight and bizarre – but it’s driven by the mad genius of the host. This a guy who won a Peabody award for his 2009 interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu – he can hold his own with anyone. I guess Ferguson is about as far under the radar as anyone with a nightly network TV show in America could be, but that doesn’t diminish what he does – in fact, as the comedic decline of Dave and Conan has displayed, that relative obscurity is an artistic blessing-in-disguise. Give him a watch, or at least DVR him if you work for a living – and give it a few episodes before you decide. Sometimes it takes a second to catch up, but once you do – it’s well worth the wait.



  1. A


  2. O

    I've loved his show for some time. When he went HD… that puppet skit was glorious. Truly, LOL worthy.

  3. S

    His show is great! Sadly over here in Europe I only discovered him via Youtube quite late. You just got to love his sillyness together with Larry King when Larry voiced Geoffrey.

  4. M

    He used to dance under the name Craigyferg.

    I fully suspect that I will stop watching all late night programming once he's gone. I don't want to say that Colbert will undoubtedly be terrible, but he just hasn't shown the spark that makes Craig such a personable guy. He's the only guy who makes the guests feel completely comfortable. He's the only one who would sit down and just chat with an intellectual for the whole show. He has the perfect personality for a talk show host, and he will be missed.

    That said, I'm sure someone will snatch him up, and I'll just watch that, lol

  5. Well, he says he has no intention of ever doing a talk show again, but we'll see.

    In truth we don't know what we'll be getting from Colbert, because he's been playing a character since he signed on with Stewart. I happen to think Colbert is the other funniest guy on American TV along with Craig, and I have zero doubts he'll be the best interviewer on late-night TV. How will his "real" personality play? That's the gamble CBS is taking.

  6. K

    Discovered Craig Ferguson a year ago, he's definitely the best late night show host in my opinion and it's a shame to hear that's he's retiring the position. I love his interactions with Geoff. [url=]This[/url] is my favorite thing they've done.

  7. K

    *Ah, url tags don't work here. Well then, I don't see a way to edit my comment so um, it's going to stay looking all ugly like that.

  8. A

    Do hobo audience members really get free chicken?

    The man is a genius. No one else has his guts, either. The improvisation alone, ripping up the cards at the start of every interview, would make him unique. But he's so much more. Truly, he deconstructs the late night genre. The robot skeleton sidekick, which I'm still not sure is better with an actual human behind the voice or back when it had a very limited set of phrases (including "balls"). The horse (it's not a real horse, you guys). The multinational appreciation and patriotism that only coexists so strongly in a true American immigrant. The puppetry of a cajun alligator and a filthy-mouthed adorable rabbit. The reverence for thinkers of all kinds, from the insecure guests to Søren Kierkegaard. The audacity to keep a gag like showing the wrong picture for Paul McCartney going for YEARS because a reviewer commented on having seen it more than once.

    Truly, without him, it will not be a great day for America.

  9. Poetry, my friend.

    I will say this – I think Josh Robert Thompson does such a great job playing off Craig that I'll take fully interactive Jeff over the old model any day of the week. I do wish we'd seen more of Sid and Wavy in recent years, though.

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