I’ve never been one to keep normal working hours, and being the night owl that I am, a typical workday rarely ends before 11PM. Most people shake their heads at the schedules I keep, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, because most nights, quitting time comes just as TV is getting good. Late night television has never been as varied or as creative as it is at the moment, and once 12:37AM rolls around, there is no one I’d rather be watching than the zany, offbeat, and all around hilarious Craig Ferguson.
I was first introduced to this Scottish whirlwind of comedy by my Dad, who to the best of my knowledge has yet to miss an episode of Ferguson’s The Late Late Show. Following David Letterman on CBS, Craig Ferguson took over the reigns of The Late Late Show from Craig Kilborn in 2005, and my Dad had been telling me for years what a great show it was under Ferguson’s tenure. One night, when I had stopped by for dinner, my Dad invited me to watch one of the show’s opening monologues, and one monologue was all it took for me to become hooked. That was five years ago, and I have been a fan ever since, with many a night ending in hysterical laughter courtesy of this amazing comedian and performer.
While The Late Late Show takes its cues from the standard late night talk show formula, this formula is used merely as a suggestion, as gags abound everywhere, puppets pop up here and there, a horse named Secretariat keeps everyone entertained, and did I mention that Ferguson has a robot skeleton sidekick? Even better, the guest interviews, which I normally skip over on other talk shows, suddenly become required viewing in Ferguson’s hands, as he actually talks to his guests, and doesn’t rely on pre-interview bits to move the conversation along. Consequently, some of the funniest, most endearing, and off the cuff interviews on late night television happen on this show, and more often than not, I find myself wondering why they can’t last longer.
However, beyond the good conversations, what I like the most about this show is that you never know what you’re going to get, and Ferguson is such a brilliant speaker that the monologues and bits on his show have often addressed more serious topics without ever losing the comedy. Always open about his past battles with drugs and alcohol, Ferguson once used his monologue as an opportunity to explain how his life experiences have shaped his opinion that comedy should not happen at the expense of the vulnerable. Later in his run, he took the time to address the insanities of the US election season, while during yet another inspired bit, he managed to sum up our society’s obsession with youth culture in just over three minutes. Whether eulogizing his parents, dedicating an entire show to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or addressing national tragedies, Ferguson is always an eloquent, passionate, and deeply honest speaker, and in 2008, Ferguson took his talents to the White House Correspondants’ Dinner, and earned a standing ovation from a notoriously fickle audience. Having been fortunate enough to have twice seen Ferguson’s stand up show live, I can assure you that the standing ovation was well deserved.
As much as I admire Craig Ferguson for his ability to balance humour with gravitas, it is his madcap, no holds barred approach to his show that will keep me coming back as a viewer for as long as he is on the air. Given that the show is mostly ad libbed, you never know what will happen, but you always know it will be entertaining, insightful, and eclectic, and above all else, it will make you laugh. Besides, anyone who can create a dance tribute to Doctor Who with puppets, skeletons, and dancing horses will always have my seal of approval.