Craig Ferguson on standup, being a late night host, and touring

by W. Andrew Powell

Craig Ferguson was one of the best late night talk show hosts, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson proved that time and again, running for 11 seasons and over 2,000 episodes.

Ferguson won a Peabody Award for his interview on the show with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and beyond that his career would make the average comedian jealous. He made a name for himself as the fantastically funny and weird boss on The Drew Carey Show, he worked on Pixar’s Brave, and the TV series Hot in Cleveland, and he’s made guest appearances on every major comedy talk show that I can name.

When it comes to his own late night TV success though, what made Ferguson such a perfect host comes back to what the comedian himself admitted to me; he didn’t come into the job expecting the show to be one specific thing.

“One of the reasons I think the late night show worked was that I didn’t really have any connection to late night in the sense that I didn’t grow up in the history of it. I wasn’t connected to it in that way, so I loved doing it, but I didn’t have any preconceived notions of how it should look.”

“I had that very talented and experienced producer, Peter Lassally, looking after me and another gentleman by the name of Mike Davis, who kind of steered me through that world, but I didn’t really know anything about it, and I think it helped, too, to not have any ideas of how I should be. I just did it and I enjoyed it.”

The Late Late Show was always hilarious and unique and the series was the perfect setup to get into Ferguson’s fantastic, eclectic standup style.

Ferguson wants to be as spontaneous as possible for his standup, but it’s not just off-the-cuff, he just wants to make sure that it always feels organic.

“[Y]ou shouldn’t be able to tell the difference whether it’s off the top of my head or I’ve done it 50 times. What the actress Ute Lemper called the illusion of spontaneity, and it should feel like like all of it is off the top of my head. Not all of it is, but sometimes a lot of it is. I don’t really know how it’s going to go.”

And what about politics? When I asked Ferguson if he ever planned to revive his performance as the once Prince Charles, now King, we ended up talking about how he handles politics in his show.

“I tend not to do political stuff because it’s a stylistic choice. Jim Gaffigan, who’s a fabulous comedian, one of the best working ever, and Jim can be just as salty as anyone else backstage about any number of topics. But he makes a stylistic choice to do a show, which is family friendly.”

“Obviously I have opinions on all these things, but I just don’t want to put it in. I am more comfortable and I’m more drawn to absurdist anecdotal comedy than I am to immediate hot button topic comedy.”

Craig Ferguson recently came to Canada for Just For Laughs Toronto and is currently on tour with upcoming dates around the United States.

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