Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Craig Ferguson: Great Late Night or Greatest Late Night?


I think my show is probably closer to Pee-wee's Playhouse than anything else I've seen, and that is an aspiration.”
-Craig Ferguson (2009)

So maybe greatest late night is a little bit of a stretch, but The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson is definitely a show to watch. Craig Ferguson hosts his late night talk show more like he’s hanging out at home than on a national television show. It is this sense of informality that is most endearing and sets guests at ease quickly.

The history of The Late Late Show in a nutshell… From 1995-1999, the late night talk show was hosted by Tom Snyder, who ran it like an intimate interview show. Snyder was a veteran newsman instead of the usual late night comedian. After he left in 1999, Craig Kilborn took over The Late Late Show hosting duties. The show reformatted to match other late night talk shows and included clips from Kilborn’s The Daily Show days. In 2004, Kilborn left and series of guest hosts took over until Craig Ferguson became permanent host in 2005.

I will say right now that Craig Ferguson is not for everyone. His comedy relies heavily on the random and somewhat strange, with a good deal of cursing. The show starts out with a two minute cold start which features Ferguson talking to audience members, performing skits – sometimes with puppets, sing and dancing, or some other comedic bit. After the most catchy theme song on late night television, Craig begins his monologue. Unlike other hosts that come out and tell jokes, Ferguson comes off more as a comedic rant than the usual old stand-up routine.

In 2010, there was an addition to the Late Late Show family. Geoff Petterson became Craig Ferguson’s sidekick and the very first robot sidekick in late night television. Designed by Grant Immarhara of the Mythbusters, Geoff is an animatronic robot with electric blue eyes and a metal mohawk. The duo work off each other like an old married couple, which is convenient as they were married in Las Vegas for Geoff’s one year birthday.

Geoff is voiced by comedian Josh Thompson. Josh is one of the best impersonators you will ever find with a wit and ability to think on his feet that is unseen anywhere these days. The best moments on The Late Late Show come in the form of Craig and Geoff’s banter, which is mostly unscripted.

Craig Ferguson has no delusions about who he is, and often makes jokes referring to himself as the ‘immigrant in the basement’ of CBS. This attitude gives way to a more open and laid back feeling. The interview portions are very entertaining because of the laid back attitude. Guests come in and feel relaxed and tend to seem more honest and real. The downside of the interview portions is that the guests tend to be lesser stars or newbies, but that does mean they are any less entertaining.

Craig Ferguson himself is almost an inspiration. A recovering alcoholic of fifteen years, Ferguson managed to straighten up his act and become a successful entertainer. One of his proudest moments is when he recently became an American citizen.

The bottom line is this, The Late Late Show is silly, crass, with a lot of sexual innuendos and jokes.  The budget is pretty low compared to other talk shows, so some of the bits do seem cheesy. Luckily, the humor overshadows most of the money issues. The Late Late Show runs like a buddy comedy between Craig Ferguson and Geoff Peterson, and that relaxed feeling does come through in the appeal of the show. The humor is not for everybody, but as Ferguson mentions often, he knows his demographic (the stoners). I DVR it every night and never miss an episode and urge everyone of you to give The Late Late Show a shot. Unique programming like this does not come along too often anymore.

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