TCA Tour – “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson”

When it comes to late-night hosts, I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but…I have almost reached the point where I prefer Craig Ferguson to David Letterman. When it comes to my all-time favorite, I don’t think I’ll ever see a day when Dave will be topped, but there’s just something about Ferguson that comes closer to matching my current sensibilities. In particular, I love the way the guy speaks off the cuff and from the heart. It’s not that other hosts can’t and don’t step outside of the standard talk-show mold to address specific issues of the day, but Ferguson does it every day of the week and throughout the majority of his show, creating a feel of spontaneity where you truly have no idea what he’s going to say next. Plus, he has such a “real person” vibe that you know that, when he does say something, it’ll sound like something that you might say.

Well, you know, if you had a Scottish brogue. And were funnier.

The TCA has had a long-standing relationship with Mr. Ferguson, but I swear to you that his ongoing gesture of buying us pizza whenever we hold our organization’s business meetings has nothing to do with my enjoyment of his show. With that said, however, I can’t say that the messages that he includes with the pizza – like the one below – haven’t made me respect him more. I mean, as someone who has an affinity to the printed word (as opposed to the online word), I have to give him props for this:

Craig stopped by the TCA tour for what was described as an “informal press conference,” which is no doubt why he started the proceedings by saying, “First of all, let me say my wife is standing by me through this very difficult time,” adding that “Buenos Aires is lovely at this time of year.” From there, he was willing to tackle any and all questions that were thrown at him, but before I offer up some of my favorite moments, I must drop this bombshell: he’s considering getting rid of the puppets.

Yes, I know: I’m as upset as you are. And so were many of the others in attendance, several of whom immediately gasped in horror.

“That reaction right there?” said Ferguson. “That’s what I’m looking for: controversy. ‘No puppets? That’s it! To the presses…that don’t exist anymore!’ I don’t know, I’m getting bored with puppets. If I can’t think of anything else to do with them, I’ll have to let them go the way of all flesh.”

As you can imagine, we did our best to pretend that he never made this comment…I don’t think I want to live in a world where “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” doesn’t provide me with my weekly puppet quota…and instead chose to focus on the funnier and more thoughtful bits of the “press conference.” Here, then, are ten of my favorites…

1. “One of the luxuries of doing a television show every night…it’s almost like you had an outlet of where you could just broadcast your thoughts. Perhaps something on the Internet would be popular in the same way. That’s why I never would Twitter: because I’ve got an hour to fill every fucking night. What the hell else am I going go to say? ‘Going to say things about things.’ So it’s really just me doing that. That’s all it is. And so I think there’s a part of it which is retro, in the sense that it’s someone just talking on television, which they used to do back in the day, and another part of it is extremely contemporary. It’s the broadcast of unedited thought…which is, you know, causing the newspaper shortage.”

2. “The other night, I was talking about Dave’s show, and I got the name of Dave’s show wrong. Now, what I could do? ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ is what I said, which is apparently not the name of his show, and I got into trouble saying it. Now, what’s more interesting is to watch a sweaty vaudevillian try to get out of a situation like that rather than cut it and make it pristine. I don’t have the patience for that, and I would prefer as a viewer to watch the mistakes. I am my own blooper reel as it happens.”

3. “At 12 and 13, I thought I would be an astronaut. By 17, I thought I would be dead by the time I was, you know, this age. It’s a constantly changing thing for me. I think for everybody, I don’t think just for me. I always kind of half expected I’d end up doing something in show business because it was tolerant of drunkenness and you could meet girls. But, you know, I’m married, and I’m ‘teetotals,’ but I’m still here because I don’t know where else to go.”

4. “I think my show is probably closer to ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ than anything else I’ve seen, and that is an aspiration. That’s a great show. I don’t know where we are, but wherever we are, we won’t be that next week. I do know that. That’s why the puppets won’t stay forever. It’s important to keep moving. There was a point, you know, when I had a sound board, and I was always doing the sound board, and people asked about the sound effects. Or there was the cheeky monkey thing. We have to keep moving because I’ll get bored, and if I get bored, then I think we start doing retakes when I make a mistake, and then the rote sets in, and then there’s focus groups and then committees about ‘I don’t know about this joke.'”

5. “I don’t want to be poor. I don’t want to be rich to the extent that all I care about is keeping my job. I don’t care enough about keeping my job right now. That’s good. That makes me effective at what I do. I don’t want to be frightened of getting fired. So, to that end, I suppose my ambitions are that I spend less than I earn. I don’t want to have the ambition of a time slot or a number of dollars. Do I want to make a lot of money? Fuck, yeah. But do I want to make it at the expense of…look, I’ve met a lot of rich people who are douche bags. I don’t want to be that…or any more of that than is necessary. So I hope to, I suppose, in some way try and maintain some…if I have any…type of integrity. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror. That’s my ambition.”

6. “I watched Jimmy (Fallon) in his first week…maybe 10 minutes of it. I remember during that time Jimmy Kimmel – who is a very nice man – gave an interview, and he said, ‘We all watch and anybody of the late night guys says that they don’t watch another show is lying.’ So I guess I’m lying, but the truth is I don’t watch the other late night shows. You know the shows I see? I see ‘Duck Dodgers’ and ‘MythBusters.’ That’s what I fucking watch, because I’ve got an eight-year-old son, you know. I watched Jimmy, and I liked him. I thought he was good, but I stand by what I said the last time: I never thought we were in competition, and I don’t think we are in competition now. The last time I talked to you guys, I said I thought Jimmy’s competition was ‘Adult Swim,’ and I still believe that. I think my competition is sleep. Or the ShamWow commercial, or whatever the hell is on cable, or whatever video game. I don’t know. I just do what I do.”

7. “I don’t really understand (ratings). When they say people age 18-34, and then they go 18-49, I said, ‘Well, what? So the people in the 18-34, are they in the 18-49? Or is this different people that are not in the 18-34?’ Then you go, ‘Do all ratings stop at 49?’ And they do. You go, ‘I’m 47. So in two years, I’m fucked. Fuck you! No!’ I don’t really understand how it works. I know it’s important because everybody writes about it like it’s religion, but all I know is this: the numbers can change dramatically, and people get pay raises. Here’s what I do know, and this is probably the wrong thing to say in a room full of journalists, but it seemed to me…I don’t know if this absolutely accurate, but when Jay was shit-canned from NBC, he was the leader in all numbers, and then they fired him. I don’t want to get fired. So perhaps keeping your head down is what you should do with the numbers. I don’t understand how it works, but it clearly matters. Yet I don’t know why. I think the truth of it is this: I think it makes you sound clever if you talk about them, and I think that’s what a lot of people do. I understand that. I want to sound clever, too, but I swear to God, I don’t understand it.”

8. “What I think we’ve been doing at this show…I hope what we’ll be doing at the show is deconstructing and deconstructing and deconstructing the format, and the more we deconstruct the format, if we are successful in doing that, the more we separate ourselves for good or ill from the format. The format is tired. The format is tired, and it is old, and…look, here’s the reality: I’m another middle-aged white guy telling jokes late at night on TV wearing a suit. And that’s tired, you know? So I want to mess with it. Because that’s who I am, I want to mess with it. I want to poke it with a stick. I want to do it. I swear, I don’t know if I’m part of it. I kind of would like to be. You know, I kind of like to be, ‘Hey, what’s going to happen with that?’ And then another part of me thinks, ‘Well, then I’ll end up like that. Then I’ll be important. Then I’ll be worried about the fucking 18-18 1/2 demographics.’ And I don’t want to be. So I’m conflicted a little bit with it, I guess.”

9. “I’d like to announce I got my pilot’s license on Friday of last week. And I’ll tell you why I like aviation: because it is the complete opposite of show business. In show business, you bullshit, you bullshit, you bullshit, and that’s what you do, and that’s how get ahead. In aviation, you bullshit, you fucking die. You’re gone. So when Andy says to you in show business, ‘Can you do that?’ You go, ‘You bet I can.’ When Andy says to you in aviation, ‘Can you do that?’ You better tell the truth, because if you can’t, you know, you’re on the local news, and that’s that.”

10. “David Letterman, no matter what the numbers have ever been, ever, in the past…David Letterman is the king of late night television. All right. Now, I know there are press releases and other people that can prove to you scientifically that that’s not fucking true, but
I’m telling you, that’s true. I’m very happy to work for him and to work close to him, but if there is a successor to Johnny, then, of course, it’s David. My relationship with David Letterman is that I sit at his feet. I’m kind of his bitch. In the modern parlance, you know. I sit at the feet of the master.”


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