Forget Letterman, Craig Ferguson Is The King Of Late Night TV

Leno, Kimmel, Morgan, they do nothing for me. I am a strict disciple of the church of Craig Ferguson, even if he did take the piss out of me on national television.
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Leno, Kimmel, Morgan, they do nothing for me. I am a strict disciple of the church of Craig Ferguson, even if he did take the piss out of me on national television.

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I think Craig Ferguson may be the greatest man who ever lived. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. Maybe Jesus would top that list. Even if he is a bit preachy. I would even go so far as to say Craig is better than Jesus. No offense intended. But I would seriously like to travel the lands with my disciple friends and spread the word of Craig.

One of the first times I ever watched him was when I stumbled upon one of his monologues on the glorious youtube. I remember it well because I was in the middle of writing a horrendous essay in my first year. I have the attention span of a small child and was therefore dangerously bored out of my mind. I like to think he saved me from my intellectual death.

His monologues are a regular feature on his show; he begins with the line ‘it’s a great day for America everybody’ and then goes on to discuss the events of the day and occasionally even talks about events in his own life. The reason it caught my eye was the title: “Craig Ferguson Speaks From The Heart.” His name rang a bell- I knew he was a talk show host and was quite surprised at these words. “Speaks From The Heart”... really?! That would suggest that this man is an AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST on a multi-million dollar annual salary who ISN’T a phony with a MASSIVE ego and DOESN’T stare at the breasts of every female guest below (and often above) the age of 25. Really?!

I was relieved to say the least. I have always hated David Letterman, the hailed ‘King’ of late night television in the U.S. This is a man who, after being blackmailed with the revelation of his sexual relations with female staff members (he’s married), opens the show with an apology for his behaviour. But then manages to condemn the blackmailers, saying they committed a crime and should be held accountable. The audience applauded. A lot.

 Craig says, “For me comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it, it should be about us attacking the powerful people, attacking the politicians and the trumps and the blowhards... going after them, we shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people.”

I’m sorry. I’m sorry, WHAT?! How extremely fitting. Millionaire famous man does bad thing. Millionaire famous man apologizes to the masses. Millionaire famous man stamps on nasty blackmailers. Millionaire famous man wins. Again. In the regular world the scenario, I imagine, would go something like this; normal man cheats on wife. Normal man does not get blackmailed because he is not worth millions of dollars. Normal man is discovered. Normal man gets kicked out of house. Normal man is not applauded. Normal man sleeps on sofas for long time.

Oh and he’s not funny. He’s about a hundred and he grunts too much.  Be quiet now David. Shush.

So you can see why I was intrigued by this Craig Ferguson man. I clicked play. I was, for the next twelve minutes and thirty-one seconds, hypnotized. This monologue was filmed in the days following Britney Spears’ infamous head shaving incident. And shockingly, he opens by saying that he will not be making jokes about it, followed by confused laughs from the audience. He goes on, “I don’t just do this job for the money, I assure you” and I believe him. The audience are bewildered and you begin to hear the laughter eventually subside with his next comment; “People are falling apart. People are dying. That Anna Nicole Smith woman died. No- It’s not a joke. It stops being funny- she’s got a six week old kid... what the hell is that?” I couldn’t quite believe it. The Scottish accent was thicker than ever and his eyes were earnestly glaring into the camera. He was speaking with such sincerity it was almost uncomfortable to watch. But I didn’t. I carried on.

He then started talking about his own struggles with drugs and alcohol. This is one of the many reasons why I think he is utterly brilliant- his complete honesty. The man has been in rehab twice and has professed to being a black out drunk throughout the whole of “the eighties.” In this monologue, he reveals that at twenty-nine he decided to commit suicide on Christmas morning. He was going to jump off Tower Bridge in London. But then forgot after the bar man offered him another glass of sherry.

He has this unique ability to discuss a moment in his life where he was actually thinking about throwing in the towel. Yet moments later, he counters this with a story about his priest roommate in rehab and in a mock English accent mimics his words; “Yes well the thing is Craig, the parishioners were complaining that all the communion wine was going missing... and also an old lady said that there was a hobo sleeping in the church grave yard. I had to pretend to go and look for him but it was meeee!”

Born and raised in Glasgow, he was a high school dropout by the time he was sixteen. He was then in a series of punk bands, one being called ‘The Bastards from Hell,” before making his transition into comedy. After a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe under the guise of ‘Bing Hitler’ and several television and theatre appearances, Craig made the move to America in 1994, later becoming an American citizen in 2008. Whilst there, he was cast on ‘The Drew Carey Show’ before beginning his run as a late night talk show host in 2005. As well as his successful stand up tour, ‘Does This Need To Be Said?’ he is now rumoured to be taking over from Letterman when he retires. Thank the sweet lord.

And it is pretty clear how he has earned himself such a position. There is no pretence with him. In this instance he looks the viewer dead in the eye and actually declares, “I’m an alcoholic.” But he is in no way saintly or moral about it. He does not want or welcome any applause for admitting this. This isn’t Alcoholics Anonymous. He’s simply stating fact. In a similar vein, Ricky Gervais is famous for his taunting of celebrity culture, an environment he berates for being one in which people are celebrated for declaring their recovery from drug addiction. In an interview on the subject, he says, “If I come out on a chat show and say, I’ve never been a heroin addict, not a ripple of applause. If I come out and go “I used to do a lot of heroin, I used to steal and mug... I used to piss myself in doorways but I haven’t done that for a little while” they go [mock clapping] “ooh he hasn’t done those things he shouldn’t have been doing in the first place for a little while, brilliant!”” Equally, when defending his infamous golden globes appearance, Gervais argued, “they’re the wealthiest, most privileged people in the world. Offense is taken, not given.”

But what happens when we mock a celebrity in such a vulnerable position as Miss Spears? None of the actors at the Golden Globes had recently suffered a crippling collapse. Their story was different. This is where Craig Ferguson steps in.

The man has been in rehab twice and has professed to being a black out drunk throughout the whole of “the eighties.”

He’s clever. No, more than that- he’s a genius. In his rant, he’s addressing everything that is wrong with our society today. And the viewer feels ashamed. Well, I certainly did. When someone says of Britney Spears, ‘This woman has two kids, she’s twenty five years old, she’s a baby herself. She’s a baby,” how can you not? He’s exposing the humanity of, well, humanity. In agreement with Gervais, Craig says, “For me comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it, it should be about us attacking the powerful people, attacking the politicians and the trumps and the blowhards... going after them, we shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people.” Ultimately these celebrities are not untouchable Gods, they are people. If you had any kind of human decency, you wouldn’t poke fun at someone you knew if they too had had a similar, head-shaving breakdown. You just wouldn’t. You would pity them, sure. Maybe even thank your lucky stars you weren’t in their position. But hanging them out to dry in front of millions of people? No. No you would not.

This is why Craig Ferguson is, really, indestructible. He IS relatable. He DOES represent the everyman. Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t. Jay Leno doesn’t. David Letterman certainly doesn’t. They may try. Oh, they definitely try. Anything to get the viewers in. But it’s all for show. What person, sitting at home, can honestly relate to rich men interviewing other rich men and women about all the rich and famous things they are doing and how that’s going for them and not feel, in some way, detached? There is the underlying feeling, and I don’t mean to come across as a cynic here, that they have come out on top and the audience at home is a mere factor in their success.  That may not be the intention, but it’s the inevitable outcome.

Craig is different. He is a lyricist and a poet. He ends his speech with, “Now what I have found is this. You can’t beat it with money. If you could beat this rap with money rich people wouldn’t die. You can’t.” The stillness in the audience following this says it all.  Now, I do English Literature. I have pretended to read a lot of books. And from the very few pages that I have actually read of Dickens, Austen, hell, even Shakespeare, I would daringly say that this comes close and even tops all three of them put together.

Forget them. Forget them all.

“If you could beat this rap with money rich people wouldn’t die.”

Wow. The sheer gravity of this statement is held more in the way in which he says it; his tone deepens and he drags out every word, so that they really reverberate in your head.

I was lucky enough to meet him recently. It was the 25th June and I now regard it as one of the best days of my life. Not because he is ‘famous.’ Not because of the free meal the CBS network gave us as a result. And definitely not because I was on T.V. Because I was able to speak to him, face to face, and realised that everything I had ever thought about him was true. He was not a Hollywood asshole. And he really was that funny. And that brilliant.

The reason for all this being- my ridiculously massive ginger hair. The one time in my life it actually paid off. He picked me out of the audience after his monologue. I say picked. He pointed at me and yelled, “You! Merida! Come here!” I remember I stupidly pointed at myself and he nodded vigorously. Moron point number one. For those of you who don’t know, Merida is the protagonist from Disney’s recent film ‘Brave’ that he was not only starring in, but had been released over the previous weekend. She also has massive ginger hair. Joy.

 I was able to speak to him, face to face, and realised that everything I had ever thought about him was true. He was not a Hollywood asshole. And he really was that funny

As I made my way down the steps towards the studio floor, my mind was blank. More so because I had no idea what was going to happen. When I was plonked next to him and a microphone had been shoved on me, I was still sort of frozen. When he asked me ‘Is this O.K?’ I just nodded. Yes, Craig. Yes, this is absolutely fine. Excuse me whilst I vomit on you.

What happened next rendered me about a million more moron points. He loved that I was from Manchester. He loved it even more when I revealed I didn’t know anything about Manchester at all; ‘The ‘Happy Mondays?’” “No.” “Joy Division?” No. “... the Hacienda?!” “I don’t even know what that is.” Well done, you complete fool.

I’ve only seen it once. And that was when I was forced to and watched it through my fingers as I cringed at my stupid self. But what I remember vividly, is that he seemed so, and I hate this word, ‘real.’ And not ‘I’m still Jenny from the block’ real. I mean genuine, normal person REAL.

This man talks to shark puppets on screen. He dances with two men dressed in a giant horse suit. He has dressed up as a magician and chopped Kristen Bell in half. He regularly tears up the interview cards and throws them in the air. He has laughed hysterically with Robin Williams at the thought of christening a child ‘chlamydia.’ He has conversations with his sidekick, a skeleton robot named Geoff Petterson, midway through interviewing Samuel L. Jackson. Desmond Tutu calls him “crazy;” “a different kind of crazy; you send [some people] to asylums. No, not you. We want you; we want your crazy.” He asks James Lipton, the interviewer on ‘Inside the Actors Studio,” whether he agrees with him that actors can be self-involved. After Lipton’s lengthy response that “they are the most vulnerable people in the world... they are not vain glorious... they’re brave, honourable and they are very thin skinned, not thick skinned. That is a popular myth, it’s wrong, ” Craig Ferguson looks him dead in the eye and responds simply, “no.” He talks to the audience members as if he or she is the only one in the room. He has spoken at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner- and he was actually funny. He’s been to hell and back in his fifty years. On his show, he has said to the viewers, whilst laughing uncontrollably, “Do you know what I think is really funny? This is my job! How awesome is that?!” He does not think he’s better than you and he doesn’t really think he is anything all that special.

Now, I know I may be beginning to sound like a broken record and I know that 3 minutes and 29 seconds is the longest and only conversation I will ever have with him. But these are not the obsessive ramblings of an infatuated University student, far from it.

I have tremendous amounts of respect for Craig Ferguson... we need someone like him. I could honestly talk for hours about this man... except it wouldn’t even come close to his awe-inspiring speeches and he would probably be embarrassed by the attention.

So, to wrap this all up, some of his own words taken from his Father’s eulogy which, naturally, he did instead of his opening monologue to the show in the days after his death:

“And the relationship that I had... that I have with my Father, is not unlike the relationship I have with the old country, you know with Scotland, you know I complain about it I grumble about it, I can... I can be mean about it sometimes, but... but I love it beyond reason; it’s where I’m from, it’s what I am.”

Watch him. Listen to him. Talk about him. I’m sure he’s going to be around for a while.

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