I was about 13 or 14 when I first started watching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I was just old enough to stay up past midnight consistently during the summer, but I wasn’t quite old enough to stay out past 10 p.m., so many of my summer nights during the beginning of high school were spent holed up in my room playing video games and watching television. After the second run of late-night SportsCenter, the highlights start to get a little old, so I closed a night of video games and sports then updating myself on the entertainment world.
I started flipping through various hosts, catching Jay Leno’s monologue, David Letterman’s Top 10, Conan’s interviews and Jimmy Kimmel’s musical guest, roughly in that order. Eventually, the infamous late-night wars took place, with Conan getting fucked, Jay Leno fucking, David Letterman still not being all that funny, Jimmy Fallon looking to be the next biggest late-night host since, well, Conan and Kimmel posting every little clip from the show on Youtube. They were all the warmup, though. One person stood out to me before and after the “war”: Craig Ferguson. He was just better. It wasn’t a typical late-night talk show; it was just a talk show. He had a robot skeleton as a sidekick satirizing the typical robotic late-night sidekick (for those who still don’t get it). He had a pantomime horse, Secretariat, because I still don’t know why. Craig didn’t have to explain himself. He just did.
On Dec. 19, the last episode of The Late Late Show aired.
He didn’t want to be a part of the late-night host crowd. He said again and again, he would do things on the show his way or no one’s way. CBS, while certain rules applied, couldn’t tell him what questions to ask or what hosts to have on. If he felt a guest didn’t like his show, he wouldn’t care to ask them back. If the guest loved it, he’d have them back every other month, it seemed. Larry King loved him. Kristen Bell loved him. William Shattner loved him. Julie Chen loved him. Betty White loved him. Regis Philbin loved him. They all appeared on the show more than 20 times a piece.
He didn’t care much about pleasing a demographic — whoever watched the show, he was cool with. He won’t conform to you; you liked him, or you didn’t.
I finally got to see Craig live in August 2014 when I made my trip out Los Angeles. I had to wait outside the CBS lot in Fairfax for about an hour with other eager fans wondering if he’d ask “Who’s at the door?” allowing them to get up and lose their shit for 10 seconds, wondering if Morgan Freeman would call, wondering who the guests were, because quite frankly, we were there for Craig. The guests were extra.
I went on a Thursday, so he was recording two shows: for Thursday and Friday. After a total of about three hours of waiting and a routine from the warmup comedian, who Craig stresses “isn’t really a comedian,” he came out to a thunderous boom and made the audience feel at home live and during the “commercial breaks,” which don’t last nearly as long in-person as they do on TV.
Over the course of the two nights, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Cat Deeley appeared, and they never felt like interviews, more like simple check-ins, seeing how his friends were doing. Thursday’s show also featured Jon Gnarr, a former mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland, and they talked about how he, who is a former punk rocker like Craig, became the mayor of Iceland’s biggest city. He said he felt the city, which was severely strapped economically, just need a change. “Maybe someone like me can step into this and make a difference,” said Gnarr. That’s how I felt Craig felt his entire time making his show.
It wasn’t always easy to make people laugh. There was a day he’d come into work a couple days after burying his father. There was a time he finally decided he wouldn’t do Britney Spears jokes. His show ran soon after the Colorado theatre shooting. And the Boston bombing. But he never ran from it.
“The deal I made with you when I started this show is I’ll be as honest with you as I can be.”
“Is anyone else sick of this shit?”
“They say, ‘Craig your job is to make people laugh at the end of they day.’ And yes, that’s true, but I never professed to be any damn good at that.”
“There’s a myth going around that a 28-day stint in rehab can cure alcoholism. I’m sorry to annoy the censors, but that is horse shit. That is horse shit.”
Now as his show came to a close, I was sad, as many of his fans were. But just as he did many shows previous, he gave me a bit of hope and made me smile.
He kicked off the final show with a montage of him and various guests performing Deal Man Fall’s self-comtemplating “Bang Your Drum,” eventually leading to him performing the song standing on his desk performing the song with the rest of Dead Man Fall, a small rock/folk band from Craig hometown, Glasgow, Scotland. Most importantly, he told us, “Keep banging on, bangin’ on your drum.” He doesn’t want us to sulk in his absence and go on without him (though his monologue made it seem like it wouldn’t be long). We’ll all be itching for the day he returns to our television screens with Geoff Peterson and Secretariat, because no one has excited me for as long or as good as he has before (sexual pun intended).
To Craig, Josh and everyone at The Late Late Show,
Thank you. Look forward to seeing you again soon.