After Johnny Carson retired, I made the rounds of the other late nite shows but found that I just didn’t like any of the personalities enough to give them my prime time slot, which for many of those of us who work a lot is just about the only slot, after we lay down to go to sleep and before we wind down enough to do so. It’s true that it takes a certain personality to come into that personal space. Johnny always made me relax and laugh, and I remember that as being a very cozy warm experience.
I’d long since given up on late nite talk shows and given in to sitcom reruns when I got cable again and discovered Craig Ferguson while channel surfing. This was during his whip-cracking days (I think he should still do it once a show, like Carson’s golf swing). I remember the first week I watched he mentioned that he had been a punk rock drummer and talked about the Sex Pistols (later had Steve Jones and what’s left of the Pistols on his show). He’s got to be the only person on American television, at least, who has mentioned “Neat, Neat, Neat” by The Damned. Instead of blathering about Angelina and Brad, he blathers about Bowie and makes fun of Jagger. It is the first non-musical talk show host whose music and references and substance-abuse anecdotes are relevant to me. Also unique (and I suppose not for everyone but probably far more than anyone suspects), Ferguson uses his own substance excesses and slightly pervy imperfect past as a backdrop for his jokes.
I don’t understand all the fuss about the time slots between Conan and Leno. I watch neither of them, but I just finished watching Ferguson’s show that I recorded with the DVR several days ago. Who still watches shows at the time they air? It can’t possibly be that big a deal anymore with most people recording. I watch Ferguson the last thing before I go to sleep, and if I fall asleep in the middle, I turn it back on when I wake up at 4 a.m. to keep me company while I fall asleep again or when I’m trying to wake up. This morning I woke up to a bit about whether Bowie had actually slept with Jagger, as the rumor (undenied by Jagger) goes, followed with a close-up shot of the two of them practically kissing over a microphone.
Ferguson is the first cool talk show host since Johnny Carson. There hasn’t been much mention of him during this whole talk show wars media blitz, but for me, he’s the real deal and I hope if he wants to, he’s doing this as long as Carson did. The only other late nite things I record are Chelsea Lately (who needs to be spanked), Jon Stewart (which I watch for the news – I know) and, now, Joy Behar (a breath of fresh air on hot topics).
I highly recommend Ferguson’s latest book, his autobiography “American on Purpose,” an often hilarious story of the self-destruction and resurrection of a man who I know will remind many of you of yourselves.
Craig Ferguson is bringing his standup routine to the godforsaken Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma (remember, he’s American on Purpose and he wants to see the country) February 26, 2010. Tickets are available still online at http://www.winstarworldcasino.com/entertainment/calendar/ . I will be on Row CCS, Seat 3 (far left section, if you’re facing the stage, 3rd seat from the aisle.) Anyone going, please come say hi.