We disagree with TVSquad‘s assessment of Craig Ferguson‘s year for many reasons. So we offer this rebuttal to writer Gary Susman (right) in which he says:
Craig Ferguson: Loser. Craig started the year with a classy gesture, laying off the Jay-vs.-Conan jokes because the battle between two multimillionaires seemed so trivial in light of the recent Haitian earthquake.
Indeed, Craig may be the brainiest host in late-night, he writes novels and screenplays, he’s capable of holding thoughtful discussions with literate guests (like Stephen Fry, whom he had on for a full hour) and he spins dazzling, seemingly stream-of-consciousness monologues that go on for 10 minutes or more, essentially writing nearly an hour’s worth of new jokes each week.
Yet he’s also the silliest host, never too proud to do bathroom humor and happy to experiment with seemingly juvenile gambits (the all-puppet show, the robot-skeleton sidekick, the opening song-and-dance numbers, the ‘Doctor Who’ tribute episode). ‘The Late Late Show’ is becoming the most innovative children’s show that’s on too late for actual children to watch.
Ferguson may have felt comfortable trying these shenanigans because he had a solid ratings lead over Jimmy Fallon, but now, they tend to tie. Still, Craig did enjoy some milestones in 2010: he had a big part in the hit cartoon feature ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ and he got to host the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
Respectfully, we must disagree with your assessment of Craig Ferguson as a “loser” among this year’s late night hosts. We do so not only because you disparage him for being silly (we happen to like silly) but also because of Ferguson’s growing recognition as a host of substance. Consider that in 2010 alone, he performed a wildly successful stand up comedy tour to sold out houses across the country including Carnegie Hall, was nominated for a Grammy Award for the audio version of his autobiography and won the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award.
The Peabody in particular, which most often honors journalists, was clear recognition of his skill as an interviewer, recognizing his deft and touching interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And his hour-long interview with Stephen Fry in February was critically acclaimed by many, including Roger Ebert, who tweeted: Everyone loved Craig Ferguson & Stephen Fry in conversation. Just talking! Revolutionary: Talk show with real conversation; Dana Stevens of Slate, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly, Michael Giltz for the Huffington Post and TVSquad‘s own Danny Gallagher.
But importantly, the silliness you decry is merely a device; a buffer and a welcome release from the standard late night fare of celebrity guest interviews and guys in suits behind desks. The show’s key strengths of a monologue based more on storytelling than punchline, frank interviews in which he ritually throws away the pre-written “blue cards”, and unabashed violations of the fourth wall create and endearing connection with his audience. The puppets allow his inner subversive voice to speak more freely. The musical numbers allow us to laugh at ourselves and the constraints we all sometimes feel in our lives. And gimmicks like the robot skeleton sidekick and the Doctor Who episode are tweaks at convention that dare allow a television host to have geek-like passions including Nicolas Cage films with flaming skulls and science fiction shows that delighted part of what at times was a darker youth. The silliness allows him to get away with in-depth conversations with archbishops, authors and philosophers. Contrast has value; the serious stuff benefits from the humor. Just as Craig himself credits David Letterman with lovingly deconstructing the late night genre, Craig is now taking that deconstructionist and thinly-veiled anarchist attitude to the next level, succeeding brilliantly.
In his suddenly high-profile circumstances, Conan O’Brien was clearly a winner this year and we can’t argue that Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman were each winners in their own way. But Craig Ferguson was clearly a winner as well, as is his audience night after night. The Late Late Show receives little in the way of promotion and those who have found the show on their own have found a gem. We admit this rebuttal comes from the perspective of decidedly biased fans of Craig Ferguson. But we have earned that bias after years of watching a talented, thoughtful and creative man become a talk show host no one could have predicted. Even an unbiased observer can see Craig is clearly a winner.
More proof of Craig’s popularity? The two stand up comedy performances he scheduled March 16 and 17 in Denver sold out in two days. He has added two more shows on Friday, March 18th.
The website Monsters and Critics enjoy Billy Connolly‘s gag Friday night about eating salad at parties.
Craig’s sister Lynn Ferguson is producing two new 30-minute presentations at the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles on January 17, 18 and 19. She is also reprising her on-woman show, Heart and Sole, at the Dezart One Gallery in Palm Springs, CA February 11 and 12. Tickets for that show do not appear to be on sale quite yet.
LLS producer Michael Naidus likes to travel during his time off and this year will be no exception: Breakfast today – bagels in NY Breakfast tomorrow – view of the pyramids of Giza. Please send pictures, Michael.
Saturday, December 18th is United Nations International Migrants Day, Find a Friend/Be a Friend Day and Bake Cookies Day. We know lots of people who are baking cookies this weekend. Sunday, December 19th is Oatmeal Muffin Day, Look for an Evergreen Day (cutting it pretty close to Christmas isn’t it?) and “I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up” Day, because the commercial for the medical alert device it advertised first aired in 1985 on that date.
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