In the Late Night Wars, Choose Ferguson

By Benjamin Berk

In the aftermath of the late night wars between David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, many viewers are looking for a new show to watch. I whole-heartedly recommend The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, which airs (Read More) after Letterman ends on CBS. Though the show is produced by Letterman, the creative force of the show is clearly Ferguson and his writers.

More mature than Fallon yet more vibrant than Leno or Letterman, Ferguson came on the show after some notoriety on The Drew Carey Show as Carey’s boss. Ferguson, a native of Scotland, is a breath of fresh air compared to the haughty or stuffy attitudes we are accustomed to from our late night hosts.

The show clearly has a much smaller budget than its larger counterparts, and Ferguson makes no secret of this fact, often mocking the leaky roof, poor lighting and the absence of a sidekick.

This approach works beautifully for the show. With no band and few special effects, the whole show focuses on Ferguson. Using props such as Wavy Ranchero, a puppet crocodile or alligator (he isn’t sure which), Ferguson entertains with a wacky and casual sense of humor.

Ferguson interviews his guests with a lively nature, which is impressive considering he often has lesser known actresses or musicians on his show. He seems to know everyone in show business, and has a special connection with celebrities from the UK. As opposed to many talk show hosts, Ferguson’s guests genuinely like him, which is clear to viewers.

Ferguson at his most striking could be seen in two episodes, each eulogizing a fallen parent. On January 30th, 2006, he spoke candidly and eloquently on the passing of his father. This episode earned him an Emmy nomination. Then, on December 8th, 2008, Ferguson aired a show after his mother died. In an honest and emotional portrayal, Ferguson broke down in tears before cutting early to a commercial.

Unlike many of the late night hosts, Ferguson seems to have lines he will not cross. In 2006, Ferguson said he would not mock Britney Spears at her lowest points. In his words, “comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it. It should be about always attacking the powerful people…we shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable.”

Subsequently, Ferguson’s greatest strength is his humanity. Ferguson struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse through much of his younger years, and isn’t afraid to mention that past on his show. He is on his third marriage and seems to have been a bit of playboy in his youth; his self-deprecating, thoroughly European charm is ever-present as he melts the hearts of starlets young and old. Ferguson’s candid admittance of his failures as a human, son, brother and husband give him a likeability that is missing from so many celebrities.

A likeable, funny and relatable late night host who engages his guests with lively, unscripted interviews? I’ll take that seven days a week, though I guess I can settle for only five.

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3 thoughts on “In the Late Night Wars, Choose Ferguson”

  1. The Joseph and Betty Pulitzer Committee would like to extend an invitation to: Mr. Benjamin M Berk and his highly supportive family to attend the presentation in the Category of:

    “Exposition of Late Night Talk Show Shows”

    There will be a Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to his Mother and Father in the category of:

    “Putting Up with Benjamin Until He Goes To College”

    RSVP

    JP

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