The Last Awkward Pause: A Fond Farewell to Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show


In a surreal situation where Community's Dean Pelton interviewed the boss from The Drew Carey ShowJim Rash and Craig Ferguson took the stage at the Paley Center in Los Angeles on Monday to bid The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson adieu. During the chat that ensued, Ferguson talked about how Americans have allowed a strange Scotsman into their homes for a decade, and how he brought along plenty of off-beat monologues, a two-man horse character, a skeleton robot sidekick, impromptu game shows, and so very many awkward pauses. Awkward pauses that celebrity guests tend to ask for emphatically. It's been a weird 10 years.

The theater in which the event took place could easily be described as "quaint." It was certainly smaller than the studio in which Ferguson tapes The Late Late Show, though to be fair, those tickets are free. Everyone in the audience had paid for the opportunity to squeeze into this intimate room and give themselves at least one more shot at witnessing Ferguson work during this era of his career. He leaves The Late Late Show at the end of this week.

It seems like it can't possibly have been so long since Craig Kilborn left yet another show in more capable hands and we watched The Late Late Show's transformation into something unique and slightly insane. Rumors may swirl about why Ferguson is leaving now, just as Stephen Colbert prepares to take David Letterman's seat at the Late Show, but Ferguson maintains, as he did on Monday while sitting five rows away from me, that it's a strictly creative decision. That it was time. That he's explored "the box," pushed into all of its corners, and now it's time to leave irrespective of the real or imagined ghosts of promotions and opportunity.

That's something I can respect. Because Ferguson also maintained that he's never understood the competition part of late-night television. Letterman, Jay Leno, and, later on, Conan O'Brien were marked with a cutthroat nature that isn't really represented in the current landscape. Sure, maybe there was a time when hosts got stabby over the thought of coexisting. But Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Colbert, and particularly Ferguson have never been warring types. There's seemingly room for all their voices. And thus, when Ferguson says he leaving because—and only because—he's ready, it's with a heavy heart that I tell him that'll do.


I don't want to say Ferguson was the heir to Conan, particularly since he was on a different network. But once Conan took over The Tonight Show, got fired, became a brand, toured the country, went all-in on that brand, and then moved to cable to deliver his late-night schtick, I lost some interest in "my guy." Ferguson only followed in Conan's footsteps because he was someone who used that 12:30am space to its fullest. He took chances and pushed the envelope of what a host could do on American late-night television. You want to take your show to Paris and conduct interviews in a bookstore and then perform improvised sketches with celebrities in a museum? Let's go. You want to do a Doctor Who-themed episode? Yes. You want one of the guys from Mythbusters to build you a robot sidekick that occasionally speaks in a Morgan Freeman voice, even when, and okay, especially when, Morgan Freeman is a guest on the program? Heck, a robot sidekick couldn't be more inconsistently funny than Andy Richter is, right? (I love Andy Richter, by the way, but I find that he's sometimes a non-contributor).

The result was honest-to-goodness chaos. Rash asked Ferguson about his routine, how he prepares for each show, and to no one's surprise, Ferguson revealed there's very little of that sort of thing. He described himself as impatient and not good at planning. And of course, there's no aspect of The Late Late Show that better illustrates this notion than the celebrity interviews in which Ferguson rips up his notecards, ditching whatever information they contain and throwing them on the ground to join the emailed and tweeted questions he read in earlier segments (the stage of The Late Late Show is very messy). Of all the elements that make Ferguson's show work, from the personal monologues to the bizarre characters, the conversational tone he maintains with his guests is one of the most remarkable.

I obviously can't speak for you, but to me, almost everyone in late-night TV who's not Letterman or Colbert doing a bit is terrible at conducting interviews with celebrities. Everyone. The discussions typically comprise a bunch of pre-interview questions jammed together into what would be an incoherent mess of human interaction if it aired anywhere other than on the shows we watch at our sleepiest and/or drunkest. Instead of playing nice with a publicist and lobbing softballs, Ferguson always strives to just have a nice chat. He's a weird dude, so he'll occasionally ask questions like, "Do you believe in ghosts?" or "Have you ever ridden a kangaroo?" but that generally only happens when a guest is either careening toward unintentional awkwardness or hellbent on predetermined talking points. Everything else is organic.

Ferguson describes his interview style as his attempt to humanize these larger-than-life figures. And it works. You don't need another reason to love Kristen Bell, but your love will reach new depths after watching his many bits and interviews with her. There's something different about the way people talk on The Late Late Show. There's a sense of comfort and ease, a certain disarmament, when they step onto a stage covered in paper and sit down in that chair across from a desk covered in toys to talk to a smirking Scotsman. Even Kristen Stewart looks downright personable while in conversation with Ferguson, and that, as I can attest from watching other hosts try and fail to achieve the same result, is no small feat.


Now, The Late Late Show is certainly quirky. There have been a number of times where Ferguson has dressed up as an insane Michael Caine for a running gag. There was an episode where he cleared the house so that he could interview Stephen Fry without an audience. And yes, there's also a fake horse that used to be summoned by a doorbell but now has its own stall offstage so that people can attempt to throw rings over its head. But Ferguson's knack for talking to people might actually make him the most traditional late-night host of all. Carson had that same skill, where it seemed like old friends were meeting up for coffee instead of carrying out some awkward Hollywood transaction. Fallon has started to come around to that in a different regard, by somehow convincing many of his guests to play silly games that involve smashing eggs on their heads. But Ferguson did it the old-fashioned way—and his games, though much smaller in scope, preceded Fallon's by years. The post-interview choice of an "awkward pause," playing a harmonica, or winning a "big cash prize" through trivia or imagination added an additional layer of playfulness. Ferguson's Late Late Show has always elicited the feeling that we're all friends here. Sure, the guest in his hot seat makes millions of dollars a picture, but we're all susceptible to mouth organ innuendo.

So where does Ferguson go from here? Does he stick with his new Hollywood Game Night clone until he can turn it into some kind of incoherent yet loveable sideshow of inside jokes and Laugh-In-style dance parties? Will he just become a rotating player on Whose Line Is It Anyway? so he can hang out with fellow Drew Carey alums? Will he host the syndicated primetime show that he was reportedly in negotiations for not so long ago? Will he pen erotic novels based on his Doctor Who fan-fiction? I can't really tell. And, based on his answer to Rash asking him the very same question, he's not really sure either, or at least isn't ready to outwardly commit to a specific long-term future. Which is a sentiment I can respect.

I think it's the concept of respect that most often comes to mind for me when I think about Craig Ferguson. I respect him for being a statesman of late-night TV among the silly Millennial games the rest of the crowd engages in as a means of creating succinct videos for their YouTube channels. And I believe that Ferguson respects not only his guests and the people who work on his show, but his audience as well. You'll never find him over-explaining or talking down to anyone. Whereas all the other hosts put on their host faces and play MC to keep things running on schedule, Ferguson has always been more of the life of this televised party. Everyone's got a loose idea of what's supposed to happen, and the show will always have to pause to accommodate network requirements like commercials and timeslots, but outside of those pesky little interruptions, Ferguson's Late Late Show is just an informal gathering. It's comfortable and fun. That's an element of late-night television that I'll be sad to see disappear. In a sea of polished, veneered, and tightly scheduled shows fronted by well-dressed clowns, Ferguson was human and without artifice. And that's respectable, even if he would never claim to resemble an embodiment of the term.


The Archbishop Desmond Tutu appeared on The Late Late Show a few years ago, and he told Ferguson that he thought Ferguson was just "a little bit crazy," but the kind of crazy the world needs. During his talk with Rash, Ferguson claimed that his discussion with Tutu was a turning point for the show, like God telling him it was okay for him to pursue these fancies of insanity. Once the lights come down at the end of this week, I'll be sad to see that divinely supported craziness disappear from the landscape.

I mean, Ferguson isn't dying or anything. He's going to be around. I guess. I think? I don't know. He hasn't been clear. I'm sure it'll be fine. This is getting out of hand. Ah, tutsi-fruitsi.


Comments (66)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Dec 20, 2014
Here is the list of celebrities from Colbert's finale:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhochman/2014/12/19/list-of-celebrities-who-bid-farewell-to-stephen-colbert/

Sorry, Fergy, you got trumped by Colbert, and you had the better show. Oh well.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
That was a cool intro. I was hoping for more of an in-studio karaoke musical number thing that he used to do a long time ago (with the puppets), but actually, considering Colbert's song the night before, this probably turned out to a better choice. The video with the more recent friends and guests he's had on the show drumming was nice, and the actual in-studio singing was pretty awesome.

The interview with Leno was a bit boring, but whatever. I knew he wouldn't have wanted someone who'd gush over him, and Leno's been a friend of his.

Hehe, the ending was cute, having Bob Newhart there to kickoff an ending that was similar to Newhart's ending, relating it all to Craig's role with The Drew Carey Show.

But yep, I'll definitely miss it. A couple other late night hosts are fine, but I don't anticipate starting to watch any of them regularly.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Does anyone else feel like they had a bad breakup last night? Man I'm depressed this morning. Can't believe we'll never see another new episode.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Also want to add that seeing Josh (aka Geoff) was really interesting. I thought he was much older. If Craig could figure out a way to work with him again in his next project, I'd be ok again.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Very. Too bad we didn't get to see the horse humans.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
his was the only late night show i watched, but i didn't realize how much i'd miss him:( awesome article and good luck Mr. Ferguson on your next project..i can't wait!
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
I still really miss that North London cussing rabbit, Sid, which is made worst that I'll likely never see that hilarious character again. …and that's sad.
(Just wish they made a DVD or something just of the puppets to remember Ferguson's brilliance.)
The sheer joy of Ferguson's version of the 'Late Late Show' will be very hard to top. Pity.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Meh. Too staid a show with Leno there.

No matter. Fergy, you will be missed. I won't be watching The Paul Williams aka The Toad show, thanks all the same.

Too bad his game show blows.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
the game show is ok - at least you're not having to guess the price of all the crap they try to sell us like price is right. but i do hope he does another talk show or stand up special soon.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Agree, slayme3.

Good article, btw, Nick.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
What's next for Craig? A "Roddy MacStew" movie!
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Irritatingly, the rest of my comment keeps getting erased.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
I am so very jealous that you got to go to this, and I didn't know about it until today. That said, I did get to go to Wednesday's taping of the show, my 4th visit to Craig, and it was wonderful, magical, ridiculous, and an enjoyable train wreck.

I would argue that Colbert is playing too much of "the game" when interviewing, and I no longer can watch his celeb interviews as they are just as infuriating as Leno's and Conan's. That's what makes Craig so great, he simply won't play that game for more than a moment.

I'm glad you brought up Carson, Johnny's producer Peter Lasally ended up being the producer for Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, a hand-picked sense to it. Lasally definitely saw that Carson type of magic with Craig.
3
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Craig's full opening singing intro from the final show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTPBMkQrPI8
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Hate to admit it but I cried. It was awesome and sad.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
If you people say Drama Tv has too much Romance way before? Then people they cut it way too much down Drama Tv doesn't have Romance at all... It's hardly not fair at all what's so ever!!!

If Drama Tv business, theme and sytle really is like this? Cutting down Romance from all their stories, programs and series... Maybe Drama Tv isn't for me anymore from all the time watching it since Smalliville started...
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
rza and his mother, michael caine in space/spain/etc, aquaman, arnie, prince charles, eulogizing his mother/father and michael clarke duncan, dancing to britney spears, istanbul and whatnot.

his show always made it feel like it was a friend talking about his cheerful day. atleast it will be there on youtube forever.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
BTW, did anyone see the little toad, introduced by Fergy, who's doing the Late Late Late Show with The Little Toad or whatever he's calling his show?

What an unctuous little toad. I'm sure he has a name, but I don't have any need to know it.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Well, he did surprise me a bit. I'd never seen him before, just a photo or two, and sort of assumed he'd be more like a Piers Morgan type. Maybe a bit snooty, a bit pretentious... but unless it was an act, at least he didn't seem like that. I'll probably try watching his first episode but I'm doubtful about liking it... like I tried Fallon's first even though I knew I'd hate it.
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
I saw it live at the taping yesterday, James Corden, he didn't seem unctuous to me, just small and shy and not ready for this type of work. Maybe that was his schtick though.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Kristen Bell... Where have you been all my life?!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Ughhh! why oh why Leno being the guest, bluck. Will have to watch around that.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Oh and Nick - that was a truly great review/tribute of/to Craig! Thank you.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Out of all the major network late night talk show douches (not counting Jon Stewart or Colbert) - Craig was by far the best and most creative. Lots of improv, hilariously funny at times, and at other times groundbreaking - like his full show interview with Stephen Fry without an audience - or his incredible interview with Desmond Tutu - or his opening monologue about the death of his father - Craig broke all the rules - and made it work. Sucks to lose the two best late night comedians (Colbert and Craig) in the span of two nights - but they have made the last 10 years a lot more bearable than they would have been what with all the problems in the world and what not. Craig - you will be sorely missed.
6
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
I'm gonna miss this show so much. Craig Ferguson was my favourite host by far. I'll never forget when he had that special week in France where he had dinner with Jean Reno and Kristen Bell.
6
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
And his trip to Scotland with Mila Kunis and Rasheda Jones!
4
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Legend. By far the best "traditional" late night talk show host. None of the current hosts are anywhere near his level. Hopefully Colbert will spice things up a bit. Anyway, cant wait to see what he does next.
6
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
There's definitely going to be a huge hole in my heart when this is over. I've been watching late night talk shows since about 10 years ago, but TLLSwCF is the only one I watched for the host, and therefore, every night since I started. It just sucks that I kind of got to him last -- went through Leno, Conan, Letterman, then Kimmel before I told myself to try a Craigy Ferg episode.
7
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Once you go Craigy Ferg - you never go back! :)
4
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Hope he's planning on a big blowup, this week has him going out with a whimper.

Hope he takes a page from Stephen Colbert:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUy1-JakJtE

Nice to see the human behind the skeleton - and his Mom!
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
I actually woke up this morning and it crossed my mind that his last show was on tonight. I'm actually truly sad in a way I've never felt with any of my fave shows ending. There's a different connection with this one and I'm really going to miss him and the whole cast - Geoff, Secretariat, and Michael "the racist". I hope tonight's show is a fitting end... too bad it's with Leno.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
I take the Leno as last guest as a jab at Letterman - and rightfully so - I'm not ever sure Letterman knows who Craig is. Craig deserved much, much better treatment from Dave. So - in your face Dave - here's your rival for all those years Jay Leno as final guest. Kinda brilliant in it's own way really...
3
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
His was the only talk show I would tune in just for the host, rather than the guests. I could watch an entire hour of his monologue. So glad I got a chance to see a taping this past Fall. He's still my number one old-man-crush, and it's (not really) a great day for America, everybody...
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Yeah the guests were almost like a pleasant surprise - cause it was Craig and his crazy fun approach to late night that I wanted to see.
3
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
A few years ago we started getting it here in Australia and me and my mum loved it!!!! He is so funny and the style of the show was just amazing!!!! I am going to miss him and Geoff and Secretariat!!!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Craig Ferguson did a really good job on The Late Late Show, he was somewhat underrated. It was a solid 10 years, especially the last few years were very good!

I was very fortunate to see the final show live tonight, which I got back from just little while ago, it was a good and really funny final show!!! :) :) :)
6
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Are you serious? You got to see the final show live?! You just made everyone in this comment section insanely jealous! Congrats - what an experience that must have been! Can't wait to see it tonight!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Thank you and yes it was a great experience! Enjoy seeing it tonight!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
I did -t hat opening number - WOW - just... wow. Could have been bad but Craig nailed it. Standing on the desk like - screw you all! lol. Gonna watch it again soon as it gets posted to youtube.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Full opening number here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTPBMkQrPI8
1
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
That is was cool! :)
1
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Nice tribute, although you could have given credit to the wonderful work of Josh Robert Thompson, the voice of Geoff. I'm gonna miss this show.
8
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Yeah, me too!
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
As a Brit, it rang so vey true (not to mention a thought I'd had about C.F.'s style) when Eddie Izzard said the other week; how Craig had stayed where others had been but, did it well for longer. Ferguson was and is a global amalgam of a good few other comics from times past and present along with of his own unique personality.
I will miss His Late, Late Show lots. Although he's been very tight lipped over what he's doing next, he has let it slip that something is already in mind from him and that Josh will be involved - and no, not a crime busting duo with corked hats!
Not to take anything away from Josh, but the one regret for me is that Lennon never returned as Chloe for a last hurrah show. He really was the only stand in that nailed the part and made it his own.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
This is a fantastic tribute, Nick. I first watched this show just a couple of months before Geoff was first on it (wow, Josh really didn't have much to do back then) and haven't missed a show since. This is the only show on which I could watch interviews with people I had no interest in, so when actual friends of Craig (of which there are many) showed up it became laugh-out-loud funny. I now have one fewer way to kill 40 minutes.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014

I hope this isn't the last we see of Geoff.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
I also think it's very notable how many times Ferguson has gotten serious, often talking about his own past struggles and/or celebrities' own.

5
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
I've been a fan of Ferguson's since the days of "Caraaaayy!" Mr. Wick was always so hilarious to see on The Drew Carey Show and it's been great to see someone who (before Late Late) could have easily be cast aside as a sitcom also ran be able to fully explore every avenue of his creativity on a late night talk show. I just hope this isn't the last we see of him. Celebrity Name Game just doesn't seem that interesting to me and certainly not groundbreaking. I hope he starts doing something that really keeps his career moving forward in the way it has the last decade.

2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
"I don't want to say Ferguson was the heir to Conan, particularly since he was on a different network"

But I think that is very true. To me that was the moment the lead in creative edginess switched from Late Night (it had been the leader of that since Letterman in 82) to The Late Late Show. Don't get me wrong, I still think Fallon and Meyers were pretty good. But it was like going from indie radio to Top 40.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
He is hilarious and SO talented. Bi will miss him, the puppets and all of his off the wall sidekicks. The only way I say "I know!" Is in Craig's voice! He was underrated and under appreciated! Hats of to you Mr. Ferguson - it won't be suck a great day in America once you are gone. ;-( thanks for the laughs!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
He was really great at it, he will be missed.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
I haven't watched late night talk shows since Leno left. But there isn't as much competition now because people are more inclined to record stuff and watch it at their own convince. Also, when Carson left The Tonight Show and Letterman moved to CBS, it created a competition that didn't exist before. It use to be just The Tonight Show and nothing else. Leno leaving ended that sense of competition.
Reply
Flag
Dec 18, 2014
My two favorite all-time late-nighters are Letterman and Craigy Wegy. This is a great article and a fitting tribute to one of the very best there ever was. We'll miss you Craig! *tear*
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 18, 2014
Awww man, I'm really gonna miss this show. It's not even on over here in the UK so I have to dig around Youtube to watch each episode. I love how Craig strives to be real and have non forced conversations with the guests. I don't think his next show will be anything like this one sadly :(
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 18, 2014
Aw... I am so "CROISSANT!" miss him! He is just so "AY CARAMBA!' different! There is no other 'TUTSI FRUTSI' late night show like him!

My respects man! I simply adore you!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Same here!
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 18, 2014
I did respect Ferguson's "rip up the script, no script" sensibility but just wasn't into his show. I've loved some crazy BBC type comedies and wouldn't say at all that's what he did or is. I even love wacky but for some reason he didn't resonate with me. I did though watch stars I like or some music acts so that drew me in. I know I missed the point when Geoff and the Horse came to the show and originally they weren't on so I basically didn't understand that whole schtick, haha. Definitely funny moments between Geoff and Craig. In my opinion I think he knew he wouldn't be doing another late night show on network since he's way off the reservation and doubt the higher ups would want that. I remember watching this time slot with Tom Snyder so lots has changed. Absolutely no clue who this new guy will but think he's from the UK also or something.
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
He's English, a comedy writter/actor most famous for writing and staring in 'Gaven and Stacey' (an English/Welsh sitcom). He's not my favourite person so I don't mind him leaving but I wouldn't put him in the Cowel/Morgan catorgory (that we managed to fob off!)

I don't see him working though when he's on pannel shows he can come across as a fan boy to other guests. He'll be a too much of an arse licker for it to be a success.
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Don't insult Craig - he's not English - he's Scottish! :)
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
He was talking about the new host being English. :D
Reply
Flag
Dec 20, 2014
Ah my bad - sloppy reading on my part - he was in a couple eps of Doctor Who wasn't he? Surprised Craig didn't bring that up..
1
Flag
Dec 18, 2014
I don't generally watch a late night talk show unless I like the celebrity guests, and then I'll only tune in around the time the guests typically come on, but Craig Ferguson was the exception to that rule for me. I didn't watch it all the time, but he was the only one I'd watch just to watch. It'll be sad to see him go, nobody else really compares.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 18, 2014
I've watched Craig religiously for the last several years. I don't know if that means more or less since I'm an atheist, so I'll clarify by saying that I've watched every episode of the last few years. Not sure how or exactly when I started but I guess I tuned in because I loved him on The Drew Carey Show. He's so non-conformist, able to laugh at his own screw-ups, seems fun to work with/for, and doesn't care about looking unprofessional such when the cameras would start recording while he has his makeup touched-up. Geoff has been a huge part of my viewership too. Better talk show sidekick ever. Not a yes-man, a band leader, or a guy who just stands or sits there to provide the occasional banter or quip. I just wish they'd mass produce him so people like me can have their own robot skeletons.
3
Reply
Flag
Dec 19, 2014
Craig rules!
1
Reply
Flag