INTERVIEW: Craig Ferguson (Tabernacle 10/4) said show will have absolutely no politics
WESTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 09: Craig Ferguson arrives at Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation premiere of "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" at Regency Village Theatre on February 9, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)
Craig Ferguson, four years removed from his delightful strange CBS late-night talk show, has been in the U.K. since May but is hitting a few stateside dates including October 4 at the Tabernacle.
"I don't know if anybody will understand my accent now," said Ferguson in his Scottish brogue. "Maybe I won't understand anybody else's accent!" In his mind, "when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California and couldn't pronounce California, that's when I realized Americans don't care about accents!"
Ferguson said he is perpetually amused when he visits the South and “they think they can do your accent better than you can do it. They end up sounding like Shrek.” So he whipped out his best Rhett Butler and said: ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’”
“I like to keep it loose,” he said. “Then I don’t get bored. Some people are good with a lot of rehearsal. But there’s more than one way to do stand up. For me, it’s a live show. It should be a one-off event. I have some stories and jokes ready to go. It’s like being at a dinner paty and somebody asks for you tell that story about the time you went to jail in Tijuana. You tell it different every time. That’s kind of how I do it though it’s not about the time I was in jail in Tijuana...”
One thing his show will not be is political. He made a purposeful effort to exclude that subject matter from his jokes. No Trump. No Brexit. No impeachment references.
“I wanted to see if I could do it,” Ferguson said. “I wanted to see if that’s even possible. I’m even tired of people I agree with talking about this stuff. My show will be anecdotal. It’s familiar. It’s things everyone knows about: sex, death, whatever. It’s not to say I don’t have opinions about all the things I’m angry about. Everyone is angry. But that anger will still be there an hour and a half later. I’m giving people a break.”
Instead, “I’m going to talk about a lifetime of embarrassing stupid s*** I’ve done. That includes a story of how I lost my virginity and the time I nearly drowned on Long Island.”
For Ferguson, the experiment was a rousing success and proof that creating strictures - even self imposed - can actually fuel the mind.
“This Hobo Fabulous tour is the most successful for me both creatively and financially,” he said. “There are a lot of people who say, an hour and a half of no politics? I’m cool with that!”
He might turn this into a documentary of sorts, sort of like something he saw about Rush. "I love these guys. I hate the music but they seem so cool. So maybe I should try to make something for people who hate my guts!"
As for his talk show, which he did for a decade, he still has warm feelings about it but has no regrets walking away and opening the door for James Corden. "I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I stopped doing it. I feel like I got out at the right time for me. I was getting bored."
Unlike, say, Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Fallon, Ferguson said he never bought into the "mystique" of late night. "I know it's there. I get it's there. People get to see you every night. That creates an intimacy."
Not that Ferguson doesn’t want to do TV. He shot three seasons of “Celebrity Name Game” in syndication from 2014 to 2017 and even won a Daytime Emmy. He said another game show is percolating.
“If I do something I enjoy, it’s infectious,” he said. “That’s why I did that game show. I was having a good time.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.