He put the most thought into his monologues and interviews, while also giving off an attitude that he could care less about the whole thing, because who really was watching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS?
On Monday night’s show, Craig Ferguson put an end to one bout of speculation in the ongoing late-night TV “wars” and jump-started a new cycle of rumors and list-making, announcing he’s leaving his show at year’s end, completing a 10-year run on the Eye Network.
Ferguson delivered the news seated behind his desk to open the program.
“Good evening, everyone. Before we begin the show tonight, I’d like to make a special announcement. There’s been some speculation in the press recently about the state of late-night television and who does what and where they’re going to be doing it.” Pause. Smile. “I can’t help myself. So. I want to address my position in all of that because — because it’s time.”
“About two years ago, I’d decided that after eight years of doing the show, that it was probably time for me to move on and do something else. And CBS came to me at that time and said, ‘Well, you could hang around. We’ll give you a fancy new studio, and a podium for your gay robot skeleton, and a stable for your horse, and an invisible band behind a curtain, we’ll give you all the trappings of late-night television!’ And I said OK. And so I’ve stayed for another two years.”
“But. That two years is up.”
“And at the end of this year, I will be stepping down as the host of this show,” he said. The audience awwwwed. “Thanks, everybody! That was quite convincing!” He continued:
“I’ll be stepping down at the end of this year, in December. Then I’ll go and do something else. Probably, I’m thinking, carpentry. But I haven’t made my mind up yet. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I feel like, doing this show for 10 years, that’s enough.”
“So I’m letting you know that’s the way it is, and that’s it. Now, let me just add something on a personal note, because I have noticed both with the CBS market research and my own experience going around the country, that this show has the most fanatical and really passionate audience of really any show in late-night television. So I would ask you to understand that what’s happening here is this is my decision to go. This is not Jay and Conan at NBC. This is not Jay and Dave all these years ago. It’s not that. Now, you will read that in areas of the Internet where truth is of absolutely no interest. You will read that in the informed entertainment press, where the truth is of absolutely no interest, but in bigger words. So what I have to tell you is this: This is my decision to leave. CBS have been fine with me, you know. In fact, more than that, they’ve been great with me. I have a good relationship with them. I’m still in business with them on other stuff. So please don’t picket them or go up to CBS with flaming torches or…unless you’re angry at me, and then, you know, get in line. But, so there’s none of that. This is about time. It’s 10 — it’ll be 10 years. Me doing. I can’t ask for a picture of Paul McCartney any more. Do we have one? (cut to photo of Angela Lansbury) Yeah! So. There you are. That’s that. I look forward to everyone going, ‘Oh well, he’s gone. Who do you think it’s gonna be?! Here’s the 10 people that we think it should be! Here’s the eight people that it shouldn’t be but it should be if there was justice in the world.’ Well, whatever everyone’s going to do, I hope you enjoy doing it. I, on the other hand, after the commercial break that’s coming up, will still have about another 150 or so, is it Michael of these? About another 150 or so of what I like to think is the strangest show on late-night television. We’ll be right back, everybody!”
Ferguson had joked for the past three weeks about his uncertain future at CBS, what with David Letterman already announcing his retirement from The Late Show. CBS President Les Moonves and CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler quickly replaced Letterman with Stephen Colbert and told reporters that the “12:30” hour was up for discussion. Ferguson’s contract was up this year anyhow, and had a clause in it allegedly guaranteeing him a big payout if CBS passed him over for Letterman’s job. Not that he even wanted it. Because he didn’t.
After the opening theme, he and robot skeleton sidekick Geoff Peterson (voiced by Josh Robert Thompson) joked about what they’d do come 2015. “Please save your pity, I’m not unemployed yet!” Ferguson told the studio audience, then turned to his robot skeleton, who said: “I think I’m going to get disassembled, I think is what’s going to happen.” Ferguson’s joking reply: “No way, man! You and me are going to go on a killing spree!” Or a road trip of a kindler, gentler, “cowboys in love” type.
Ferguson’s first guest Monday, LL Cool J, ribbed the Scottish-born American citizen for not leaving his post in the most Braveheart way.
“I think it is,” Ferguson maintained. “I think it’s FREEDOM!!!”
In the official press release from CBS, Ferguson also played off of Gwyneth Paltrow’s description of her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, saying: “CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are ‘consciously uncoupling,’ but we will still spend holidays together and share custody of the fake horse and robot skeleton, both of whom we love very much.”
CraigyFerg won’t be unemployed in 2015. In fact, he starts his next new job this fall as host of Celebrity Name Game, a syndicated game show. It’ll be distributed via FremantleMedia and Debmar-Mercury to stations covering 80 percent of American markets, including WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and WGN in Chicago. He’s also executive producing the “I F-ing Love Science” series for the Science Channel, Shark After Dark and Naked After Dark talk shows for Discovery, and developing other TV projects via his Green Mountain West production company.
From Nina Tassler, CBS Entertainment Chairwoman, came this statement: “During his 10 years as host, Craig has elevated CBS to new creative and competitive heights at 12:30. He infused the broadcast with tremendous energy, unique comedy, insightful interviews and some of the most heartfelt monologues seen on television. Craig’s versatile talents as a writer, producer, actor and comedian speak to his great days ahead. While we’ll miss Craig and can’t thank him enough for his contributions to both the show and the Network, we respect his decision to move on, and we look forward to celebrating his final broadcasts during the next eight months.”
Ferguson was nominated for an Emmy Award for his late-night hosting in 2006, hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2008, and won a Peabody Award in 2009. He took The Late Late Show across the pond for weeklong broadcasts taped outdoors in both Paris and Scotland, and hosted special editions of the show in Miami and New Orleans when CBS broadcast the Super Bowl there.
Ferguson’s first show as full-time host of The Late Late Show began on Jan. 3, 2005. Who’ll be greeting us on TV at 12:37 a.m. Eastern/Pacific in January 2015? Your best educated guesses should include Aisha Tyler, Neil Patrick Harris, Chelsea Handler and Wayne Brady.