Craig Ferguson, winging it late-night, soberly

When Craig Ferguson called me up Tuesday afternoon, it was still morning in L.A., where he wasn’t quite sure what his monologue topic would be for that night’s Late Late Show. "I think today, what I’m going to talk about is Man of the Year, the movie about a talk show host becoming president."

Would he ever consider a run himself? "Not for me, because I wasn’t born in the United States, so it’d be Constitutionally impossible."

Ah, but they’ve talked about amending that for Ah-nold, so why not you, too? "When you think about it, you have to feign interest when you talk to unpleasant people. It’s perfectly plausible for politics…(show business, too)…so yes, it’d probably be fairly good training. I think if I start wearing a tie, that might be a sign." As a Scottish immigrant, do you think it’s odd that us Americans still celebrate Columbus Day? "I’m an immigrant, and I had to work. There’s a certain irony to that." He started to offer more, then reconsidered. "I don’t have my citizenship yet. If I don’t watch what I say, I’d be back in the old country faster than I could say. I’d be back mud farming!"

Do you think there is a certain charm to taking over a TV show from Craig Kilborn? "Jon (Stewart) and I talked about it. It certainly doesn’t hurt. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve both done OK."

Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot about hosting a show in America since taking over in 2005? "It’s about being yourself, really. I’ve lived in America now for 13 years, so it’s not, I don’t feel like I’m new to it anymore…I’ve been around here for a while. It’s where I’m most at home…I don’t really have any agenda or platform or kind of manifesto about doing it." And hosting an American talk-show is much different from his past experience in the U.K. "That was just some old nonsense on the BBC. That was just a comedy show. In Britain, a full season is six episodes…here, I’ve probably done close to 400 episodes, I guess. It must be more than 400. Jesus! The volume is different here. The idea of doing a show every night is crazy. It’s relentless and weird. But I’m relentless and weird, so it works for me." He tries to avoid his monologue when it comes to stand-up. "You can try to revisit topics. But you don’t want to do things I’ve already done on the air." Stand-up is "for things that wouldn’t be prudent to talk about on-air. For me, it’s really a way to blow off steam."

Mel Gibson and Mark Foley continue to make headlines, using alcholism as an excuse for their bigger problems. Ferguson hasn’t been shy about his drunken past. "For me, I got drunk and did a lot of stupid things. I still felt that it wasn’t, no one else got me drunk. If I wanted to stop getting drunk and doing stupid things, I had to stop getting drunk. It doesn’t negate personal responsibility, just because you were full of liquor. It’s still you. It may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse." He continued: "I wear it loosely. I’m happy to talk about that stuff. I don’t care. The only thing I’m wary of, when you talk about your past…they think I’m a saint. I’m really kind of trying to be careful to point out I haven’t stopped being an a–hole. I’ve simply stopped being a drunken a–hole."

Ferguson is happy to make a stop in Boston, saying he has family in Vermont. And he has an old connection to Dane Cook. They both appeared in a short-lived ABC sitcom a decade ago. Of Cook, Ferguson said, "He wasn’t that young. I think he has a good hair dye job!" Kidding aside, did he see anything then that could’ve predicted Cook’s current fame? "I never make any predictions in show business," Ferguson said. "The best stand-up I ever saw in my life was Bill Hicks. The year Bill Hicks died, they said the best stand-up comedian was Carrot Top. So what can you figure?"

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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