Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I am the @CraigyFerg of bloggers (Part 1 of 2)

Everyone who's watched Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show raise your hand. Uh-huh. Nobody.

Craig Ferguson took over the duties of the Late Late Show way back in 2005. If you noticed, raise your hand? Yep. Nobody.  Actually, over 1 million viewers tune in to Ferguson every night - his high is that of 3 million. That's not counting those of us who watch via DVR or VCR (if you're low tech). According to  Ferguson, though, nobody watches...not even the biggies at CBS. 

Regardless of the numbers, every night Ferguson jokes about the lack of viewers and his need to lure in a studio audience by promising " to give hobos free chicken". Every episode, Ferguson plays the show as if nobody watches and nobody cares. By sticking to this assertion, Ferguson actually frees up his creativity and allows it to flow over those of us who do watch.

At any given moment in time, madness will seize the moment. Sid, the cussing bunny, will pop over the side of the camera to discuss his "dirty mouth". During his monologue, it's not unusual for mayhem to break out or, perhaps, a song Such as this one. Bob Barker "surprised" Ferguson and took a hammer to the Late Late show set, Betty White attempted to explain World Cup soccer, audience members help with answering question from The Twitter or e-mail, and the insanity just goes on and on.

Let's insert an awkward pause here in order to allow Bloggerland to contemplate what I've said...

Everyone who feels envy for Ferguson's situation raise your hand...and everyone should.

There's a sense of freedom to Ferguson's comedy that lacks on other talk shows. By assuming that "nobody's watching" Ferguson takes his comedy to a new level: his opening monologues often include deep and real anger or sorrow. He speaks honestly and seemingly from the heart. Having seen his show taped (yes, I was a hobo and no, we did not get chicken) I know that his monologues are about 50% pre-written and 100% off-the-cuff (and that equation does add up if you watch his process). I love how his monologues seemingly ramble and then he hones in on his point and drives it into the viewer's minds. His recent ramblings on BP were an excellent example (too bad you missed it).

As one watches the insanity, there's a freedom attached to it: bits succeed or fail independently without affecting the rest of the show. If Sid's cussing offends, the flop won't affect the success of Ferguson's interview.  Ferguson hasn't a problem with admitting the piece was crap and will save it by claiming it doesn't mater as nobody watches anyway. If the interview falters, well then Ferguson cuts it short and throws in a pre-recorded skit (my favorite are Michael Clarke Duncan reading love advice from Jennifer Love Hewitt's book). If the interview succeeds, then Ferguson lets it go long and the second guest of the night is pushed to another night. Nobody's watching, right? So who's to care? Nobody.

What freedom he must feel: nobody watches so do what he wants. Nobody cares, so play as he likes. If he's a naughty boy, preface the naughtiness with a sly look and a quick "CBS cares" comment. Embrace obscurity and live for the moment.

In Part 2: how I've learned from Craig Ferguson's madness and how I'm applying it to my writing.


  1. I don't watch any late night show on a regular basis, but the few times I've gone out of my way to watch Ferguson because of a specific guest I absolutely adored him.