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I was listening to Craig Ferguson of The Late, Late Show speak last week about being on late night, earning his pilot’s license, and his upcoming autobiography, which he’ll be having different famous people read excerpts from until it gets released on September 22nd. He was genuinely a very engaging guy, not a “douchebag” himself (to use one of his favorite words) and additionally dropped many f-bombs during the conversation. Not that dropping the f-bomb is a sign of coolness, but he wasn’t dropping them to be incendiary or shocking. You get the feeling that he’s the kind of guy who lets them fly when he’s chatting up his buddies on the weekends. Plus, his Scottish accent makes it that much cooler.

But his whole presentation got me to thinking about 1996′s HBO movie The Late Shift. If you haven’t seen that, it’s an extremely good luck at the Leno/Letterman “war’ over “The Tonight Show.” It starred John Michael Higgins as David Letterman, Daniel Roebuck as Jay Leno, and Kathy Bates as the extremely ball-busting, bitchy Helen Kushnick, Leno’s manager. In fact, she won a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for her role. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching, and is available on both Netflix and Amazon. You can also pick up Bill Carter’s book, which the movie is based on, pretty dirt cheap if you can settle for a used book.

LateShifterBut what about the new late night wars? Fallon vs. O’Brien vs. Ferguson? And with Leno getting his own 10PM show this season, it’s a four way battle for control of the nighttime television set. Surely they’ll be poaching guests from each other, and trying to one-up each other with skits and bits, and we want to see the brutal behind the scenes warfare that goes on. The gritty, underhanded moves, the punches to the gut with brass knuckles, the short-sheeting of the beds, the pissing in the coffee pots … all that jazz. Bring us some dirt, late nighters!

If you want to read the conversation with Craig Ferguson, it’s all below. When you’re done with that, go pick up The Late Shift. You won’t be sorry.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Good morning, everyone.

THE AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  First of all, let me say my wife is standing by me through this very difficult time.

(Laughter.)

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Buenos Aires is lovely at this time of year.  Did you get a pizza?

THE AUDIENCE:  Yes.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Where did the pizza come from?  It was really good.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  From Joe Mantegna’s place in the Valley. What is it?  Taste of Chicago, it’s called.  It’s good, and it has a TV connection.  Do you know what I mean?  It has — it’s owned by a guy in TV.  It’s a restaurant owned by a guy in TV, something I will never do.  Why? Because I don’t have that kind of money.  I will answer
any of your questions, not necessarily honestly.  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  When James Frey was on, before he came on, did you have to guarantee him that you wouldn’t “Oprah” him, and did you really have that kind of rapport where you understood what he had done?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I think the question you are asking me politely is can I read.  And, yes, I read his book.  And, no, I wouldn’t accept any guest on the show ever with
conditions like that.  That’s not acceptable to me, so no.  He came on, and I liked him.  I liked him, and I talked to him.  I wasn’t — I wasn’t that interested in
talking about A Million Little Pieces because I felt it had been done to death.  And I had just finished reading the new book, so I wanted to talk about that, which is
scandalous.  Have you read it?  Oh, you really should read it.  It’s really — he’s a very bad boy.  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Speaking of scandalous books, can you tell us about yours?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  My book is reasonably priced and available on September the 22nd.  It’s an autobiography, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

(Laughter.)

It’s an autobiography by someone in show business.  I hear it’s great.  I love that — you know, I had to — it’s a little bit different from the James Frey thing in
the sense that a lot of it, I just couldn’t remember, so I made it up.  But I admitted that right away.  It’s just the story of how I ended up here, which surprises me as
much as anyone.

QUESTION:  Would you want to do a 10 o’clock show, or are you looking at that across the aisle and going “Good luck with that”?

QUESTION:  I don’t think people are ready for cussing puppets at 10 o’clock.

(Laughter.)

I don’t know.  I kind of — I am mystified by many things in life, and that one, I don’t really understand what’s going on there either, but I’m no — I don’t program
television.  I’m just the pretty one that reads the prompter.  I don’t — I don’t do that.  We don’t have a prompter.  We do, I guess.  Hello.

QUESTION:  Still, has the shark gotten a very big head now?  Is he sort of, you know –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  The shark puppet?

QUESTION:  Yeah.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I’m actually thinking about getting rid of puppets altogether.  Yeah, see?  That reaction right there, that’s what I’m looking for, controversy.  “No
puppets?  That’s it.”  To the presses that don’t exist anymore, tweety tweet.

(Laughter.)

No.  I am very undemocratic on the show.  Like, when there was a lot of votes for the pig, I had the pig resign from the race just because it made it more interesting for me.  But I don’t know.  I’m getting bored with puppets.  If I can’t think of anything else to do with them, I’ll have to let them go the way of all flesh.

QUESTION:  And did you hear from Ahmadinejad about his actual win?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No, he didn’t win, either in my puppet or in Iran.  He didn’t win.

QUESTION:  When you have one of those metaphysical monologues like the one on why everything sucks –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  — is this something that you are just, like, sitting in your house like that day or in the dressing room just ruminating on it?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Dressing room, you say?

QUESTION:  Well –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No, I’m not.  I get a quarter — a mirror to get my little tie on.

QUESTION:  I think — is this something that you are coming up — is this something you are thinking about for days, or it’s just like, now I know why everything sucks,
and you write down some points, and you give the to (inaudible) –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I don’t write it down.  I swear I don’t.

QUESTION:  I know you don’t write the whole thing down.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Right.

QUESTION:  But I thought you wrote down, like, some bullet points.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No.  That particular little nugget of fury was just there in the moment.  I think what happens, one of the luxuries of doing a television show every
night, it’s almost like you had an outlet of where you could just broadcast your thoughts.  Perhaps something on the Internet would be popular in the same way.  It’s
really — it’s — you know, that’s why I never would Twitter because I’ve got an hour to fill every fucking night.

(Laughter.)

What the hell else am I going go to say?  “Going to say things about things.”  So it’s really just me — it’s me doing that.  That’s all it is.  And so I think there’s a
part of it which is retro in the sense that it’s someone just talking on television — you know, television, which they used to do back in the day, and another part of it
is extremely contemporary.  It’s the broadcast of unedited thought, which is, you know — which is causing the newspaper shortage.

QUESTION:  Do you have a fear that this isn’t going to work?  I mean, do you say “Oh, my God, this is going to be just awful”?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I never thought about it until right now.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Is that what fuels you, though, is, like, I’ve got to make sure that it does land, it is funny, it is –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No.  I don’t think it matters because I think, if it doesn’t work, that’s interesting.  And I think that about the show, that if we do it and it
doesn’t work, it goes in anyway because then I have to — like, I’ll give you an example, and probably this is a horrible example to give.  But the other night, I was
talking about Dave’s show, and I got the name of Dave’s show wrong.  Now, what I could do — I said — what is it I said?  “Late Night with David Letterman” is what I
said, which is apparently not the name of his show, and I got into trouble saying it.  Now, what’s more interesting is to watch a sweaty vaudevillian try to get out of a
situation like that rather than cut it and make it pristine.  I think that’s — I don’t have the patience for that, and I would prefer as a viewer to watch the mistakes.  I am my own blooper reel as it happens.

QUESTION:  You said before that no one is more surprised about your success than you are.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  What did you think your life was going to unfold like when you were 12, 13 years old?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I — well, at 12 and 13, I thought I would be an astronaut.  By 17, I thought I would be dead by the time I was, you know, this age.  It’s a constantly
changing thing for me.  I don’t — I think for everybody, I don’t think just for me.  I think if I could go back — I mean, actually, in the process of writing the book, you
kind of do go back and think about these times and what I thought.  I don’t know.  I always, kind of, half expected I’d end up doing something in show business because it was tolerant of drunkenness and you could meet girls. But, you know, I’m married, and I’m “teetotals,” but I’m still here because I don’t know where else to go.

QUESTION:  Craig, how familiar are you with the history of late night?  Have you gone to YouTube and looked at clips of Jack Parr or Steve Allen?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I did that when I started, but I don’t do it anymore.  I don’t — I don’t really — I don’t think it — I don’t think it really helped that much for me.

QUESTION:  Do you see yourself as part of that tradition? You just made a reference a minute ago to talk, and that’s how it used to be or what they used to do.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Right.

QUESTION:  Do you see yourself as a part of that tradition, I guess?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I don’t know.  I think it’s probably unseemly and not quite for me to — I don’t have the perspective.  I’m sitting — you know, in the very literal sense, I sit here, and you sit there.  So you get to see it from there, and I get to see it from here.  I don’t know that it’s really for me to decide where I sit in that world.  In my opinion, you know, to be honest what I think about my show, I think my show is probably closer to “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” than anything else I’ve seen, and that is an aspiration.  That’s a great show.  I don’t — I don’t know where we are, but wherever we are, we won’t be that next week.  I do know that.  That’s why the puppets won’t stay forever.  It’s important to keep moving.  There was a point, you know, when I had a sound board, and I was always doing the sound board, and people asked about the sound effects, or there was, you know, the cheeky monkey thing.  We have to keep moving because I’ll get bored, and if I get bored, then I think we start doing retakes when I make a mistake, and then — and then — then the rote sets in, you know.  Then there’s focus groups and then committees about “I don’t know about this joke.”  Like, I don’t — I don’t know.  And who the hell thought it was about a joke?”  This is what I never understood.  When people say “Oh, that’s funny.” And I go, “Well, did you ever say it to a room full of people?”  Because that’s the way you are ever going to know.  And when you say it, it’s done.  It’s gone.  So
bad jokes, good jokes, staying with it, me being part of the tradition, which was the original question, I don’t know.  It’s not for me to say, I guess.

QUESTION:  Craig, you’ve become like the guy who talked about how great it is to be an American, and you are about the only one who does that who doesn’t have a
right-wing radio show.  How important is that to you? How important was it for you to write the book and (inaudible) –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  It’s very important to me.  It’s very important to me as an immigrant and as someone, you know, who had to fill in a lot of forms and pass a test to be an American.  It was — I am very proud and very — and very pleased to be an American.  It’s an easier sell now than it was maybe a year ago to say to people how great it is to be.  I noticed it, really, when I was out doing stand-up around the country and saying how proud I was to be an American.  And the audiences, when people were in large groups, they would respond very positively to that, but when I was talking to people one-on-one, there was that kind of low-morale period, which I think — see, America to me was — when I was — when I was — we are talking about when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 years old.  It was astronauts and NASA and all of that stuff, all of that kind of, you know, very positive image of America.

So whether I wrote the book about becoming an American, I also — I wanted to write that, but that’s a singular thing.  There’s always something — there’s something
else attached to becoming an American, too, which is — and I’m sure most of you will have either contact with an older member of your family or a relative or somebody who became an American or certainly some of you.  And there is a melancholy attached to it.  There is a strangeness attached to leaving your past and making the new country your present, and I wanted to not shy away from that, too.  So it’s — but it’s very important to me.  It’s a very — it’s the defining — it’s the defining thing of my own weltanschuaang, if you like, that America, for me, is a philosophical and emotional decision and not just — it’s not just jingoistic.  I think it’s certainly not just political.  It’s not a donkey or an elephant.  It’s a flag and an idea.  It’s a dream.  It’s a belief in fairness of opportunity.  It’s very important to me. It’s something which — it’s the only thing, maybe, that I have difficulty playing with in any — in any kind of iconoclastic way on the show because it’s such an — it’s
such an important thing for me that I have trouble making fun of it, which that’s okay.  Other people can do that. It’s not my job to do — to make fun of everything.  I’ll
just do what I do.  But it’s very important to me, to answer your question.

QUESTION:  Craig, your pizza –

QUESTION:  I wanted to ask you one question.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Let me just — sorry.

QUESTION:  I wanted to ask you.  I was watching you with — I think it was James Spader — CRAIG FERGUSON:  James Spader, yeah.

QUESTION:  — which had nothing to do with James Spader, but do you ever, when you are doing these interviews night after night, sort of find yourself losing the
concentration?  You are kind of glossing over a little bit because you are doing so many of them, you know?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely.  Yeah, sometimes.

QUESTION:  How do you bring yourself back?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  How do you bring yourself — I don’t know.  Usually, there’s somebody waving, going “We’ve got to go to a commercial,” or something like that.  I did drift a bit when Spader was talking, but he went on, to be fair, like, 50 talking minutes.

(Laughter.)

And I was kind of like, man.  You don’t want to actually look at your watch, but yeah.  I liked him, but it’s just like, it’s probably right here, right now.  I’m saying
stuff I think are very important.  Half of you have drifted off in the last 10 minutes as well.  You know, it comes, and it goes.  But, most of the time, I see the job
as the way that I’ve always seen the job, which is, I’m the host.  I should be polite and make you feel welcome and then listen to what you have to say, and that’s my
job.  You know, I’m the host.  That’s it.  Sorry. Yeah.

QUESTION:  Your pizza delivery came with a joke about newspapers, but do you still read them, and would you like to make a plea on their behalf?

QUESTION:  Please.

(Laughter.)

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I do enjoy newspapers.  They are — yeah, I read newspapers.  I tend to — I tell you, the newspaper I find difficult is — the thing about newspapers is that I tried to cancel my subscription to the Sunday New York Times just because it was coming to the house and it’s enormous.  And I canceled it three or four times, and it still comes, which, I think, is a sign of how desperate newspapers have gotten.  Even if I say “Please, don’t send me it,” they are throwing it.  I don’t know.  I don’t know how this goes.  It’s sad.  It’s sad that newspapers are in trouble.  I don’t know how much trouble they are in.  You maybe know more than I do.
I read them because I need to know stuff.  I have them in the office.  They are there when I go in, and I look at them.  And my eye twitches a bit if I look at a screen
too long, but that might just be me, being an old dude.

QUESTION:  You talked a bit about not — over here — about not sort of being aware of your place in this long history of talk shows (inaudible).  When it goes wrong, it’s all — Carson was really well known for that. Usually, when you get people from the U.K. and we ask about, you know, their influences, invariably, they are
American.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Right.

QUESTION:  What kind of comedy influence, television comedy influences, did you –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  For American comedy influences?

QUESTION:  Yes.  Well, is that true of you as well?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yes, of course.  I mean, you mentioned Johnny Carson who is the — is the Tiger Woods of what I do.  He didn’t actually create it, but it’s his, you
know.  He’s the defining player.  He’s Babe Ruth.  Do you know what I mean?  That it’s his game.  And the comedy influences that I love here in America are — Robin
Williams is someone who I always loved his work, particularly early on or just in his stand-up now, Steve Martin, when he was doing stand-up, Bill Murray, a lot the old “Saturday Night Live” guys.  You know, there’s a ton of them.  There’s a ton of them.  There’s too many. You can just name off names for a half an hour.

QUESTION:  Do you also think that there’s a difference in stability?

QUESTION:  Would you think that the subject or the style of topicality in American humor has changed in the years that you’ve been doing it?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  It’s — I think humor — I understand that it’s your job, but I find it very difficult to define, you know, because it’s
completely fucking subjective.  You can’t.  You know, it’s like if you say 25 percent of people think this is funny, and 5 percent of people think this is funny.  And
then, well, I’m in that 5 percent.  I think this is funny.  Should I cross over to, you know, be part of a larger group?  It’s just, I can’t — I can’t –

QUESTION:  What about American audiences, have they gotten more sophisticated compared to European audiences in the form of news and political humor?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  My — my — the audience I see at night, the one in the studio, they seem — they seem to know as much of what’s going on as I do, but they may just be laughing so that I don’t look awkward.

(Laughter.)

I often think that, actually.

QUESTION:  Is that a change because of Colbert and Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, do you think?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Maybe.  Yeah, I guess.  You probably know more about this than I do.  It’s just that they are all good at what they do.  Yes, I think maybe.

QUESTION:  Craig, on your right.  Do you — you’ve gotten past the point in your career of — at CBS of worrying about renewals from minute to minute and all of that.
You seem established now.  No one asks any questions about the future.  So that the question that comes now is what sort of ambition do you have long-term?  For anyone at 12:30, it becomes the question.  Do you want to do this job for five years and then go into doing independent movies?  Do you want to replace David
Letterman?  Do you want to jump to another network and make lots of money there?  Is that sort of where your thoughts are right there?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Let’s talk about money.  Say that money thing again.  Make lots of money where?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION:  The Internet.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  The Internet, yeah.

(Laughter.)

Ambitions.  I don’t want to be poor.  I don’t want to be rich to the extent that all I care about is keeping my job.  I don’t care enough about keeping my job right now.
That’s good.  That makes me effective at what I do.  I don’t — I don’t want to be frightened of getting fired. So, to that end, I suppose my ambitions are that I spend
less than I earn –

(Laughter.)

– because, look, the truth is we are all in a precarious business.  You mentioned the newspapers.  We cover entertainment in whatever way we do that, and I don’t
want to be frightened.  As writers, to be frightened, you will become ineffective.  I don’t want to be frightened. So I don’t want to have the ambition of a time slot or a
number of dollars.  Frightened.  Do I want to make a lot of money?  Fuck, yeah.  But I want to make it at the expense of — look, I’ve met a lot of rich people who are
douche bags.

(Laughter.)

I don’t want to be that.  I don’t want to be that.  So –  or any more of that than is necessary.  So I hope to, I  suppose in some way, try and maintain some — if I have  any, some type of integrity.  I want to be able to look  at myself in the mirror.  That’s my ambition.

QUESTION:  Hey, Craig.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  When Jimmy started into the 12:30, did you  watch him a lot, and did you kind of feel for him?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I was wondering if anybody would ask me  that.  I watched Jimmy.  In his first week, I watched  maybe 10 minutes of it, and I remember, during that time,  Jimmy Kimmel, who is a very nice man, gave an interview. He said, “We all watch and anybody of the late night guys  says that they don’t watch another show is lying.”  So I guess I’m lying, but the truth is I don’t watch the  other late night shows not because of any other  reasons, I have a child and a TiVo.  So I –

(Laughter.)

I don’t watch the other — you know the shows I  see?  I see “Duck Dodgers” and “MythBusters.”  That’s what I fucking watch because I’ve got an  eight-year-old son, you know.  I watched Jimmy,  and I liked him.  I thought he was good, but I  stand by what I said the last time, that I never thought we were in competition, and I don’t think we are in competition now.  The last time I talked to you guys, I said I thought Jimmy’s competition was “Adult Swim,” and I still believe that.  I think my competition is sleep –

(Laughter.)

– or the ShamWow commercial or whatever the hell is on cable or the — you know, whatever video game.  Actually, I don’t think a lot of my audience play — I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I just do what I do.

QUESTION:  You don’t get caught up in the ratings between you and him?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I look at them, but the truth is I don’t understand them.  I glance at them, but the truth is — I don’t know how many of you — I know that David Poltrack — I’ve seen him around. Now, David understands ratings.  I know some — Michael, you understand ratings.  I don’t really understand them.  When they say people age 18-34, and then they go 18-49,  I said, “Well, what?  So the people in the 18-34, are they in the 18-49? Or is this different people that are not in the 18-34?”

(Laughter.)

Then you go, “Do all ratings stop at 49?”

(Laughter.)

And they do.

(Laughter.)

You go, “I’m 47.  So in two years, I’m fucked. Fuck you.  No.”

(Laughter.)

So I know that doesn’t apply.  So I don’t really understand how it works.  I know it’s important because everybody writes about it like it’s — like it’s religion, but all I know is this.  The numbers can change dramatically, and people get pay raises.  Here’s what I do know.  Here’s what I do know, and this is probably the wrong thing to say in a room full of journalists.  But it seemed to me — I don’t know if this absolutely accurate, but when Jay was shit-canned from NBC, he was the leader in all numbers, and then they fired him.  I don’t want to get fired.

(Laughter.)

So perhaps keeping your head down is what you should do with the numbers.  I don’t understand how it works, but it clearly has — it matters. Yet I don’t know why.  I think the truth of it is this.  I think it makes you sound clever if you talk about them, and I think that’s what a lot of people do.  “So, you know, in the 18 to” — and then you sound clever.  I understand that.  I want to sound clever, too, but I swear to God, I don’t understand it.

QUESTION:  With all the publicity over the late night upheaval that’s going on, how do you feel about like facing the fact that you’re just kind of doing what you’re doing, flying under the
radar?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I’m flying under the radar.  I mean, I do what I’m doing.

QUESTION:  Are you glad you’re not a part of that whole conversation, or do you want to be a part of that conversation?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I think about both.  I think I want to be.  It’s like I don’t want to go to the party, but I want to be asked.  You know what I mean?

(Laughter.)

It’s like that feeling.  I kind of — I kind of don’t know.  See, what I think we’ve been doing at this show is — I hope what we’ll be doing at the show is deconstructing and deconstructing and deconstructing the format, and the more we deconstruct the format, if we are successful in doing that, the more we separate ourselves for good or ill from the format.  The format is tired. The format is tired, and it is old.  And look, here’s the reality.  I’m another middle-aged white guy telling jokes late at night on TV wearing a suit, and that’s tired, you know.  So I want to mess with it.  Because that’s who I am, I want to mess with it.  I want to poke it with a stick.  I want to do it.  So I don’t know if I’m — I swear I don’t know if I’m part of it.  I kind of would like to be.  You know, I kind of like to be, “Hey, what’s going to happen with that?”  And then another part of me thinks, well, then I’ll end up like that.  Then I’ll be important.  Then I’ll be worried about the fucking 18-18 1/2 demographics.

(Laughter.)

I don’t want to be.  So it’s a conflict a little bit.  I’m conflicted a little bit with it, I guess.

QUESTION:  Do you think that joining the elite of the late night crowd –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yes.

QUESTION:  — leads to isolation?  Does it remove you from the very humor that you based your whole career on?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I don’t know if five guys is a crowd.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION:  When you look at Carson and people like that, they withdrew so far.  I mean, he was brilliant.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  But at the same time, he lived in a cocoon.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  I don’t know.  I have no experience, and I’m not qualified to talk about Johnny’s life.  I do know this, that being on television every night has made me crazier than I was when I started.  I’m certainly crazier than I was four, five years ago without doubt, but I’m okay with it.  But I’m definitely — there’s definitely been a shift.  I don’t know where it leads to.  Does it lead to isolation?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

QUESTION:  Do you have any friends who are –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Who are not entertainment people, but that you have a really good time talking to and the conversations are funny, and you think, “Man, I wish I could just put this person on the show because” –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No.  See, that’s the reason why they’re my friends not in show business.  It’s very important for, for me.  It doesn’t have to be for anyone else.  Please understand today if nothing else, I’m pushing nothing.  I’m pushing no manifesto.  I’m here to talk about the show because I make a show which is on television and you’re television critics, but I’m not pushing anything.  But for me, I don’t want everything to be about TV.  I don’t want everything to be about show business.  That’s why I go — by the way, I’d like to announce I got my pilot’s license on Friday of last week.

QUESTION:  Mazel tov.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Thank you.  And I’ll tell you why I like aviation, because it is the complete opposite of show business.  In show business you bullshit, you bullshit, you bullshit, and that’s what you do, and that’s how get ahead.  In aviation, you bullshit, you fucking die.

(Laughter.)

You’re gone.  So when Andy says to you in show business, “Can you do that?”  You go, “You bet I can.”  When Andy says to you in aviation “Can you do that?”  You better tell the truth because if you can’t, you know, you’re on the local news, and that’s that.  So I –

(Laughter.)

I like to keep an area of my life, a lot of my life, involved in more rational areas than show business, and most of my friends, not all of my friends, but most of my friends, exist outside of
show business.

QUESTION:  You had Cheryl Hines on a couple of nights ago, and you had her mother there, and it seems like the demographic within the audience is completely changing.  Do you find that you do get a wider swath of, like, ages?  And are they letting you go much farther as you go along in terms of the jokes and stuff like that?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  It seems to come and go — it comes and — it’s a come and a go.  I don’t — I don’t — again, I don’t think I’m the best qualified person to talk about the demographics of my show.

QUESTION:  But you’re seeing the reactions on the stage.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yeah.  I see the studio audience, but it changes so much.  The other night, I went out, and there were like 14 or 15 women in the audience who were all wearing very nice sundresses.  So I brought them all down in the front because they all looked lovely, and I thought everyone else should see how lovely they all looked in their sundresses.  Then I thought, “Oh, fuck.  I’m going to get in terrible trouble for this.”  “Sexist bastard showing people in sundresses.”

(Laughter.)

But I don’t — the audience that I see, which is the studio audience, which is actually about the size of the audience in here.  I don’t know how many people are in the room.  It’s not much bigger than this.  This is who I see every night.  So it can change wildly if you got a college group in or, you know, an old folks tour or something like that.  It’s like some nights, I go out and go “Ugh.”

(Laughter.)

– but that’s the way it is.  It’s all right. Yes.

QUESTION:  Can you talk about who’s been your favorite guest and who has been your worst.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  No, I can’t.  I can’t talk about my favorite and worst guests.

(Laughter.)

Because I like to think I’m a bit like a doctor. At a certain point there’s a Hippocratic Oath. But my favorite guest is Betty White, and my least favorite guest is an actor, who I’m not saying his name because fuck him.

(Laughter.)

KATIE BARKER:  We have time for one more question.

QUESTION:  I’m curious, you say you don’t watch David, but he’s a colleague –

CRAIG FERGUSON:  He’s my boss.

QUESTION:  He’s your boss.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Do you have sort of a friendly spirit of one-upmanship with him in the same way that, say, Stephen Colbert was always trying to one-up Jon Stewart and vice versa?

CRAIG FERGUSON:  What a lovely idea.  No, I don’t have that with David.  David Letterman is more than my boss.  I’m going to give you an exclusive story now.

(Laughter.)

David Letterman, no matter what the numbers have ever been, ever, in the past — how long has David been on CBS, 30?  And then there was Bill — how long did he do — there was like 30 years.  David Letterman is the king of late night television. All right.  Now, I know there are press releases and other people that can prove to you scientifically that that’s not fucking true, but I’m telling you that’s true.  So David Letterman — how can you have upmanship?  That’s like me saying, you know, I go out in the golf course with Tiger Woods and (gesturing) I’ll show him.  That’s David fucking Letterman.  You know, it’s a different — it’s a different thing.  And I’m very happy to work for him and to work close to him, but if there is — if there is a successor to Johnny, then, of course, it’s David.  And so it’s not that really.  My relationship with David Letterman is that I sit at his feet, and that’s what it is.  I’m kind of his bitch.

(Laughter.)

In the modern parlance, you know.  I sit at the feet of the master, or I’m his “bee-atch,” whichever way you want to do it.

(Laughter.)

KATIE BARKER:  Thank you, everyone for coming out and getting cozy with us.  We have Craig for a couple minutes, and then we’ve got to get him back to the show.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Thanks.


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