BET­TER LATE THAN NEVER

Craig Fer­gu­son is bring­ing talk – and a few other things – back to the talk show. Guy Davis stayed up past his bed­time to learn more about The Late Late Show.

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won the highly pres­ti­gious Pe­abody Award), it has also earned him a le­gion of de­voted fans.

And what they’re drawn to, it seems, is Fer­gu­son’s de­light in think­ing out­side the square.

“ Here’s the re­al­ity: I’m an­other mid­dle-aged guy telling jokes late at night on TV wear­ing a suit,” he said. “ That can get tired. I want to mess with it. I want to poke it with a stick. I can be­cause I’m on the late-night fringe.”

Air­ing in the US af­ter the Late Show with David Let­ter­man, The Late Late Show is now air­ing in Aus­tralia – in a late-night times­lot, ap­pro­pri­ately enough – on Ten’s new dig­i­tal chan­nel Eleven. But de­spite its ti­tle and times­lot, Fer­gu­son says, “ I don’t feel like I do a late-night show, I feel like I do a show which is coin­ci­den­tally broad­cast at night”.

Air­ing in the wee hours, how­ever, gives him a lit­tle lat­i­tude to do things the way he wants. And what that in­cludes is hold­ing ac­tual con­ver­sa­tions with his celebrity guests rather than sim­ply giv­ing them a fo­rum to pro­mote their lat­est project or trot out a few well-worn anec­dotes.

“ Pub­li­cists work out what we’ll say and who’s gonna ask what,” he said of the tra­di­tional talk-show mode. “ I’ll ask you ‘ Oh, you bought a house?’ And you say ‘ Yeah, I just moved and I got a dog’. And I’ll say ‘ Tell me about the dog. Is it named Spunky?’ And you’ll say ‘ Yeah, Spunky!’ I don’t do that.”

In­stead, he looks for guests who tend to be “ gen­er­ous of spirit”. ap­proach. “ But it’s not lit­er­ally dan­ger­ous in a real sense,” he laughed. “ It’s not Dead­li­est Catch or any­thing. It’s just that some­body may get em­bar­rassed. It’s pretty much dead set that some­one is go­ing to be em­bar­rassed by the end of the show. And if some­one re­ally clams up, I just keep talk­ing. I try to help them. It doesn’t hap­pen as of­ten as you think be­cause if you make peo­ple com­fort­able they tend to open up a lit­tle bit.”

And while he’s keen on keep­ing his guests chatty and com­fort­able, it would seem that Fer­gu­son is equally keen on do­ing the same for him­self to keep his au­di­ence en­ter­tained.

“ One of the lux­u­ries of do­ing a tele­vi­sion show ev­ery night is that it’s al­most like you have an out­let for just broad­cast­ing your thoughts,” he said.

“ There’s a part of it which is retro in the sense that it’s some­one just talk­ing on tele­vi­sion. An­other part of it is ex­tremely con­tem­po­rary be­cause it re­ally is the broad­cast of my unedited thoughts, mis­takes and all. I am my own blooper reel – what you see is what you get.”

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