The old intro to The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson had a montage of disturbingly ugly characters - men with nightmarish dental work and comb-overs. When I was up late and David Letterman was over I switched stations right away to avoid the British/Scottish comedy thing of really mean caricature and whoever Craig Whatshisname was.
One night I was engrossed in something, probably FB Scrabble games and didn’t turn the channel and he came on, and turned out to be introspective and funny and really engaged with the camera which meant engaged with me. And I started watching.
When I knew I was coming to Los Angeles one of the online researches I did was to see what shows were taping and Ferguson was the first I tried; I went yesterday with Pat, Thom’s mother.
The studios are in Hollywood on Fairfax, a street of thrift stores and old time delis and The Grove, a mall that’s a village and another story.
We arrived just after 2:30 and though half an hour early were pretty much the last in line. Eventually we moved forward, someone checked our ID and then we went through a metal detector and had bench numbers written on our wrists with black marker. We took our seats. We all were less than average good looking compared to the folks I see on the street in Studio City.
Some little annoyance in a maroon CBS jacket started yelling every minute about how we should use the bathroom before we went in.
Then Brian was on the scene, little twerpy fuck with a soul patch beard wearing his dad’s aviator sunglasses. The website said the taping began at 3:00 but Brian tells me it won’t start until 4:30. Not good. He leads us through practice cheers and clapping, and has a young young woman in an overly big CBS jacket and flat ballet shoes under her too-long pants record it on a small camera. He’s not funny and really it feels insulting to be taught how to laugh and clap. Say something funny asshole, and I’ll be the first to laugh. Brian warms us up for Chunky B, his boss. Supposedly. Whatever.
Chunky B comes out. He’s 40ish, dress shirt in pants, tonsure bald patch. He’s the real warm up guy. More unfunny genuinely stupid banter from him and after an eternity we walk up two flights of stairs to Studio 58 which freezing cold and seats 108.
Chunky B is back. He hurls miniature Twix and Snickers bars at us and many of us oblige by scrambling for them. It’s pathetic. Then he continues to warm us up with jokes from Grade Six:
What did one saggy boob say to the other?
We’d better get some support or people will think we’re nuts.
I am in purgatory. I have a short short fuse for shit like this.
When things start, they move quickly. The musical guests are taped first and a day early (so that the time of tearing down the risers, instrument and amps does not interrupt taping): Wilco is the band on our episode but the band taped yesterday. Out comes a very thin light-skinned black woman and a five-piece band. I have no idea who she is but the others sure do: Corinne Bailey Rae. “It’s freezing cold in here,” she says and she and her band launch into two songs and are gone. Crew moves their gear off the small stage and the riser with Craig’s chair and desk plus guest seats is rolled into place on centre stage.
Chunky B is ever present, clown of a million exhortations and jokes everyone else laughs at.
How do you get a fat chick? Piece of cake.
Craig and his guest, Rosie O’Donnell come out and do a gender bend of Robert Palmer’s "Addicted To Love." Ferguson is back quickly, doing the monologue (almost entirely about the death of J.D. Salinger) close into the camera which means he is not really visible to the audience. Minute break and he chats animatedly with a floor director. Then back. Then Rosie. Ferguson and O’Donnell seem like two smart witty people having a conversation. Nice. Minute break. Ferguson is up again and chats with the floor director and does not acknowledge us at all. More talk. Rosie talks about Howard Stern, how smart and nice he is, and plugs her HBO documentary A Family is Family is a Family.
She breaks the news we re all getting Sirius radios. It’s over. We file out. Brian hands me a XM Onyx ($58.88 on Amazon). We file back downstairs and out into the cool evening.