Craig Ferguson Al Fresco: TV's Most Original Comedian Performs on Paris Sidewalks

By , Columnist

When the most original comedian on American television decided to tape his late night talk show in Paris this week, he didn't bother booking theaters so he could perform for studio audiences. Instead, Craig Ferguson is taking it to the streets and filming outdoors, guerrilla style, without permits. 

For night owl couch potatoes, Ferguson's allergy to business-as-usual show biz comes as no surprise. Earlier this month, the Scottish born humorist opened his broadcast by pretending to be an obscenity-spewing puppet rabbit from North London who tried to hit on a robotic, skull-headed sidekick named Geoff. Other nights, Ferguson greets audiences in the guise of a sex-crazed alligator puppet from Louisiana. 

Operating without a band, normal-sized writing staff or conventional script, Ferguson seems almost embarrassed when he delivers an old-fashioned punchline and rarely get through a sentence without parenthetically blasting either himself or his employer. 

Excepting his fondness for misrepresenting Paul McCartney with pictures of Angela Lansbury, Ferguson gets easily bored. Defying a half-century of talk show convention, he opens his CBS talk show with two off-the-cuff minutes of random thoughts accompanied by an alternating cast of foul-mouthed puppets, baffled audience members scantily-clad dwarves. 

It's a hit or miss gambit, but even when he flops, Ferguson is at least trying to keep the format fresh. 

A self-described alcoholic formerly fond of cocaine, Ferguson rarely jokes about celebrity misfortunes. Instead, like his boss David Letterman, Ferguson specializes in high octane crankiness as he rails against moronic behavior at large.  

Ferguson also understands the power of self-deprecation and rarely misses the opportunity to portray himself as a vain lunatic given to wearing ill-fitting suits and bad makeup. 

Away from the TV screen, Ferguson is hardly a clown. In the past four years he's written a novel and a memoir, earned a pilot's license, won a Peabody award for his illuminating interview with Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, gotten married, become a dad, performed several dozen concert dates, hosted Discovery Channel's Shark Week, provided voice-over for Oscar-nominated animated feature How To Train Your Dragon and passed his U.S. citizenship test. 

Ferguson's handlers tell The Morton Report that his Paris episodes won't air until August.  In the meantime, CBS this week broadcasts re-runs showcasing witty streams of consciousness from the man who calls himself "The Scottish Conan Guy."

Late Late Show With Craig Ferugson airs 11:35 p.m. on CBS.

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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