>> Monday, March 1, 2010
I've become a great fan of Craig Ferguson and "The Late Late Show," the only late night show worth watching, IMHO. Craig's comedy monologues are more likely to be about Copernicus than Tiger Woods, which is really refreshing. (One of his best lines lately combined the two: "Copernicus was born today. Of course, Copernicus is best remembered for being the first person to prove that the Earth does not revolve around Tiger Woods.")
Last week, Ferguson punted the usual monologue/funny e-mails/two guests/live audience format, and sat down, chair to chair, with writer, actor, (and dare I say philosopher?) Stephen Fry, popular in this household for his role as Jeeves in the BBC's "Jeeves and Wooster." No audience, no jokey monologue, no desk, no constant plugging of new projects. (Although Fry is the voice of the Cheshire Cat in Burton's new Alice in Wonderland, and they did show a clip of that coming out of a commercial break, before launching off into talking about something else entirely.)
Ferguson styled the episode as an "experiment," though in an introduction he acknowledges that plenty of folks have used the one-on-one talk show format in the past, and some still do--but none currently in late night. In fact, if you don't watch the entire episode, the opening five minutes are intriguing enough for the short lesson Ferguson gives on the evolution of late night, and it's current state as a rehash of the format Johnny Carson made so spectacularly successful.
If you watch the rest of the episode though, you'll hear the two--both born in the UK--wax poetic about America's unbridled optimism, with theories about why America and Europe are so different in attitude and ambition. You'll hear them discuss how Robert Burns would have loved Twitter. You'll hear them talk about the language of love and the language of violence, and how strange it is that we as humans talk openly about the bad one and feel ashamed to talk about the good one. In short, you'll hear a witty, entertaining, and enlightening conversation between two delightful people--which, let's face it, is a rare commodity in late night television. Or any television, for that matter. After I watched the show online, I immediately sought out Wendi to discuss some of the topics with her, and as I did so I marveled at how the show had put me in a placid, thoughtful mood, in the way that argumentative, talking-point discourse never does.
CBS is really smart, and puts every episode of "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson" online, which means you don't have to stay up late to watch it. If you've got 45 minutes for a great, thought-provoking conversation, give Craig Ferguson's "great experiment" a view. I'm a fan of his traditional late night show, so I'll keep watching no matter what, but here's hoping he does this again some time soon.