Tag Archives: Craig Ferguson

Happy Birthday Drew Carey!

From the first sighting on old cable comedy shows through Human Cartoon, The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway, Drew Carey has consistently been among my favorite people. Self-deprecating, lightning quick and a bit on the raunchy side, he’s proven that he can make anything funny, even a game show. (Not that I’m watching The Price Is Right, even at gunpoint…)

The Drew Carey Show (and where is the complete series on DVD, people?) featured a first-rate cast and was cool enough to have Joe Walsh as a stoner guitarist (not much of a stretch); thanks to Ian Hunter and Drew Carey, Cleveland regained its coolness. We learned to appreciate Diedrich Bader and Ryan Stiles as comedic actors,  and were introduced to Mr. Wick, who we have come to love even more as Craig Ferguson, subversive late night host.

Adapting the British improv show, Whose Line introduced many of us to Greg Proops and Wayne Brady and especially Colin Mochrie, a first-class nutjob whose hundreds of interactions with Stiles are comedy classics at the level of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.

It’s Drew in a nutshell – secure and unselfish enough to surround himself with brilliant people and let them shine, because the show comes first. If only more stars would be so egoless.

Happy Birthday, Drew!

Drew Carey - a true star.

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Heeeeeere’s Johnny!

Nineteen years ago today, Johnny Carson said goodbye.

Retiring after thirty years at the age of 66, Carson walked away from a show that became part of the fabric of American pop culture. Much like Ed Sullivan’s variety show, unknown performers could become instant superstars just by nailing a single appearance. Carson didn’t start the Tonight Show (Steve Allen and Jack Paar preceded him), nor would he finish it, but his impact upon it and the late-night talk show design will forever be paramount.

Other talk shows of the day were warm and fuzzy (Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas) or a bit cerebral (Dick Cavett); Carson blended both with a parade of incredible guests and a willingness to be as serious or silly as the situation required. He let people be themselves. During his reign, the show’s title became secondary to the man; artists simply referred to “being on Carson“.

On his final night, Carson went out with grace and class:

And so it has come to this: I, uh… am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I want to thank the gentlemen who’ve shared this stage with me for thirty years. Mr. Ed McMahon, Mr. Doc Severinsen, and you people watching. I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something that I want to do and I think you would like and come back that you’ll be as gracious in inviting me into your home as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt good night.”

Video: Excerpts from the final show

Although he never came back into the public eye, his legacy lives on through everyone who speaks into a microphone from behind a desk, and the advent of cable television has allowed many students to co-exist in the form. While initially his replacement Jay Leno and his protegé David Letterman split the bulk of the audience, a flood of worthy children now occupy the night-time hours and will be worthy successors to their aging mentors.

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher have taken the political end of the spectrum to new heights; Stewart is often singled out as the most trusted source of news on television, despite his consistent disclaimer that his is a comedy show. (Speaks volumes about the networks, doesn’t it?).

After holding slots previously occupied by both Leno and Letterman, Conan O’Brien’s new TBS effort proved that people will follow the man, not the show. The embarrassing NBC debacle was followed by the guerilla Team Coco movement, and Conan remains a strong brand and a unique personality.

After shaky starts, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson and especially Jimmy Fallon have proven to have solid and consistent programs that attract first-rate guests and feature brilliant writing. Along with smaller network show hosts (Chelsea Handler, George Lopez, Mo’Nique, Graham Norton), the comedy/music/chat formula is in good hands.

But to a person, each will point a finger back at the master, Johnny Carson.

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It’s Been Real

Sure, the event coincides with the availability of a new 6-disc DVD called The Ernie Kovacs Collection which hits the shelves on April 19. But paying tribute to one of television’s true pioneers is always a good thing, so I have no problem spreading the word.

On April 12th, Keith Olbermann will moderate a panel discussion that will focus on the impact Ernie Kovacs has had on television and on specific creators, long after his death in a car accident in 1962. The program will incorporate a wide range of Kovacs’ work in its original form and some repackaged to address specific themes. 

Most of these shows, which have never been screened since their original airings, have been newly transferred from original 16mm kinescopes and curated by noted film/television historian Ben Model. Much of Kovacs’ works have been archived at the Paley Center since his widow Edie Adams delivered original kinescopes and tapes dating back to the 1970s.

Model will participate on the panel at The Paley Center along with comedian and Kovacs fan Joel Hodgson,(Mystery Science Theater 3000), humorist-comedian-writer Robert Smigel, Laugh In creator George Schlatter, and Jolene Brand, a Kovacs cast member on his ABC specials.

Video: The Aesop Broadcasting Company (Weekend Update, prostrate thyself and pay homage!)

Ernie Kovacs transformed television’s early era with offbeat humor, sight gags and lunacy that had not been seen before. Scholars have remarked that Kovacs understood the impact and possibilities of television before many of his contemporaries. In fact, Kovacs is credited with shaping the medium’s visual possibilities rather than simply putting a picture to a popular radio show. Pretty much any television host or program with a taste for the absurd can be traced back to Kovacs, from Monty Python, SNL and Pee Wee’s Playhouse to late night hosts like Carson, Letterman and Ferguson.

As Kovacs said. “nothing in moderation“.

Click here for more information about the event.

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T.G.I.F. – Maron and Mirman

Going to see two of the best comedians working today, Eugene Mirman and Marc Maron. Been a fan of both for a while; I respect Mirman’s absurdist take on the world and I think Maron has raised his game to a level even he probably didn’t anticipate.

And that’s not even counting the brilliance of his WTF podcasts.

So for those not familiar, here are Ten for the M&M Boys

(01) – Maron on Craig Ferguson

(02) – Mirman says Pot is Bad!

(03) – Maron being texted by a stalker

(04) – Mirman on Scientology

(05) – Maron on Chinese food

(06) – Mirman is The Secret Agent

(07) – Maron and his inner demons

(08) – Mirman is a Punk.

(09) – Maron and The Grateful Dead acid story

(10) – Mirman being Mirman

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Post-Emmy Thoughts

Visit the official Emmy website for a list of the winners.

  • Jimmy Fallon, you did great. That opening number will go down as one of the funniest and best kickoffs in the history of the telecast. You were funny throughout the night without being overbearing and milked that child-like innocence for all it was worth. And the musical impressions were pure gold.
  • Although I was pulling for Terry O’Quinn to be recognized for his incredible work on Lost, I can’t argue with the award to Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad. I felt he should have won before, and it’s great to see that his peers recognized his efforts; so many other actors would have made Jesse Pinkman a caricature.
  • Now that Bryan Cranston’s incredibly dramatic chops aren’t catching anyone off guard, I wonder how many will look back and realize just how much he deserved the award for his work on Malcolm In The Middle?
  • It looks like 30 Rock hit the wall across the board – the show and leads Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin were collecting statues like clockwork but all three got shut out last night. I wonder if people are taking that show for granted already?
  • Ricky Gervais proved again that every awards show needs to have him on stage for at least five minutes. Again, the funniest man in the room.
  • If you told me that two people would stand up in the audience and take bows, I never would have come up with Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian. Never.
  • Jorge Garcia and Jon Hamm during the “Born To Run” clip – priceless. (Hurley and Hamm does have a ring to it…)
  • Claire Danes is starting to resemble Lauren Bacall.
  • The Tweets sucked the life out of the moment anytime they were read. Dump the idea.
  • Mad Men is an unstoppable force. Ensembles do rule.
  • Tom Selleck looked like Gregory Peck in The Boys From Brazil.
  • Usually those songs played during the Memorium sequence can be pretty lame, but I thought Jewel did a nice job. Might actually be the best song I’ve heard from her in years (not that I’m actively listening…)
  • Some of the “we asked them this question” film clips were beyond painful, but the one with Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd mocking the Old Spice man on a horse commercial was genius.
  • Bucky Gunts!!
  • January Jones looked like a Christmas ornament. And I’ll bet any hetero man in the first three rows – assuming there were any – appreciated the view.
  • Archie Panjabi as Best Supporting Actress over Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks?. Are you kidding me?
  • But the absolute MVP of the night has to go to John Hodgman, who did the hilarious voice-overs again this year. They were hysterical in their own right and make you realize just how stodgy and lame and unimaginative most award shows are. Too bad he couldn’t have scripted everything the presenters were told to say.

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Emmy Time

Jimmy Fallon proves he is *not* a Vulcan.

I’ve really turned the corner on Jimmy Fallon. 

Truthfully, he used to annoy the hell out of me on SNL, but then most of that regime usually did. Jimmy always seemed sloppy and amateurish, laughing at this own jokes, but then again I hated Tina Fey always repeating the punch lines to her jokes when doing the news. Time heals

It’s refreshing to see someone who knows he has a long road to the top be willing to take some chances and be genuinely thrilled to be in the late night hunt. I got that from Conan O’Brien when he first started under duress, and it’s one of the characteristics that has made Craig Ferguson so endearing. 

So I’m excited to see what Jimmy will bring to the big stage at the Emmy Awards  tonight. I’m hoping a good dose of irreverence, since this is such a self-congratulatory event. But there has been a pretty big paradigm shift in television, from the power struggles in late night to who is behind the successful money-making comedies. The dynamic is younger and hipper, and that’s his audience and his peer base. 

In the meantime, some wishes for some of the major categories – my ballot for whom I’d like to win, not who I think will win. 

It’s going to be interactive tonight – tweets, emails, IMs, live blogs. Since I have a life, I’ll defer my reactions to it all until tomorrow

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Larry David as Himself
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy  

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston as Walter White

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard
Jon Hamm as Don Draper  

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lea Michele as Rachel Berry
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson  

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick
Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson
January Jones as Betty Draper  

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper  

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
Martin Short as Leonard Winstone
Terry O’Quinn as John Locke
Michael Emerson as Ben Linus
John Slattery as Roger Sterling
Andre Braugher as Owen  

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters
Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney
Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper  

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson  

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Glee • FOX
Modern Family • ABC
Nurse Jackie • Showtime
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC  

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad • AMC
Dexter • Showtime
The Good Wife • CBS
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC
True Blood • HBO 

Remembering Katrina, five years ago. People *still* need help.

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American on Purpose

He's had enough accidents already

It’s hard to dislike Craig Ferguson. 

Unless you’re a close personal friend of a famous person, who really knows what they’re really like?. Fame is a sales game, and there are divisions of major agencies that spend countless hours teaching their clients what to say and more importantly what not to say. The really good ones can do this while seeming to be glib. The bad ones sound like they have no mental acuity unless it’s neatly printed on a cue card (or, if you’re a politician, maybe on your hand). That scene in Bull Durham where Kevin Costner teaches Tim Robbins how to cliché his way through an interview might be an inside joke to baseball fans, but in Hollywood it’s reality incarnate

That’s why guys who can succeed on late night television are so rare, and why it takes even the great ones a bit of time to find their footing. Ultimately, you have to be yourself or it doesn’t work. When the audition process to replace Craig Kilbourn on The Late Late Show was in full swing I assumed (as did many) that D.L. Hughley would walk away with the job without breaking a sweat. He is an established comic, very smart, fast on his feet and a likeable guy. Famous guests come on the show to plug a movie, a television show, a new album or tour. Softball questions are proposed, topics slated as in or out of scope, straight lines prepared. So simple, a caveman could so it

But after the auditions, the producer of the show approached Craig and noted that he was really listening to his guests and engaging them in conversation. “That’s what I thought the job was about”, Ferguson replied. And that’s how and why he landed the gig. He was interested enough to invoke talk on a talk show

Craig Ferguson has had a pretty incredible life, and despite bouts with addiction demons and a couple of marriages gone awry, he seems to continue to fall into opportunity and make good when it happens. American on Purpose is an unusual bio in that it avoids the formula timeline walk from childhood to present for a more anecdotal, lessons learned approach. Writing almost conversationally, Ferguson is no apologist; he freely placing the blame for most of the bad decisions in his life squarely where they belong. And while proud to be a driven man chasing a dream, he’s also honest enough to admit when his fortunes relied on someone to give a needed push

Adolf Crosby didn't have a ring to it, apparently

If there is a personal disappointment, is not only that he skirts quickly past his stand-up career (Bing Hitler aside) but also the show that gave him his big break. Ferguson clearly acknowledges The Drew Carey Show as a major turning point in his life and career but moves on with nary an anecdote; admitting the work became like punching the clock. He does point out that Mr. Wick would simply pop out of his office like a groundhog from its hole, spout his one or two witty lines and return to the office, but I couldn’t imagine being on set with Carey, Ryan Stiles, Diedrich Bader and Kathy Kinney (among others) being anything less than gut-bustingly fun. 

But that small nit aside, Ferguson’s heartfelt and witty tale is very entertaining and endearing. It’s an easy read, and while I could recap many the particular stories, I suggest you read it yourself; Ferguson’s words are far funnier than mine.  He’s candid, unfiltered, brave and honest, and one gets the feeling that he’d rather have you not like him for what he is than fawn over him for something he is not. (That’s an uncommon trait for normal people; for Hollywood it’s off the charts.) 

Clearly, beneath the libido and appetite of a mad Scotsman beats the heart of a man who appreciates the opportunities he has been given. “Between safety and adventure“, he says, “I choose adventure.”I don’t know if Craig the person would be as much fun to hang and talk with as Craig the author or Craig the talk-show host, but I’d make that leap of faith to find out. Sometimes the good guys win. Maybe this is one of those times

Another round of Buzz Beer, please.

Craig’s site for The Late Late Show

Also check out A Wee Bit of Revolution

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