You can take the boy out of Scotland, but after he gets his own late night talk show he just might come back – and bring his robot skeleton sidekick with him.
After last year’s triumphant excursion to Paris, host Craig Ferguson is taking “The Late, Late Show” to Edinburgh, Glasgow and his hometown of Cumberland, Scotland. He'll be bringing with him a roster of guests including Mila Kunis, Rashida Jones and Michael Clarke Duncan, and his anarchic, stream-of-consciousness style of comedy. At a recent sneak preview of the road trip at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, Ferguson told PopcornBiz about his Highland Fling, and thoughts on his late night future.
What was the surprise in taking the show to Scotland, that thing that you weren't expecting that added some electricity to what you did?
I think I wasn't expecting to have so much fun, because going on the road is actually quite difficult and I thought that it would be a lot of hard work. It was, but actually it was a lot of fun. I really kind of enjoyed it, and it's been a long time since I went to Scotland for pleasure. I had some, and so I'm going to go back for more pleasure.
Does your robot skeleton sidekick Geoff Petersen hit the road with you?
Oh, Geoff was in Scotland, which is difficult for him because it's a whole different voltage…I think the robot skeleton is emblematic of complete failure on my behalf, because what I tried to do with the robot skeleton is use it as a kind of huffy piece of deconstruction about how tired the idea of a sidekick was, and then to use it and in some way to deconstruct the late night genre. What happened was that Joshua Robert Thompson is so good at it that I just went, 'Well, this is great, actually. Let's just do it.' So I failed in what I set out to do with Geoff Petersen, but that's all right because it's funny and it's fun.
This is a job that you seem born to do. Did you know that before you started doing it or did you find that out as you were doing it?
No. I don't even know if I do it right now. I think what I know is that I work with some very talented people. I work with Peter Lassally and Michael Naidus who produce the show. They're extremely talented about whatever odd skill I have. They seem to know how to farm that or harvest it, and I think it would never have occurred to me to have done this, but now that I do it, it wouldn't occur to me to leave. It might occur to someone else, but it's not occurred to me. So, I guess I was born to do it because it's not really a job for me. It's an expression.
Who haven’t you had on the show that you’re still dying to get?
I'm trying to think, to actually say a name for you so that I can use this as leverage to get them on. It tends not to happen like that, though. What happens is that I become interested in somebody when they're pitched, usually. You know how this thing is. They say, 'Would you like Sandra Bullock to be on the show?' ‘Yes, of course I'd like Sandra Bullock on the show!’ Then they say 'Would you like to have the other guy in the movie – his name is Bob.' And you go, 'Well, I don't know. Tell me about Bob.' So I don't know. Is there a guy called Bob in a movie with Sandra? When Bob does that movie we'll have him on. That's not really my job. I think my job is to find them interesting once they're there.
Do you envision a day when you bring what you do to an earlier hour? David Letterman will be around at 11:35 for a few more years at least, but do you see eventually bringing what you do to an earlier audience?
I get asked this quite a lot, and it's a kind of I think old fashion and sensational idea, that 'Late Night' has this lineage. I'm not entirely sure that what I do is late night television. I don't care when it's on. I don't care what time they broadcast it. I only care about doing stuff that I'm remotely proud of. Not every night. There are some nights that I go, 'Jesus, really? That's one.' But most nights I leave going, 'Yeah, that wasn't bad.' And the Scottish shows, actually I'm proud of those. That's a good feeling, a powerful feeling. So, I think if I adapted too much to fit…they have a saying in show business: ‘Don't move an actor to work for a light – move the f**king light.’ That's kind of how I feel about it on a set: move the light. That's how I feel about the show. I do what I do, and if they want to put that at a different time then that's all right. But I'll be doing what I do, and then I think everyone will be happy – except them, and that's all right.