Late Night Hosts Go Easy on Dave

Craig Ferguson defends Letterman, his boss

By JAKE COYLE
|  Tuesday, Oct 6, 2009  |  Updated 12:45 AM PDT
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"Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson defended Letterman, calling him "the king of late-night television."

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Of all of those reacting to David Letterman's situation, Craig Ferguson had a unique perspective.

As the host of the "Late Late Show" on CBS, he follows Letterman's "Late Show." Letterman also is his boss, since Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, produces the "Late Late Show."

Yet it's Ferguson's job to make fun of the biggest news stories of the day. And, lately, his boss qualifies. Since announcing on "Late Show" last week that he had had sex with female members of his staff and been the victim of a $2 million blackmail threat, Letterman has played prominently in the news.

Ferguson pointed out his awkward position Monday, asking his audience to "put yourself in my position."

"The person you work for, the person you admire and respect, is caught in an embarrassing situation," said Ferguson. "And your job is to be funny about that, whilst trying to keep your own job."

"So this is my last show," he joked.

Ferguson did make light of the situation, joking that it had now been revealed how he got the job in the first place.

But Ferguson defended Letterman, calling him "the king of late-night television."

"If we are now holding late-night talk show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen, I'm out," said Ferguson. "I'm gone."

Ferguson has never claimed to have a perfect past. He recently released a memoir ("American on Purpose") reflecting on his struggle with alcoholism.

"I quite like my entertainers to be dangerous. I like my musicians to be kind of drug-fueled," Ferguson said. "Cause if you want entertainers to be squeaky clean, then who are you going to be watching? Jonas Brothers."

Other late-night comics have handled the situation in various ways but have mostly gone easy on Letterman.

Jay Leno, Letterman's old rival and now host of "The Jay Leno Show" on NBC, featured it in his monologue on Friday but skipped it altogether Monday. Conan O'Brien, the new host of the "Tonight" show, avoided it on Friday and again stayed clear in his monologue Monday.

Jon Stewart didn't mention it on Monday's "The Daily Show," nor did Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report." Jimmy Kimmel skipped it on Friday's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Even the legendary late-night host Dick Cavett had nothing but praise for Letterman's skill at crisis management.

"To me, it seems Dave Letterman's handling of this is impeccable," Cavett said in an e-mail. "Brave, direct and — dare I say it? — manly. He has set a real example here of exactly how to behave when assaulted in such a sleazy operation."

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