Craig Ferguson knows the water very well in which Jimmy Fallon is about to swim or sink, and he urged writers at Wednesday’s TCA session to be kind to his upcoming 12:30 a.m. rival.
Certainly, Ferguson, (flanked by producer Michael Nadius, left, and exec producer Peter Lassally), who recently became a U.S. citizen and just got married a few weeks ago, has made the most of his chance when he started his post-midnight shift three years ago. He is arguably the hottest latenight host, according to both critics and the burgeoning ratings.
Ferguson’s trademark has become his unstructured opening monologue, which is a sort of free-form rant on what’s on his mind that night. It can offer anything from the typical potshots at celebrities, a cerebral look at the political issues of the day or, as was the case a few weeks ago, a catharsis on the death of his mom.
As for that particular show in which he talked about his mother, Ferguson recalled: “I didn’t concern myself with what the audience wanted to hear. What I try to do — and what I try to do 99 out of 100 nights — is amuse you before you go to sleep. That night, though, I didn’t feel like that. I try to be as truthful as possible. That’s why I approached it that way.”
His sense of humor, Ferguson said, comes from a very dark place.
“I think if you’re happy as a person it would be impossible to do comedy at all,” he explained. “My psychiatrist said — and this is true — that I have reserves of unhappiness equal to Saudi Arabia’s reserves of oil.”
Certainly, and Ferguson isthe first to acknowledge this, the show has greatly benefited from having talkshow veteran Lassally at its side. The classy Lassally, who spent decades with Johnny Carson, acts as a stabilizing force and voice of reason.
When asked about his thoughts of Jay Leno taking his show five nights a week at 10 p.m. on NBC, Lassally offered up this insight:
“It’s very brave of NBC but a big gamble. If Jay succeeds at 10 p.m., my concern is will people go to sleep after that? NBC affiliates would be very unhappy for the 11 o’clock news ratings to slip, and what would it do for the 11:30 and 12:30 shows?
“It could shake things up tremendously. Competition on latenights shows isn’t the opposition, but sleep. Audiences will have to decide whether they want to stay through the next show or not. Also, there will be five latenight shows in L.A. all going after the same guests. It’s quite a change this year.”
— Stuart Levine