Spit Take Saturday: Craig Ferguson

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14622604_201306031410_265x265_padWelcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

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If there’s anyone more deserving of the term “cheeky,” that person should promptly track down Craig Ferguson and strip the smiley-faced belt from his jolly Scottish midsection. Ever since Ferguson took over hosting duties for CBS’s The Late Late Show in 2005, he’s nightly brought viewers into his gently pompous world of crude animatronics and winking asides, broadening his American résumé beyond his bit role as the dick boss on The Drew Carey Show to include all manner of sparkly-eyed mugging.

** WARNING! This video contains language that may be offensive to some viewers. **

I’m Here to Help is the antidote to that. Both richer and harsher than the cutesy Late Late Show monologues, which years ago began to stray into a sort of in-joke schtick, Help reinforces Ferguson’s true mastery of a crowd. Sure, his public image is reflected during the credits of Help, which present a black-and-white montage of Ferguson as jet-setting rock star, complete with an entourage and private jet. Recorded at Washington, D.C.’s Warner Theatre, Help also features pre-show audience testimonials of Ferguson’s mesmerizing effect on his fans.

We get it. He’s a big deal! Ferguson even walks on stage to laser-like blasts of light, mimicking the ingratiating body language of his Late Late Show entrances (the first track is also called “Great Day for America,” as in “It’s a…,” his opening line on every show). But seconds after he starts talking, Ferguson differentiates this special from his TV work by upping the energy, profanity and ideas-per-square-inch.

His practiced likeability helps punch up potentially familiar observations on sex, fatherhood, drugs, the female body and, of course, Nazis. He’s as apt to drop a lisp-y accent or colorful line (as when he observes that living with a baby is like living with “a psycho German midget prostitute”) as he is to make most other standups sound quiet and stoned by comparison, given the intensity with which he delivers bits like “Rehab” and “2 Penises.” His Hollywood milieu pisses him off, even as he subsists on it (it’s probably legitimately risky for him to be making jabs at Scientologists), but the whole thing is shot through with a bawdy confidence that transcends the easy celebrity tongue-lashings.

In other words, don’t let the suit and tie fool you. Ferguson is a sharp writer and stand-up animal who’s only gotten more feral with the time he’s spent in his Late Late Show cage. His outrage-baiting approaches nuclear levels at times, as when he spits, “Angelina Jolie… the U.N. ambassador for children. What a fucking bitch!” on his way toward arguing how anyone who ignores her charity work for her “husband-stealing” is also likely to praise Hitler for being a vegetarian.

There’s craft to spare on Help, but the momentum and flow is more convincing than on his TV monologues. If you already find Ferguson’s TV persona overbearing, this probably won’t do much to change that. But if you want to see the rare late-night host who can hold his own (and then some) on a stand-up stage, Help is a tour de force that satisfyingly builds on past specials A Wee Bit o’ Revolution and Does This Need to Be Said by presenting a more blunt, genuine version of someone who spends most of his screen time being neither of those things.

By John Wenzel

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Check out a few examples of the great comedic talent that’s appeared on the Late Late Show:

Friday, September 6 The Jim McDonald experience in light and soundWest Kingstown, Rhode Island  Comedian and Rhode Island native Jim McDonald returns to the Ocean State to deliver his unique brand of standup comedy at Courthouse Center Stage in West Kingston on Friday, September 6th at 7 p.m. Since settling in Los Angeles, he has become a regular performer on both The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as well as the esteemed Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California. Raised in East Greenwich, Jim began working throughout the United States. He now also tours internationally, performing in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

Saturday, September 7 Chucklefck Presents an Evening with Drew ThomasCleveland, Ohio  Drew Thomas’ talents have been showcased on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and have led to him touring nationally with Rodney Carrington. He’s become a fixture in Las Vegas and delivers the goods no matter what the setting (club, college, stadium, casino, arena, theater). Can’t wait to see him wreck shop in the intimate confines of Reddstone.

Saturday, September 21 I Jimmy PardoShelbyville, Indiana  Jimmy Pardo is a stand-up comedian, whose quick wit has made him one of the top club comics in the country. Known primarily for his amazing crowd work, Pardo has released two comedy albums, Uno and Pompous Clown, the latter of which is almost completely Pardo working the crowd. He has appeared on Last Comic Standing (2003), The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2005) and Comedy Central Presents (1998). He is a regular on the Bob and Tom Show and has been in TV shows such as That 70’s Show.  He was the warm-up act for The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, and returned as the warm-up act for Conan. He is also the host of the popular podcast show Never Not Funny.