Welcome back to the neon jungle, “cheeky monkey.”
That simian endearment—to clue in yet-to-be-converted comedy consumers—is the self-description of Craig Ferguson, the wholly original Late Late Show host who returns to the Venetian on Sept. 13-15, stand-up act in tow.
Someday soon, the impishly subversive Scotsman should tote his TV show along instead. More than a wisecracker prowling a stage with a mic, Ferguson is a trailblazing broadcaster. That’s the Fergie we deserve here for a week of shows now and then.
Craig-heads—we’re a passionate breed—are hooked on Ferguson’s deconstructionist take on a calcified format. Once upon a late-night time, Ferguson’s overlord, David Letterman (both shows are produced by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants), kicked the genre in the ass. While still entertaining, Letterman long ago settled into traditional rhythms, only occasionally surprising viewers with his old, invigorating prickliness.
Competing directly against Ferguson, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon is a creative comic but an obsequious and not particularly interesting interviewer. Over at TBS, Conan O’Brien is a talented sketch performer but an aimless monologuist and celeb-stroking suck-up. And no, we haven’t forgotten the host with the least—under “unoriginal” in the dictionary is a picture of Jay Leno’s chin.
No one has thrown the format into a blender and whipped it into something entirely new like Ferguson. Consider “Geoff,” his gay skeleton robot sidekick; cold-opening interrogations of giggly audience members; goofy, surreal, bleeped-profanity monologues; racy hand puppets; and high-wire celebrity interviews that largely eschew performers’ droning promotions in favor of wicked comic volleys. (Let’s not forget the studio audience’s “lesbian row,” whether those in the seats are lesbians or not.)
Compared with his compadres, Ferguson’s show is practically performance art.
Both Leno and Ferguson often breeze through Vegas. Leno plays The Mirage, which he treats like a garage to tune up those rim-shot Tonight Show jokes he delivers with the finesse-less style of an RV splattering road kill. What you get onstage is what you get on-air, just a tad saltier. Conversely, Ferguson’s stand-up—which fans know from his cable specials, A Wee Bit o’ Revolution and Does This Need to Be Said?—is at least a different animal from his genre-twisting television. Funny as it is, though, it can’t be the Ferguson who cheekily flips the post-midnight bird.
Vegas already contributes to his TV reinvention: Taped segments have featured Ferguson bar-bouncing and casino-crawling with “Geoff.” Vegas-bound audience members yield comic fodder when Ferguson hilariously grills them. We’ve even been the launching pad for bizarre banter. (Beats us why he and “Geoff” referring to Caesars Palace as “Caesars Penis” is hilarious—but it is.)
C’mon Craig, think about it: We provide your show a crazy-fun neon playground. You provide us what you do more inventively nowadays than anyone else with a camera pointed at his puss.
Bring The Late Late Show to America’s late-late town.
Catch a Seven Questions Q&A with the Flamingo’s Marie Osmond in next week’s Vegas Seven, before the Oct. 1 debut of her new Hallmark Channel talk show. We forgot to bring roses to our sit-down chat and need to send some pronto. … Anyone got some paper?