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Craig Ferguson Goes All Howard Beale, In A Good Way
September 11, 2008  | By David Bianculli

Last night's edition of CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson featured the host getting all incensed as soon as the show started. He began to rant and rave (more ranting than raving) about American political coverage, the presidential campaigns and national apathy about voting.

He was like Howard Beale in Network, talking directly to the American people, as Peter Finch's character did in that classic 1976 Paddy Chayefsky film. Telling them he was mad as hell, and telling them why.

And you know what? It made for great television.

What's wonderful about Ferguson -- and I've said this about the guy since the beginning, since he was trying out for the job -- is that he's such a natural broadcaster. He not only thinks on his feet, he talks on his feet. Bouncing from topic to topic, pouncing on punch lines, ad libbing his way through more cleverness in one nightly monologue than many standup comics do in an entire cable special.

But there are times when Ferguson quits clowning and speaks honestly, passionately, unguardedly. He did it when his father died, when Johnny Carson died, when he became an American citizen, and on a few other occasions. On Wednesday's show, he did it again.


Ferguson used all his tricks -- funny faces, screaming voices, walking towards and hitting the camera -- in a freeform address that left no constituency ungored. Democrats, Republicans, MSNBC, Fox News, politicians, voters and, most especially, non-voters. Some memorable Howard Beale-ish excerpts include:

ABOUT TV COVERAGE OF THE CAMPAIGN: "My belief and my hope is that the American people are smarter than the media that are meant to be serving them."



ABOUT THE CANDIDATES' FAMILIES: "If their families are off limits, why are they on stage, profiled in People magazine? The children are seen marching around. Shame on you, you manipulative hypocrites -- I'm talking both sides."

ABOUT THE CULT OF PERSONALITY: "Politics is covered like showbiz now. On the Today show this morning, 'Which candidate would you rather have dinner with?' Here's an easy answer: None. They're politicians. I don't want dinner with you, and I don't want your friendship. Here is what I want to know: What are you going to do for the country, pal?"

ON COVERING THE CAMPAIGN LIGHTLY: "I like The Daily Show. I like Jon Stewart. He does a bang-up job. He does a great job, but let him do it. The rest of the TV news people, take this thing seriously! This is important!"

ON WATCHING TV NEWS: "We, all of us, have a responsibility - you have to get your news from actual news sources. Not just one, cause they are all biased. Especially cable channels. MSNBC, very liberal. FOX News, very conservative. The Animal Planet -- always meerkats, never badgers."

ON VOTING: "it's your duty to vote! The foundation in this democracy is based on free people making free choices. So, young people, if you can't take your hand out of your bag of Cheetos long enough to fill out a form, then you can't complain when we wind up with President Sanjaya."




Neil said:

I had turned off the TV last night right after Letterman finished interviewing Obama. So after reading your blog entry I went on a treasure hunt through CBS's website. I finally found their Late Late Show page with video clips of Craig's recent monologues. It is:


(then click on Sept. 10th)

Everything you said was correct. He really nailed it, in a funny but sincere way that few others on TV would be capable of.

But David, in situations like this, I humbly suggest you include either the video clip, or a link to the video clip, right in the article. Shouldn't be necessary for the 97% of us who were in bed by the time this aired to all have to hunt around for it. If it's worth going back and seeing, point us to it.

But thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Comment posted on September 11, 2008 1:41 PM

Bill S. said:

Couldn't agree more !!!!

Comment posted on September 11, 2008 2:04 PM

Phillip R. Crabb said:

As I'm looking forward to watching the '102 Minutes That Changed the World,' as per your recommendation, on the History Channel tonight, it gave me pause to reflect on that tragic day 7 years ago.

As someone who flew on the morning of September 11, from Newark Airport, on United Airlines on a 7:15am flight to Milwaukee from Gate 15, my project team and I had no idea we were sharing the same waiting areas as the flight that crashed in Shanksville.

We took off to the North on that crystal clear morning, and had no clue as to what was transpiring as we were enroute to our destination, one of the few flights that completed its trip that morning.

When we landed, it was hard not to notice all those who crowded around every television screen. Someone mentioned a plane had hit the World Trade Center. The initial assumption of many of us was that a Cessna or something of that sort had 'bounced' off the building.

As a volunteer firefighter, it was easy to come to the conclusion that something more extraordinary had occurred once a view of the damage and smoke came on the screen.

Unlike those amateur photographers on tonight's broadcast we had no cameras, but a few observations may be notable. As we kept our rental cars and started home, we drove past O'Hare Airport where there was nothing, absolutely nothing moving, and barely any traffic on the interstates skirting it.

In the flat plains of Ohio, there was not a single contrail in the horizon-to-horizon skies. As we crested that last hill on Route 78 before arriving at back at Newark Airport (where probably 80% of all Chicago-area rental cars ended up), we saw the still smoke-laden lower Manhattan with the towers blatantly missing from the landscape. That's when the traumatic effect of what had happened, rellay hit home.

You see, if you didn't live here in the Metropolitan area, you felt bad and enraged at the tragic course of events -- but you didn't feel like we did, living in proximity to 'Ground Zero.' I don't believe there was one of us, on that first day they allowed air traffic to recommence, who didn't track with our eyes the first aircraft we saw in the sky.

Perhaps that's why it seems inconceivable that it has been 7 years since that terrible day, and why I'm still drawn to watch shows such as this to reflect on that time. (Phillip, thanks for taking the time to write that remarkable account. I'm proud you chose to share it here, with all of us. -- David B.)

Comment posted on September 11, 2008 3:33 PM

Cindy said:

I usually watch Craig, but wouldn't you know I didn't last night. Bummers. Thanks for giving me a taste of what I missed. I have a feeling he will continue to try and keep us honest by not believing everything we read in the gossip mags.
Love your site. Love your views. Love Diane and Bill too.
All My Best. (Hey, Cindy -- On behalf of Diane and Bill, we love you too. And I know I'm not speaking out of turn. The name Ronzoni always was a bright light on press tour. -- David B.)

Comment posted on September 11, 2008 4:11 PM

Bobby Sags said:

Don't know if you know this: There is video of your attempts to teach female inmates at a certain prison the finer points of English. Though many years and countless crotch hits have passed since I left the show, I am not without contacts and influence at "America's Funniest Videos."
Bonnie Hunt revelations -- or footage of Young Davie trying to teach these substantial women how to conjugate.
(Political note: None of them wore lipstick.) (Okay. I know that's not true -- no video exists of my memorable stint teaching college english at a women's prison -- but so few people know that about me, It won't take long for me to figure out which of my alleged "friends" is trying to blackmail me into giving up my Bonnie Hunt story. It's not worth the sneaky subterfuge -- but on a slow day, I'll fess up. Gotta have to learn how to load audio first, because you had to be there, or at least to hear it. -- David B.)

Comment posted on September 11, 2008 5:11 PM

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