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TV Presents a Full-Scale Puppet Show: The 1,000th Episode of "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" on CBS
December 15, 2009  | By David Bianculli

wavy-waving-1000.jpgTonight, to celebrate the 1,000th installment of his CBS talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the host is taking the night off -- and turning over the program to his popular alter ego puppet, Wavy the crocodile or alligator. (Even Wavy isn't sure which.) As a TV concept, it's a blast from TV's most distant past -- but also a clear indication why Ferguson, in late-night TV terms, is the wave of the future...


Puppets go back to TV's infancy -- to Kukla, Fran and Ollie, to the Muppets, to the puppet friends of Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo, and, counting marionettes, all the way back to 1947's Howdy Doody. But in the right hands, so to speak, they're still really entertaining today, as Robert Smigel has proven for more than a decade with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Ferguson started playing with puppets as part of his "cold open," having them mouth to old recordings from time to time -- usually, dusty old songs with yodeling involved. Then he began pulling out other funny-looking puppets -- a monkey, a dinosaur, a shark -- until he stumbled upon Wavy, and gave the snaggle-toothed reptile a Cajun accent and a womanizing manner.


He's been riding the Wavy wave ever since. And a few months ago, when David Duchovny somehow ended up being interviewed by Wavy instead of by Ferguson, a new late-night star was born. Later, another guest, Lauren Graham, showed up -- as a talk-show guest one night, but also appearing on another show as a guest puppeteer.

The show is pulling out the stops for tonight's 1,000th show. Jason Segel, who unveiled his Dracula puppet in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, will be there. So will that film's co-star, Kristen Bell, one of Ferguson's favorite and most playful guests. And Jason Schwartzman and Maria Bello -- and, I'm told, lots of other puppets, and even a few sexy dancers.


All presided over by Wavy, not by Craig. Sounds like fun. And sounds different enough, and wild enough, to suggest that the Ferguson folks are having a blast, while several others in the TV talk game right now just seem to be going through the same tired motions.

And for the record, last night's 999th show, which was full of Craig, was laugh-out-loud funny. His opening rant against Continental Airlines, and his at-the-desk rant against TMZ, were brave, bold, honest, completely hilarious diatribes.

So watch tonight, at 12:35 a.m. ET on CBS, and see if you enjoy riding the Wavy.

By the way: There's an easy way to ascertain whether Wavy is a crocodile or an alligator.

I've grilled both. Alligator tastes like chicken. Crocodile tastes like conch...




Chris Collins said:

Don't BBQ poor Wavy! He's finally getting to be a star!

Comment posted on December 15, 2009 10:30 AM

Greg Kibitz said:

You're not suggesting we eat Wavy, are you?

"What a be! What a Be!" (says Wavy)

A guess a little strip off the tail won't be so inhumane. Cajun Blackened, Rubbed and Grilled, Creole Sous Vide or simply stewed in a bit of spicy Gumbo is the only question that remains? }:-)

My DVR went a bit FUBAR last night during late night talk show time (beginning during Conan/Letterman my back tuner buffers started to evaporate) so I missed most of Ferguson, at least the post Continental rant. YouTube here I come.

Comment posted on December 15, 2009 11:56 AM

Curtis said:

Whadda do ever'boddy, Whadda do?

Thanks for the heads up! Oh, yeah that's what this site's for, I guess...

Comment posted on December 15, 2009 12:16 PM

Christine Simmons said:

From a frequently miserable flyer: I am so glad that Craig pulled out all the stops last night in his hilariously on-target rant at Continental Airlines. Little guys like us need Craig to stand up for what is right and what is wrong. We'd be banned from flying forever if we went public about the arrogance of many U.S. carriers, including Continental, which only thinks it is a "quality" carrier. Maybe Wavy could eat a Continental plane on a future show.

[Hmm. "Crocs on a Plane"? Could be a movie in it... -- David B.]

Comment posted on December 15, 2009 3:31 PM

Marlark said:

I couldn't agree more with your view on Craig Ferguson. Night after night with no band, no sidekick and delightfully (and only slightly) skewered format, CF is hands down the best Late Night host.

Not only is he flat out hysterical (I've never watched without a laugh out loud moment -- a true test of funny), he's a GREAT interviewer. He's a conversationalist who knows where the humor is and yet he keeps the discussion intersting. Something that induces cringing with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and especially Jay Leno.

Last night was no exception. Craig told that interesting tale carefully avoiding the carrier's name only to use it as the punchline. Then he kept going there at all the right moments throughout the night. He even turned a seemed-to-be-honest embarassing mobile call DURING THE SHOW from his guest's GF (Joshua Jackson's Diane Kruger) into a hysterical moment.

It's a great night for America whenever LLSwCF is on. He is truly the successor to David Letterman in every way.

Comment posted on December 15, 2009 4:03 PM

Shauna said:

Thank you so much for talking about this show recently. I've only caught it a few times due to the time slot, but while I'm home on maternity leave I'm taking the opportunity to dvr it and watch it the next day and I have to say that it is better than most everything else I have on there. Last night's puppet show was great and I especially loved the end credits.

Comment posted on December 16, 2009 12:25 PM

Chris Spurgeon said:

I thought the 1,000th episode show was one of the best things on TV this year...funny, weird, engaging, and with a perfect internal consistency...the sense that in the strange wonderful alternate world in which The Craig Ferguson show resides alligators (or crocodiles) really *are* suave raconteur reptiles about town.

Comment posted on December 17, 2009 1:22 PM

Bear said:

Craig Ferguson is so much better than any other talk show host! We have been watching him for at least the last 500 episodes thanks to our Tivo. Still regretting the sound machine he used on the second segment (sounds of cats, horse whip etc)
Anyhow, he is a very bright sunshine in the current TV spectrum. He is a gem, almost like a band you discovered and that you hope he is not going to become so big that he would end up in a more "prime time" slot and change from a great sincere, sometime foul mouth "oulala" genius into a lame run of the mill talk show host. Do i make any sense?
Anyhow, spread the word with your friends. Craig is the man to watch!
Oh and yeah, the Continental rant, wow, that was very cool. In the name of the rest of the cattle being flown around, I salute you! Craig Ferguson.

Comment posted on December 20, 2009 8:18 PM

Lu said:

In regards to Bear's comments, I need to clarify that what he wanted to say about the sound machine is that we miss it...bring it back! I should know because I am married to him. By the way, what happend to the cheeky monkey comments?

Comment posted on December 28, 2009 1:27 PM

Cindy said:

I really enjoyed reading the blog as well as the insightful reader comments. Craig truly is the best late night talk show host on TV today, and I would even go so far as to say THE best talk show host, period.

I've always been a big fan of Dave Letterman, and agree that he retires, the only choice would be Craig. And I hope he accepts the offer! I laugh out loud at every single CF show, and was lucky to get to sit in his studio audience on two occasions (would do many more, but it would be a long commute from Minnesota.) CBS has a gem, and I hope they truly know that.

Comment posted on January 10, 2010 2:26 AM
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