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'The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson'


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Ferguson Finds Niche on CBS' 'Late, Late' Shift

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'The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson'

"There's something I believe wholeheartedly: Cynicism is the true refuge of the pseudo-intellectual," Craig Ferguson says with conviction, leaning back in a chair with work boot-shod feet propped up on the desk in his office at CBS Television City. "Cynicism is easy. Joy is an extremely advanced spiritual and intellectual tenet."

As he nears his first anniversary on the job at CBS' "The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson," the host has been spending a lot of time thinking about such weighty concerns. Ferguson says he has been in a pretty advanced place for most of the year after finding his footing in a job that has thoroughly changed his life.

"This job has explained to me who I am -- I'm not kidding," Ferguson says. "I always knew I was an actor, but kind of not. I always knew I was a writer, but kind of not. I knew was a producer, but kind of not."

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Craig Ferguson

"It's really a peculiar confluence of skills and experiences that put you in the right position to do this job," Ferguson explained. "But I know now what I am. I'm this. Whatever this is. Now that I know this it's really helped me in my life."

Ferguson hadn't sought out the gig, but he didn't say no to a guest-hosting offer in the Fall of 2004 when CBS was holding on-air auditions to find a replacement for Craig Kilborn. He expected it to be nothing more than a two-night "lark."

Then Ferguson met Peter Lassally, the respected veteran of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" and David Letterman's NBC and CBS programs, who was enlisted last year by Letterman's Worldwide Pants and CBS to revamp "Late, Late Show."

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Craig Ferguson (center) in 'The Drew Carey Show'

Lassally told Ferguson, a multihyphenate best known before "Late, Late Show" for his second-banana stint on ABC's "The Drew Carey Show," to take his guest shot seriously because he could be the one. "I'm like, 'You're a crazy old man,'" Ferguson recalls.

Although he fell in love with the job, it took a few months of not quite hitting the mark before Ferguson found his comfort zone. He decided to lose the tie that comes as standard-issue equipment with the job, and he jettisoned virtually all of the show's prepared skits and bits.

Most every night, Ferguson opens with a TelePrompTer full of bullet points offering him shorthand reminders of a series of largely topical subjects that Ferguson and the writers have worked on earlier in the day. He doesn't tell jokes; he spins extended stories, anecdotes and observations in a manner that, at its best, is something akin to a folksy Scottish-flavored Jack Paar. (I kid you not.)

And Ferguson comes across as preternaturally at ease on camera, even when he dives into broad physical silliness. "It's totally free. It is the complete freedom of performance," Ferguson says. "The first time (the monologue is) performed is when you see it on TV, and it'll never be seen again. It's pure TV. Bam! It's there, and then it's gone."

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Craig Ferguson

The Glasgow native can't help but bring an "old country" outsider's perspective to the kookier aspects of American pop culture, a trait that sets him apart from his competition as much as his ready supply of colorful Scottish sayings.

But after 11 years in this country, Ferguson is proud to say that he feels like a Yankee through and through, especially now that he's the father of a U.S.-born 4-1/2-year-old son. Indeed, without a trace of sarcasm, Ferguson is quick to wax on about the great ideals of this country and the immigrant's access to the American dream.

That doesn't leave much room for cynicism, which is another refreshing change for his steadily growing audience. "I tried for so long to live up to the pretense of bearing some mythical urban sophistication which I didn't really possess anyway because I'm too happy," he says.

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