by Aprille Hanson
It was a great day for Springfield, Mo., on June 1 when that cheeky monkey Craig Ferguson came to town.
Performing standup at the Gillioz Theatre on his Hot and Grumpy Tour, the recently retired host of “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” on CBS cussed, shared raunchy stories and made the audience bust a gut. For nine years, fans of the show laughed at Ferguson trapped in that box on our entertainment centers.
As my favorite late night host, I never in a million years thought I’d see him in person. I didn’t see myself going to Los Angeles and when Ferguson signed off for the last time on Dec. 19, 2014, that sealed the deal. This is what made Monday’s experience so special. He was no longer trapped in the T.V., something he pointed out often to what I can assume were the awestruck fans in the front rows. He acknowledged they were likely creeped out a little, and admonished a man for looking down at his cell phone, explaining he wasn’t in his living room and something to the effect of “I can see you mother***ker.”
No, there was no “Tuttsi Frutsi” or “Oolala” flags blocking his mouth when he let a swear word rip, even though some of us may have thought they’d appear, he said. This was CraigyFerg – raw and unfiltered. The only reference he made to his departure from the late night show was that “that’s why he had to leave” – his unfiltered humor.
Though he “retired” from the ‘Late, Late Show,’ he didn’t retire from entertainment. He’s had a great gig as host of his “Celebrity Name Game,” which earned him his first Emmy. He has his G-rated audience on his game show and his R-rated one apparently on his comedy tour.
This uncensored Craig wasn’t too over the top -- just the right balance of dirty and funny. Sure, he offended some people, he owned up to that, explaining he’s a comedian. It was something he really didn’t have to explain, but likely did it because the Craig we all know and loved on T.V. was going to be edgier tonight. Those who didn’t expect that clearly don’t understand comedy.
Instead of talking much about the guests or time on the ‘Late, Late Show’ – his beloved robot sidekick Geoff wasn’t mentioned once – he focused on the things that offended him: crappy music, particularly Kenny G, Miley Cyrus and her legions of twerkers and Dr. Phil. Yeah, he really hates Dr. Phil, questioning whether Oprah regrets collecting all these pieces of douchebag and creating him. Oh and of course he is offended by people who are late, he said, staring at the people in the front row who came in well into the first part of his set.
He didn’t ignore his ‘Late, Late Show’ status however. In fact, his entrance began with the ring of the doorbell and Secretariat came out dancing with the music. It was a delightful, unexpected treat for the audience. He also started off saying his catchphrase, “It’s a great day for America everybody.” It led into a hilarious encounter he claimed to have with a fan after his stand-up show in Greensboro, N.C. when he forgot to say the catchphrase.
In the best Southern voice he could muster, the gun-toting man said, “How come you didn’t say it was a great day for ‘Merica?” A mere mistake, Ferguson explained, yet the man said something like, “No, I know what you were doing.” Yes, of course, Ferguson said he was in fact a terrorist disguised as a Scottish comic.
Speaking of Scotland, there’s no sex there and instead of the fun title of Hacky Sack, it’s called “Foot Bag,” to appeal more to the drab locals. There’s the self-deprecating-on-his-heritage comedian we love.
He poked fun at his age, 53, several times throughout the night, the best of which was the story of his colonoscopy. Now, I’ve heard this bit told by several middle-aged comedians. It’s like their go-to joke, but Ferguson’s description of how the doctor-prescribed “super-laxative” the night before was essentially otherworldly, dry ice coming out of its little lair at the pharmacy, was pure comedic gold. It was topped off when he compared his bathroom trips to the Matrix and how the video of his colonoscopy had a cameo by Gwyneth Paltrow – a must in L.A.
I’ve never been a fan of bathroom humor, but damn if I wasn’t doubled over.
But the most laughs of the night came from his long story of how about 20 years ago, his childhood hero, Mick Jagger, asked for his help to write a screenplay for a movie about a roadie who switches places with the lead rocker. Essentially, Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper.”
It took him to Istanbul, calling Jagger “adorable,” subsequently pissing off Jagger telling him “not to be such a queen” after he was not recognized as a famous person but Craig was by a fellow Scotsman and how he got the death stare from Keith Richards and learned Richards was in fact the true leader of the band. To try to retell it would be a serious disservice to the joke, so I won’t. But what made it just completely hysterical was Ferguson’s spot-on interpretation of Jagger, his dance moves and his constant ridiculing of his tiny hands that seemed to get smaller as the story went on.
For as funny as Ferguson was, I’d be remiss to not give a high-praise shout-out to the warm-up comedian Dave Stone from T.V.’s “Last Comic Standing.” He joked about his weight and his Georgia heritage and it didn’t once feel forced or cliché, which is truly a feat because those jokes are pretty stock. He made them unique and hilarious.
Though I miss turning on my T.V. and seeing Ferguson captivate a late night audience, seeing him unleashed was a one in a lifetime experience. He is truly a comedy legend and I hope he continues to tour and do stand-up specials. Because every day that he does is a great day for America.