LCB NOTEBOOK: Craig Ferguson on Conan, the Strike, NBC's Late-Night PlansHost of CBS' Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Talks with B&C 's Ben Grossman 2/09/2008 12:22:00 AM Eastern
How was your first week as an American?
“I haven’t noticed tax breaks or any real changes.”
You said you received 16,109 honorary citizenships. Did everyone play along?
“Only trouble was the mayor of Portland said any honorary citizenships would be for people who did good works, and not just for being on TV. Lighten up, it’s a joke.”
How did you find out about the White House Correspondents’ dinner?
“[Association president and ABC News White House correspondent] Ann Compton called the office. Maureen Dowd, who I am friendly with, had been talking to Ann during the president’s tour of the Middle East and Maureen had suggested it. It was like junior high -- you get a call that says if they ask you to host will you say yes? I said yes and then they asked.”
The next night after the announcement, you took a pretty good shot at the president. Was that by design, to show people that you can’t be bought by one White House dinner?
“I can’t deny I was looking for a particularly strong joke that night about the president to make sure everyone knew I’m still me.”
How has your show changed?
“I’ve become very relaxed. I don’t use notes; it’s a habit to throw them away. I don’t want anyone else’s questions, I’ll ask the questions. But because the show is so loose, I’ve become more guarded about things, like my son or my romantic life.”
How do you want to improve the show?
“Our sketch comedy is erratic; we need to find some consistency. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a bigger studio and audience, and sometimes I think not. But we are changing the set.
Do you wish you had a band?
“I don’t care about a band. I used to think I needed a sidekick. But because I worked so long without one, I just talk to myself now. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. I think the ridiculously small nature of our budget has helped in a strange way.”
Did you expect more of a ratings bump during the strike since you had writers and the ABC and NBC shows did not?
“Not at all. Johnny Carson said people watch these shows for the guy behind the desk. In fact, I was surprised [the other shows] didn’t get more of a spike than they did since people want to see what they’d do without writers and guests.”
Do you watch other talk-show hosts?
“I watched a lot of Johnny Carson tapes, because [executive producer Peter Lassally] and Johnny created the model for what these shows are today. I watched a lot of Dave, but I watched him anyway. I watch a lot of Regis Philbin. He can expand any tiny moment from his life into a great discussion. I’m so enamored with how he does it. I think he is the best I’ve ever seen at that.”
Do you keep a constant eye on ratings?
“I look at them -- I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. At first I looked at them to see if I was going to survive. I watch them less now, but we all know where they are.”
Will Conan O’Brien’s show change if and when he moves to 11:30 p.m. on NBC?
“It’s got to. Dave had to change [when he moved to 11:30] and he changed hugely. People say Conan won’t work at 11:30, and I think that’s pretty fast talking. That’s what was said about Dave, and Dave smacked it out of the box. To rule Conan out is silly. But to rule Jay out is also silly. It’s deliciously fascinating.”
Would you change your show if you ever moved to 11:30?
“If I went 11:30, I wouldn’t change much, so they would have to decide if they wanted this show at 11:30. You can’t do 220 shows a year if you hate it. That’s why Rosie quit.”
Are you paying close attention to NBC’s 12:30 a.m. plans, which may include Jimmy Fallon?
“I like Lorne Michaels and I respect him and he’s a terrific guy, and he knows what he’s doing. I think there are contenders you haven’t even seen yet. I love that kid who does The Soup [on E! Entertainment Television] -- Joel McHale? If he had a Peter Lassally, I don’t know. There are a lot of questions. Is Jon coming over? Will he do that show on a network and will it work?”
What do you think is going to happen at NBC in 2009?
“It’s fascinating discussion, and we have it here all the time, as they do in every late-night office around the country. The truth is, nobody knows what’s going to happen. NBC says they are committed ... but we’ll see.”