Country of origin
Also known as
The Late Late Show (franchise brand)
David LettermanPeter LassallyCraig Ferguson
Jonathan MoranoTed MulkerinLynn FergusonPhilip McGradeJoe O'BrienBob OschackJohn ReynoldsBen StoutTom StrawJoe StrazzuloCraig Ferguson
Tim MancinelliBrian McAloon (2005–2012)
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Theme Song
Craig Ferguson, Philip McGrade, Ted Mulkerin, Jonathan Morano, Joe Strazzullo
Peabody Award, Canadian Comedy Award for Live / Best Taped Live Performance
Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was an American late-night talk show hosted by Scottish American comedian Craig Ferguson. It was the third iteration of the Late Late Show franchise, airing from 2005 to 2014. It followed Late Show with David Letterman in the CBS late-night lineup, airing weekdays in the U.S. at 12:37 a.m. Taped in front of a live studio audience from Monday to Friday at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, California, directly above the Bob Barker Studio (Studio 33), it was produced by David Letterman's production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated and CBS Television Studios.
- Show format
- Production milestones
- Final seasons and departure
- Cold open
- Theme song
- Geoff Peterson
- Impersonations and characters
- Alfredo Sauce and the Shy Fellas
- Musical performances
- Interview ending activities
- Notable episodes
The Late Late Show franchise had previously aired as The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, then as The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. During the late 2004 transition of guest hosts following Craig Kilborn's departure, Craig Ferguson hosted a series of shows in October and November, culminating in being announced on December 7 as the pick for new host. Since launching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on January 3, 2005, Ferguson achieved the highest ratings since the show's inception in 1995. While comedy was emphasized in the majority of the episodes, Ferguson also addressed difficult subject matters, such as the deaths of his parents, his struggles with alcoholism, and commentating on national tragedies; and undertook serious interviews, such as one with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which earned the show a 2009 Peabody Award. Despite not initially having a sidekick, comedian and voice actor Josh Robert Thompson joined the show in 2010 and voiced sidekick Geoff Peterson until the show's finale.
On April 28, 2014, Ferguson announced that he was ending the show at the end of the year. The last episode aired on December 19, 2014. Afterwards, Late Late Show began a series of episodes with guest hosts; new permanent host James Corden began his iteration of the franchise on March 23, 2015.
The show starts with a cold open which consists of a short improvised monologue or commentary by Ferguson either as himself or involving his various puppets. Later the show featured banter with Geoff Peterson, his robot sidekick (voiced by Josh Robert Thompson), and Secretariat, a pantomime horse; interaction with members of the studio audience, or occasionally a pre-taped bit. The cold open is followed by the opening credits and a commercial break.
Following the break and his introduction by announcer Shadoe Stevens, Ferguson begins with "Welcome to Los Angeles, California, welcome to the Late Late Show. I am your host, TV's Craig Ferguson"; this is soon followed by "It's a great day for America, everybody!" and a free-form, largely ad-libbed monologue. After another commercial break, Ferguson is seated behind his desk, where he usually reads and responds to viewer emails and (since February 2010) tweets from his proclaimed "robot skeleton army".
Generally, one or two celebrities are interviewed. Starting in 2008, Ferguson began each by dramatically ripping up note cards written for the interview, "signalling to the audience, and to the guest, that this conversation need not be rigidly managed". Sometimes, a stand-up comedian, cooking segment, or a musical guest performs, the latter of which is typically pre-taped.
Ferguson has had many running gags. These have included themed weeks such as "Crab Week", "Magic Week", and "Shark Week"; and the long running "photo of Paul McCartney" joke, wherein Ferguson will call for a photo of McCartney, which is actually a photo of actress Angela Lansbury and vice versa. The show infrequently uses variations of the latter gag featuring other pairs of look-alike celebrities, such as Cher being shown as Marilyn Manson. The show also uses short skits such as "Dear Aquaman" (in which Ferguson dresses as the superhero and gives advice), "Michael Caine in Space", and various absurdist Sean Connery impersonations, coming in and out of commercial breaks, and longer sketches used more infrequently as the show progressed.
The show ends with "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?", a segment that starts with an animation of a kitten and in which Ferguson "removes his tie, puts his feet on his desk, and summarizes the preceding hour of TV".
Ferguson's first show as host was on January 3, 2005. For approximately the first two months, he continued his predecessor's monologue format, reading 5–10 jokes from cue cards. He would ad-lib between the jokes, and soon noticed that the "stuff in-between" got the most reaction from his audience; after that realization, he decided he and his writers would stop writing jokes.
A new set debuted on the July 24, 2006 episode. It included a miniature CBS airship that floated along over the backdrop depicting Los Angeles. In the week of March 17, 2008, The Late Late Show debuted a new set featuring a desk interview area on a raised platform; the backdrop was also changed to a detailed representation of Los Angeles.
In 2008, Worldwide Pants Incorporated signed a product placement deal with Ford to promote the Ford Flex during The Late Late Show. Eight episodes ("with one repeat") of the show included custom-written skits in which Ferguson played the leader of a Scottish rap band called The Highlanderz (consisting of Angus "Big Ginger" Ferguson, Philip "The Howler" McGrade, and Shannon "Bubbles" McGee), riding in a Flex as they traveled from Los Angeles International Airport to the CBS Studio. The skits were shown on successive Thursdays starting on September 4.
On August 31, 2009, the show began broadcasting in high definition, featuring a refitted studio and production facilities, along with a new show logo, new lights, an opening title sequence that "features Ferguson in iconic Los Angeles locations", and a new arrangement of the show's theme song.
Ferguson's initial contract as host was for six years, until the end of 2010; as of August 2007 he was telling television critics he might not be interested in a contract renewal, though by February 2008, he was publicly professing his loyalty to David Letterman, saying: "I will sit behind Dave as long as he sits there."
December 15, 2009 marked his 1,000th episode as host. For the occasion, puppets took over the show; Ferguson conducted the entire show as his puppet Wavy Ranchero, and recurring sketches also featured puppet replacements. Guests, which were not puppets, included Kristen Bell, Maria Bello, and Jason Schwartzman. Jason Segel also made an appearance as his muppet Dracula, performing a musical number with band The Broken West.
On March 31, 2010, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Georgia announced that the Late Late Show had won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Television for its "Evening with Archbishop Desmond Tutu" episode. According to the Peabody Board, "the Scottish-born Ferguson has made late-night television safe again for ideas".
On April 3, 2012, CBS announced Ferguson agreed to a contract extension through 2014. As part of the deal, CBS will co-produce the show with Worldwide Pants and CBS Television Studios and the show will move to a bigger studio. Although financial terms were not disclosed, the extension likely included a raise beyond what Variety reported had been his US$13 million salary.
Final seasons and departure
Following the departure of Jay Leno from The Tonight Show and the late night shake-up at NBC, both Late Show and The Late Late Show struggled in the ratings against Jimmy Fallon and his successor at 12:30 a.m. ET/PT, Late Night with Seth Meyers. In April 2014, Letterman announced his plans to retire. CBS passed over Ferguson to choose Stephen Colbert as the new host of Late Show beginning sometime in 2015, reportedly viewing Ferguson as too much of a niche performer to succeed Letterman. Ferguson's contract, which expired in June 2014 stipulated that he was Letterman's successor at 11:30 and that if he was not given the position, he would be paid compensation of as much as US$10,000,000. Letterman's contract included the right to control the Time slot that follows his and produce the Late Late Show and it was his production company, Worldwide Pants, which selected Ferguson as host and with whom his contracts were negotiated. With Letterman's departure, CBS would become the sole producer of the show and it is the network which determines what is done with the time slot and with which any contract is negotiated. CBS had been ambiguous in regard to Ferguson's future as host of The Late Late Show. CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves said in an interview: "12:30 is up in the air [...] Obviously, we’re considering all sorts of candidates and women are among them. A woman would be great in late night." However, CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler said that the CBS management are "big fans of Craig" and that "Craig is here and doing his show at 12.30am, and we love having him there".
Chelsea Handler had reportedly begun negotiations to take over hosting of The Late Late Show when Ferguson's contract expired; however, both Handler and CBS later denied this, saying she was in fact in negotiations with CBS' syndication arm for a daytime show. John Oliver was also reportedly approached by CBS as a possible Late Late Show host prior to his signing a contract with HBO, as were Neil Patrick Harris and James Corden.
On April 28, 2014, Ferguson announced he would leave the show in December 2014. He had made the decision prior to Letterman's announcement but agreed to delay making his own decision public until the reaction to Letterman's decision had died down. He had also originally intended to leave in the summer of 2014 but agreed to stay until the end of the year to give CBS more time to find a successor. In a statement following his announcement, Tassler said that in his decade as host, Ferguson had "infused the broadcast with tremendous energy, unique comedy, insightful interviews, and some of the most heartfelt monologues seen on television". In an interview with Larry King, Ferguson stated that the final episode of The Late Late Show with him as host would air December 19, 2014.
In September 2014, comedian James Corden was announced as host of the The Late Late Show with James Corden, beginning in 2015. In November 2014, CBS announced Jay Leno would be Ferguson's guest on his final show; during December "notable friends of the show" scheduled for appearances in December included Kristen Bell, Steve Carell, Jon Hamm, Rashida Jones, Mila Kunis, Thomas Lennon, Tim Meadows (whose 41 appearances set the show's record), Jim Parsons, Michael Sheen, Ariel Tweto, Betty White, and Henry Winkler. Meanwhile, several of Ferguson's final episodes dealt with his distaste for abstract expressionism—Mark Rothko in particular—and public reactions to that stance.
Ferguson's final episode started with the usual cold open, but this time showing a montage of friends from the show while they performed Dead Man Fall's song "Bang Your Drum".
Cameos included: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick (plus dog Lily), Jack Black, Kristen Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Carell, Don Cheadle, Kristin Chenoweth, Marion Cotillard, Tenacious D, Jeff Daniels, Ted Danson, Kat Dennings, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Carl Edwards, Cedric the Entertainer, Jon Hamm, Sean Hayes, Samuel L. Jackson, Rashida Jones, Toby Keith, Jimmy Kimmel, Mila Kunis, Lisa Kudrow, Jane Lynch, Justin Long, James Marsden, Matthew McConaughey, Mary McCormack, Joel McHale, Tim Meadows, Metallica, Kunal Nayyar, Geoff Peterson, Regis Philbin, Ray Romano, Bob Saget, William Shatner, Michael Sheen, Quentin Tarantino, Josh Robert Thompson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Henry Winkler, Shailene Woodley, Weird Al Yankovic, Larry King, Angela Kinsey, Betty White, Thomas Lennon, and various friends. The pre-taped montage segued to the studio with Ferguson continuing the song backed by the occasional semi-house band Bone Patrol, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, a full choir, various celebrities, musicians, and friends of the show.
The monologue began with a short time lapse of Craig coming out to start show through the last 10 years, starting on his first day (January 3, 2005) to his last. Craig thanked his comedic partner Josh Robert Thompson, the viewers, the crew, and explained:
Over the years, going with this show out and around, or going and doing stand-up with Josh, I've come into contact with a lot of people who are viewers of this show, and although I said my goodbyes to the crew, the people who made this show are you. You came to a show that, let's be honest, was a bit of a fixer-upper. It kind of stayed that way, but what I hope we've done [...] maybe art is a very grand word, but I think what we managed to do here is make something that wasn't here before. So in that sense maybe it is a piece of art, it didn't exist and now it does. What we've done here, it doesn't go away because I stopped doing it, we stop doing this and we start doing something else [...] maybe [...] later, or maybe I go away and this is it! But I think what was more overwhelming than anything else in the experience of doing this show was making a connection with a country which I became a part of, which is astonishing to me. Even in the course of this show I became an American, officially and particularly for my friends at the IRS, I am now a fully-fledged American. However, what I can't be is a member of a club, which I didn't really ask to join, I wanted to do this show [...] and now we've done this show, and if you will indulge me in whatever I'm doing now and come to whatever I do next I'd be very grateful, because my kids are still young.
After reading his last Tweets & E-mails and doing his final interview with guest Jay Leno, the show ended with his final segment: What Did We Learn on the Show Over the Last 10 Years Craig? Craig tells Geoff he wants to finally find out who the real identity of Secretariat is. Asked to lift up his mask, it's revealed to be Bob Newhart. Craig asks, "Bob Newhart?! What are you doing here?" to which Newhart replies, "Hey guy, it's your dream." Craig wakes up next to Drew Carey as Nigel Wick and proceeds to spoof the finales of Newhart (the show was all a dream), St. Elsewhere (he imagined it all from a snowglobe), and The Sopranos (cut to black with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'").
Ferguson starts with a cold open, which is a two-minute segment before the first commercials, theme song, and actual show. Originally, it was a miniature monologue and to talk about the guests on the show. Over time, this segment expanded to include short skits and musical sessions often involving puppets, and occasional interaction with members of the studio audience. In actual practice, the cold open was the second segment presented when the show was recorded at the CBS studios. The open was actually recorded after the monologue but aired before it, something Ferguson originally thinly disguised, but later openly mocked.
On November 22, 2010, Ferguson opened the show with evidence that a French talk show called Ce Soir Avec Arthur had stolen his show's opening sequence, as well as some of his puppet and song-and-dance concepts. On November 30, 2010, Ferguson introduced Arthur in the cold opening of the show; they joked back and forth for about two minutes, and then Arthur returned to help Ferguson answer viewer emails and again at the end of the show.
When he was hired as the full-time replacement for Craig Kilborn, Ferguson co-wrote and recorded a theme song. The theme tune was re-recorded for the show's switch to HD, premiering on August 31, 2009 and produced by Andy "Stoker" Growcott. Besides when the show traveled (i.e. Paris, Scotland, New Orleans), the lyrics to this theme were the same during the entire 10-year run.
On April 5, 2010, Ferguson began featuring a robot skeleton sidekick, Geoff Peterson, voiced by Josh Robert Thompson. The robot was created by former Mythbuster Grant Imahara. According to a web article by Jeremy Kaplan, when Imahara became aware of Ferguson's idea to have a robot sidekick, he responded with a March 1, 2010 tweet:
@CraigyFerg I hear you are looking for a robot sidekick. I think I can help... for a price: get me 100,000 [Twitter followers]. If you can.
Ferguson subsequently came through with the followers and Imahara came through with the robot.
While Geoff began with pre-recorded phrases, Thompson voiced him live in studio for almost every episode since late June 2011, including those filmed in Paris, France and Scotland. Three people are often given screen credit at the end of the show as being responsible for Geoff: Imahara, writer Tom Straw (and later Bob Oschack), and voice actor Thompson.
Ferguson has said that the robot is "my metaphor for deconstructing the dead art form of the late night talk show", and that he selected the name because of its commonness. Ferguson has jokingly referred to Geoff as an "appliance" who is being used because the show's small budget does not permit a typical (and living) sidekick or band. But as the years progressed, mainly due to Thompson's performance, even Ferguson would admit that Geoff Peterson came to fully embody the very sidekick cliché that they intended to mock.
Geoff has a running "feud" with recurring guest Kristen Bell, who claims that she had wanted to be Craig's sidekick and was upset when Geoff was selected.
Secretariat is a pantomime horse which first appeared on October 11, 2010, as a joke reference to the Disney film Secretariat. By December 2010, he had become a regular on the show.
Secretariat has appeared in some sketches, including one on January 7, 2011, when a clip was shown of Secretariat traveling to New York City to deliver a Christmas present to Jimmy Fallon, who competed against Ferguson in the same time slot on NBC. In the clip, Secretariat makes appearances on Live with Regis and Kelly, The View, CBS News (where Katie Couric did the Secretariat Dance), and Late Show with David Letterman.
When Ferguson hosted the show from Paris, France during the week of August 1, 2011, Secretariat played a role in several locations. He again accompanied the show during its week of programs taped in Scotland, airing in the summer of 2012. Secretariat also appeared in several background shots of ESPN remote shows during the show's visit to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.
A following has been built around the false horse, with multiple fan pages existing on Facebook, and several websites selling Team Secretariat T-shirts. The people playing Secretariat were Joseph Bolter and Ryan McGowan.
Impersonations and characters
Impersonations and sketch characters frequently done by Ferguson on the show include Prince Charles (usually hosting "The Rather Late Programme"), Wilford Brimley, Sean Connery, Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Andy Rooney, Aquaman, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Elton John, Bono, and Mitt Romney. He claims that he developed his imitation of Caine after an eight-hour-long plane ride on which he sat behind Caine, who "gabbed" with his wife the entire trip.
Less frequent impersonations include Dr Phil, Simon Cowell, Kim Jong-il, Mick Jagger, Morgan Freeman, Regis Philbin, Angela Lansbury (as "Jessica Fletcher" on Murder, She Wrote), Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, Larry King ("of the Jungle"), Arnold Schwarzenegger, and J. K. Rowling.
Alfredo Sauce and the Shy Fellas
Over the course of his run as host, Ferguson wished to have house band. As a substitute, Alfredo Sauce and the Shy Fellas were created, billed as "the Shyest Band in Late Night." The leader of the fictional band had a strong Italian accent, and his hand made an appearance in one episode when it reached out from behind the curtain.
Beginning in 2008, the show began incorporating puppets in the cold open; many were given to Ferguson by Folkmanis Puppets. Ferguson stated in an interview with Playboy magazine that the impetus behind starting to do the puppets is hearing an episode of Jonesy's Jukebox during his drive in to work where "The Lonely Goatherd" was played. Upon arriving he decided to lip synch the song on air that night using some hand puppets that were already on hand. The cloth puppets have been phased out of the series since its move to the new studio in the fall of 2012, and are no longer featured in the show's new opening that premiered in September 2013, but marionettes of Drew Carey and Morgan Freeman have been used frequently in cold opens during the fall of 2013.
Puppets used on air include:
The Late Late Show tapes musical performances separately from the rest of the show. For example, the noise rock band No Age was videotaped on October 2, 2008 for an appearance scheduled to air October 27. That performance was also the subject of an equal-time rule controversy in which guitarist Randy Randall was not allowed to wear a pro-Barack Obama T-shirt. Randall, not wanting to cancel the appearance, chose instead to turn the T-shirt inside out.
Interview ending activities
In 2010, Ferguson began ending interviews by offering the guest a choice of activities. The choices are:
In 2006, clips of The Late Late Show began appearing on the video sharing website YouTube. Subsequently, Ferguson's ratings "grew seven percent (or by 100,000 viewers)."
During the week ending March 31, 2006, The Late Late Show attracted an average of 1.9 million total viewers, a number that increased to 2.0 million a year later.
During the week ending April 4, 2008, The Late Late Show attracted an average of 1.88 million total viewers; that week, for the first time since Ferguson began hosting, the show's "five-night week of original head-to-head broadcasts", which was later discovered to actually be four nights due to a difference in title, drew a larger audience than Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Reuters noted that "Ferguson's bigger accomplishment seems to be that he has merely lost fewer viewers this season, with his total audience slipping 12% from a year ago, compared with a 24% drop for O'Brien"; the year-to-year decline in viewership was attributed to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson encountered new competition in March 2009, the first night of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. During Fallon's first week, the new show averaged 2.4 million viewers, a half million more viewers than Ferguson's show. Fallon maintained his lead over Ferguson during the show's second week, but by March 16, The Late Late Show had attracted a larger audience. In July 2009, Ferguson led Late Night in total viewers by a 25% margin. On September 22, 2009, the night Ferguson followed the Letterman interview of President Obama, his audience reached 3.24 million, the show's biggest ever; Ferguson attracted two million viewers more than Jimmy Fallon and almost a million more than Conan O'Brien attracted an hour earlier. By the end of 2009, The Late Late Show topped Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in the ratings with a 1.8 rating/6 share and 1.6 rating/6 share, respectively.
By May 2010, Late Late Show and Late Night were roughly tied in the ratings, with Ferguson leading in total viewers (1.7 million compared to 1.6 million for Fallon) and Fallon having a narrow edge in ratings.
During November sweeps in 2011, The Late Late Show was third in late-late night broadcasting; its 1.7 million views were well ahead of Last Call with Carson Daly but behind the 2 million viewers of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the 1.8 million viewers of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
The 2012 November sweeps saw Jimmy Kimmel Live! edge ahead of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with 2.1 million total viewers, compared to Fallon's 1.75 million and Ferguson's 1.6 million.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson aired in Australia on Eleven, first premiering on January 11, 2011.