Craig Ferguson: Uninhibited and uncensored at Pabst Theater
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Since The Drew Carey Show ended in 2004, Scottish actor-comedian Craig Ferguson has spent the majority of his time in the public eye stuffed into a suit and placed behind a desk to entertain night owls and wake people who fell asleep during Letterman. Friday, the longtime Late Late Show host worked up a sweat and held a packed Pabst Theater crowd captive during 75 uninhibited minutes of cursing, off-color impersonations, and other hilarious musings that would never clear CBS censors.
Bounding out in jeans an Chuck Taylors, Ferguson set the R-rated tone straight away by making quick commentary on the weather, saying, “Wisconsin: the state that makes Scotland look like fucking Hawaii!” to a mix of laughs and unprepared gasps from an audience that trended middle-aged. “It’s different from the TV, isn’t it?” he continued.
That turned out to be an understatement. The majority of Ferguson’s set concerned themes such as the transgendered, his drug- and alcohol-addled past, Nazis, and vaginas (more specifically, the oft-repeated fingering euphemism of “cleaning the tiny window”). Each stop along the way included erratic gestures and yelling, which played to the subversive Scotsman’s comic strengths. At points, he was goose-stepping in mockery of Hitler. Minutes later, he was shoving invisible Hershey bars into his mouth and up his ass to display how ludicrous an acquaintance at a Hollywood party sounded when alleging a love for chocolate was on par with cocaine addiction.
Hollywood was in Ferguson’s crosshairs more than a few times during the acerbic set. He railed on celebrities’ reliance on treatment for sex addiction after being caught in affairs, saying, “Rehab in Hollywood is like ‘safe’ when you play tag as a kid.” He piled on West Coast trends like aura massages and Tinseltown’s collective urge to be discovered.
“It’s not hard to get on TV,” he roared at one point. “Honey fucking Boo Boo is on TV! Doctor Phil—not a fucking real doctor—is on TV. Oprah doesn’t tell you that, does she?” Citing Oprah’s power, he then darted from one side of the stage to the other to protect himself from a potential hit “from Gale.” As he came to rest, the lighting switched to a darker gel, allowing a perfectly ad-libbed mid-joke pause before Ferguson sprinted backstage.
He quickly returned to material about historical conflicts caused by great asses, a story of swimming with sharks in the Bahamas, the revelation that some Late Late Show audience members are homeless people paid to fill seats, and his coining the clitoral nickname “Lady-Cock”—which even made him laugh. It was far from the post-NCIS cool down much of the audience was used to, but between the brash jokes, his unexpected energy, and his accented affability, it’s unlikely that Ferguson disappointed anyone. And if he did, it wasn’t from a lack of trying.