Stand Up Review: Craig Ferguson Live
I waited in a line that wrapped around the block of the prestigious Warner Theatre on Feb. 7, a fiercely cold evening, to see a wildly eccentric yet brilliant Scotsman who has been in the late night show business for years. This would mark the second stand-up show for Craig Ferguson in the District since his exit from ‘The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,’ a CBS late-night talk show that ran from 2005 to 2014. After a long thirty minutes of standing in the numbing cold, walking half a step at a time to finally reach the chaotic front doors, I finally made it into the theatre. No longer in the cold, myself and the masses of people eagerly anticipating the show nudged forward into the lobby. Three hefty glass doors made another barrier following our entrance into the building, and the crowd followed suit into three dense segments. My eyes fell on a long and grand staircase with gold railings, and the glimmer and grandeur of it all was enough to tame even the most irritated of fans. Clenching the printout of the e-ticket granting my admission felt incredible. The excitement of it all was like holding an ethereal golden ticket; my permanent grin made my elation all too obvious. After darting in and out of the chaos to find my seat, the show began.
Those who remember Ferguson’s talk show should recall that the evening lineup consisted of Geoff, a talking robot who was Ferguson’s sidekick, celebrity guest appearances, and the host himself. This late-night show formula exists as one of many show business adages. Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien’s shows fall under this formulated template, and the template has existed since Johnny Carson’s television stardom. However, Ferguson’s distinctive Scottish accent was a fresh and quirky addition amongst the long lineage of late night shows. Similar to the late-night show format and true to Ferguson’s , the show opened with a warm-up act by Josh Robert Thompson, the voice behind Geoff. He began by shouting: “Are you ready to get your balls tickled?” I was most definitely ready.
The night officially commenced when Craig jumped onto the stage and boomed his quintessential phrase, “It’s a great day for America, everybody!” His face brightened up as the crowd came alive, and to me, at that moment, he looked invincible. Ferguson’s comic genius is a pleasure to witness live. His jokes often make little sense to stand up novices; his humor is an acquired taste, an odd pill to swallow. But being in his presence verges on surrealism; my body was confined to my seat, but my mind was captivated. He took the audience across rolling streets of downtown Glasgow where he was raised, and everyone was right there with him. His storytelling put everyone in happy delirium. In lieu of Brian Williams’s false story on NBC Nightly News involving an RPG attack on a military helicopter Williams flew in while covering Iraq, Craig did not miss the opportunity to make a crack at the incident: as part of his opening monologue, he joked, “I’m sorry I was five minutes late. I was coming here on a helicopter and it was struck by an RPG. Slight delay, no worries.” Ferguson followed up with a rant about NBC Nightly News’ credibility and its current status as “absolute shit.” Craig is known for having raunchy bits in his shows, and quite often he gets in trouble with his own audience for cracking insensitive jokes. That night, the audience tensed up when Craig completely mortified NBC for Williams’ careless and absent minded journalism. After that joke was out of the way, Craig hinted at the political tensions of the District by uttering, “now that’s a risky joke in D.C.”
In his true comic fashion, Ferguson threw out odd comments at unexpected moments. One particularly uncomfortable moment was when Ferguson detailed D.C. as a target for terrorism. The audience, clearly made up of D.C. residents, succumbed to silent discomfort and seemed to recoil at the snarky remarks. The sudden gunshot-like bangs that pierced the air that were subsequently confirmed to be a blown out speaker did not help ease the tension. Ferguson laughed it off as the bomb incident that he predicted was waiting to happen.
Despite these brief moments of awkwardness, Ferguson’s artful, well-crafted jokes truly resonated with the audience, almost like comedic trauma. Every slap and wisecrack was properly cemented. If there is one rule to abide by when seeing Ferguson live, it is to surrender and roll with the punch lines.