Television host, actor, and screenwriter
Born May 17, 1962, in Glasgow, Scotland; married Sascha, July 18, 1998 (divorced); children: Milo.
Addresses: Agent—William Morris Agency, Inc., 151 South El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2775.
Actor on television, including: The Ferguson Theory, 1994; Freakazoid!, 1995; Maybe This Time, ABC, 1995; The Drew Carey Show, ABC, 1996-2000; Hercules, syndicated, 1998; The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, 2005—. Has also appeared on episodes of Red Dwarf, Chelmsford123, Have I Got News for You, The Brain Drain, and Almost Perfect. Film appearances include: Modern Vampires, 1998; The Big Tease, 1999; Saving Grace, 2000; Chain of Fools, 2000; Born Romantic, 2000. Writer and executive producer of The Big Tease, and co-producer and co-writer of Saving Grace. Stage appearances include: Bad Boy Johnny and the Prophets of Doom, produced at the Theatre at Union Chapel, Islington, London, England, 1994.
Scottish actor Craig Ferguson became the new host of The Late Late Show on CBS in 2005, replacing longtime host Craig Kilborn. With his distinct Scottish burr, Ferguson was already known to American audiences as the mildly villainous boss on ABC's long-running sitcom, The Drew Carey Show.
He had never contemplated sitting behind a desk and interviewing celebrities before he was invited to do a guest-host tryout for The Late Late Show in the fall of 2004, but the minute he stepped onto the set, he told New York Times television writer Bill Carter, "I was hooked. I'm like, 'This is it. This is what I do. I'm a talk-show host.'"
Born in the Scottish city of Glasgow in 1962, Ferguson was intoxicated by life in America after spending the summer of 1976 with an aunt and uncle of his who had emigrated to the New York City area years before. By contrast to his own hometown, which was plagued by unemployment and social tensions, even 1976 New York at its grittiest was charming to a 14-year-old outsider. "I went around the whole city that summer," Ferguson told Carter in the New York Times. "And I thought, 'This is the greatest country I've even seen in my life. It's unbelievable.' The people were happy. They had jobs. They were friendly. Nobody asked me if I was a Catholic or a Protestant. Nobody hit me the entire summer, not one kid."
The earliest years of Ferguson's entertainment career were spent as a stand-up comic in various Glasgow bars. After moving to London in 1987, he landed the occasional television role and eventually became a regular on The Brain Drain and Have I Got News For You, two irreverent quiz shows. He also wrote for other television programs, and had a couple of failed pilots. After a few years, Ferguson told Fiona Morrow, a writer for London's Independent newspaper, "I found myself merely a drunken minor celebrity in the Groucho Club," referring to a swanky members-only watering hole in London. He stopped drinking with the help of a 12-step recovery program, and moved to the United States in January of 1995. Slightly more than a year later, he had landed the part of Nigel Wick on the second season of The Drew Carey Show.
Ferguson continued to write his own comic material on the side, and turned out his first feature film, The Big Tease, in 1999, for which he also served as executive producer. He starred in the lead as a Glasgow hairdresser, Crawford MacKenzie, who believes he is on his way to compete in a highly regarded cutting competition in Los Angeles. The movie is structured as a "mockumentary," with Crawford taking a film crew along for the big event, but when he arrives in America he is crushed to find out that he has not technically been invited to compete. He manages to enter it anyway, with the help of a frosty publicist, and Ferguson described his screenplay as a Rocky-type tale in an interview with Stephen Schaefer of the Boston Herald. He based the flamboyant, ebullient Crawford, "on a guy I shared an apartment with in Glasgow," he admitted to Schaefer. "He was a waiter in the only posh restaurant in Glasgow and he'd gotten very angry one day because instead of a carafe of wine they'd ask for a 'giraffe' of wine and he'd had them thrown out."
Ferguson also co-wrote and starred in Saving Grace, a 2000 comedy set in Cornwall, a picturesque area tucked into Britain's southwest corner. The title character, played by Brenda Blethyn, learns that her recently departed husband has left her no assets, but a mountain of debt. The beleaguered widow teams with Ferguson's character, who is the about-to-be-unemployed gardener on her estate, to start a marijuana farm inside her greenhouse. As a comedy, Saving Grace earned mostly mixed reviews, with one critic, A. O. Scott of the New York Times, writing that "the movie has a gentle, silly vibe, and it would peter out in triviality if not for Ms. Blethyn's gift for finding the pain and frustration behind Grace's facade of housewifely capability." Scott also remarked that "Ferguson is a leading contender for the title of World's Most Amusing Scot," but termed his performance here "fairly subdued."
After several seasons on The Drew Carey Show, Ferguson was invited to try out for the host's slot on The Late Late Show after longtime host Craig Kilborn departed in mid-2004. The CBS staple, which follows David Letterman's perennial favorite, runs up against Conan O'Brien's talkfest on NBC as well as part of Jimmy Kimmel Live, a relatively newer contender on ABC. More than two dozen comics and actors also tried out, and Ferguson made it to the final four, along with D.L. Hughley, Damien Fahey, and Michael Ian Black. He returned in November to do an entire week as host, and won the job a month later.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson began airing the first week of 2005. It was soon pulling in steady ratings numbers—less than O'Brien's show, but more than Kimmel's—thanks in part to Ferguson's rapport with the celebrities who visited. "Ferguson has already proven adept at something most late-show hosts since Johnny Carson never really get a handle on: interviewing guests," noted the Seattle Times' Ellen Gray. But Ferguson told the same paper that he came on board with no special training for that. "I don't know how to interview people, and I think that's good," he told Gray. "I know how to talk to people."
In June of 2005, it was announced that Ferguson had completed a darkly comic novel, called Between the Bridge and the River, due from Chronicle in spring 2006. Ferguson remains relatively unknown back in Scotland, though some British newspapers do mention that he has earned a small fortune from his Drew Carey Show stint. He conceded that he had not always made the best decisions earlier in his career, as he told Morrow in the Independent interview, and commented that in his homeland, there seem to be no second acts. "Failure is seen as disgrace, and it's not," he told the London newspaper. "You're not over forever. It's not humiliation. The fear of disgrace stopped me for a long time."
Boston Herald, February 7, 2000, p. 39.
Daily Variety, January 7, 2005, p. 10.
Entertainment Weekly, February 4, 2000, p. 48.
Independent (London, England), May 19, 2000, p. 11.
New York Daily News, December 30, 2004.
New York Times, August 4, 2000; December 11, 2004, p. B9.
People, June 10, 2005, p. 112.
Seattle Times, March 1, 2005, p. E4.
Television Week, January 3, 2005, p. 4.
Variety, October 9, 2000, p. 27.