Craig Ferguson: 'My only ambition is to be authentic, not pandering to someone else's idea'
- Jay Richardson
- 9 July 2019
Back at the Fringe for his first UK stand-up show in over 25 years, the Cumbernauld comic speaks candidly about being home
Craig Ferguson's return to Scotland has been relatively painless. For his guest role in Still Game last year, in which he played a suave stuntman, the 57-year-old Cumbernauld native recalls meeting the sitcom's creators Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan in Los Angeles and asking them to write a character for him. 'And they wrote the part of a phoney prick who comes back from California!'
Ferguson laughs, hard, about his first UK television appearance in a quarter of a century. Now back again, ensconced in Glasgow's West End for the foreseeable future, the prodigal stand-up, actor, author, late-night chat show host and American citizen is feeling considerably more relaxed in the country of his birth, no longer the recriminatory exile. 'I really loved doing it,' he explains. 'A lot of the crew were people I'd worked with 30 years before at BBC Scotland. And it was therapeutic because I realised that it was OK for me to come here and work; everyone was perfectly nice. I'd wanted to come back and they gave me a great way in.'
Tellingly, Ferguson's 1996 US breakthrough was playing pompously posh English boss Nigel Wick in The Drew Carey Show. There, he was channelling his resentment of a British media and showbusiness establishment that had been reluctant to embrace the hell-raising, Glaswegian ex-punk. Ferguson made his name a decade earlier at the Edinburgh Fringe as the ultra-aggressive, ultra-patriotic folk singer Bing Hitler. But his relationship with the UK soured and his alcoholism left him suicidal before he left for a clean break in America.
Sober 27 years now, he can afford to be magnanimous. 'There are some good people here and some arseholes,' he maintains. 'And there are good people and assholes in LA. It was me. I was at a different place. If you weren't helping me, you were in my way, that's how I used to feel. Nowadays, if you're not helping me, that's alright. If there's anything a wee bit of success gives you, it's a chance to fucking relax. And if it doesn't, you've got bigger problems. And certainly, I had those. But I dealt with them as well. In all honesty, for me it was about growing the fuck up.'
As James Corden's predecessor hosting The Late Late Show, Ferguson disrupted the cosy US late-night landscape, establishing a greater spontaneity, flirtation and rapport with returning guests like Carrie Fisher, Stephen Fry and Robin Williams. He was given the prestigious Peabody Award for his interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an icon whose presence induced as much trepidation in him as meeting the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and the Damned, bands he'd revered in his youth.