Craig Ferguson doesn’t have a band. That’s been a long-running joke of The Late Late Show—he didn’t have a lot of things that most late-night talk shows have. It’s why, among other things, his sidekick is a talking robot skeleton. But on Friday night, Ferguson began his final show with the biggest band of all: A montage of nearly 50 celebrities, all former guests on his show—from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to Quentin Tarantino and Kristen Bell—sang and danced to “Bang Your Drum” by Glasgow group Dead Man Fall.
Craig Ferguson’s tenure on The Late Late Show didn’t feel like the latest incarnation of a 20-year-old franchise, or even like any other late-night talk show, period. A lot of this is due to Ferguson’s honesty and charisma; when you watch him, it’s like having the most affable man in the world as your best friend.
His tradition of tearing up talking points when speaking with guests, plus the raw honesty he displayed during moments of frustration (debacles like the cold open he had to scrap when he couldn’t get the rights to play a version of the Doctor Who theme tune) or great personal sadness (Ferguson eulogized both of his parents during the show’s run) all radiated a feeling of deep authenticity. He wasn’t just funny or likable—he liked you, and wanted to entertain you, specifically.
In his final monologue, Ferguson talked about his intent—to make art. To make something that wasn’t there before, to win over not just an audience, but a country that he wanted to be a part of. (Ferguson famously taped his citizenship test and oath for the Late Late Show in 2008.)
“Really, the show belongs to you… and I hope you keep it, because I’m done with it,” said a deadpan Ferguson.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEGle_0W1rk]
After one last reading of tweets and emails, one last dance with Secretariat, and one final guest—Jay Leno, who, along with Larry King, reached out to Ferguson to ask him not to quit—Ferguson stood in front of his fireplace, talking to his robot skeleton sidekick voiced by Josh Robert Thompson, for a final bit of bizarre late-night humor: the entire show was all a dream.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPR5CC30qrI]
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was something special, proof that one of television’s oldest formats still has plenty of room for something unique and personal. Maybe you didn’t catch his show all that often—staying up until 1:30 a.m. can be tough—but whenever you did, it was usually worth it.
Craig Ferguson didn’t get emotional at any point during his final episode of The Late Late Show—and he doesn’t think you should, either. As he said on the show, and in a recent interview with People—he’s just a guy who tells jokes, and he’s not going to stop telling jokes.
So congratulations to Ferguson and his team for telling jokes in such a singular way—one full of puppets and robot skeletons and a dancing horse; what they built certainly felt like art. Here’s hoping they never stop bangin’ on that drum.