Craig Ferguson has turned his show into Le Late Late Show Avec Craig Ferguson this week, and began his visit to Paris on Monday night with a small triumph of clever silliness. Accompanied by one of his favorite regular guests, the beguiling Kristen Bell, and his robot skeleton sidekick Geoff Peterson, Ferguson played up the semi-improvised, on-the-cheap ethos that serves his comedy so well.
Setting up a rickety card table and some folding chairs in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Ferguson interviewed Bell, who wore a fetching beret. He modified a few of his usual impersonations, placing his “Michael Caine In Space” in Paris, and featured the Frenchified version of Aquaman — Homme D’Aqua — eating mushrooms and hallucinating pleasantly.
Most charmingly of all, Ferguson set up his precarious little talk-show desk and chair outside Shakespeare and Co., the famed Paris bookstore, and interviewed its present owner, Sylvia Whitman. Whitman proved to be a camera natural, quick-witted, game, ready for any whim Craig tossed at her. Cable networks take note: I would watch a reality show featuring Whitman, her bookstore, and its customers (some of whom she’s caught having sex in the stacks!) every week.
One of the most impressive aspects of the show is the fact that none of the Paris segments take place in a TV studio — Ferguson and his pals really take in the City of Lights, constantly on the move, ready for any street encounter and eager to visit famous sites and make them part of his broadcast.
Yes, the week of Paris shows has begun smashingly. They establish once again that Ferguson is utterly unlike any other host in late-night, willing to take the airiest of whims and make them hilarious realities. He is something close to fearless; he is certainly not merely funny but also adventurous. If the rest of the week is as good as Monday night’s show, Ferguson will have pulled off a stunt that can rank with the best American talk-show feats, and place him firmly in the company of Steve Allen and early David Letterman for imagination and deft foolishness.