In 10 Words or Less
The patriotic, naturalized Scot takes the mic for a night
Loves: Stand-up comedy
Likes: Craig Ferguson
Dislikes: Old drug stories
Hates: Dated "topical" comedy
For everything most people know of Craig Ferguson, whether recognizing him as the guy on after David Letterman, the British guy on Drew Carey's show or, in the rare case, as the hairdresser star of the surprisingly funny The Big Tease, they probably don't think of him as a stand-up comedian, despite him having three comedy albums to his name. So if you've been watching Ferguson late at night, wondering what he'd be like without guests or skits and with plenty more cussing, here's your chance to find out.
A large percentage of Ferguson's act, which on this DVD runs almost a full 40 minutes longer than the special on Comedy Central, is autobiographical, talking about his experiences growing up, visiting America as a young kid from Scotland, right up through becoming a TV star and eventually a naturalized citizen (this being his first show after receiving his citizenship.) Moving about the stage of Boston's Wilbur Theater with the twitchy, angry energy of a smack addict, he uses his perspective as a two-term visitor to America (along with the perspective of his America-loving mother) to talk about his native Scotland, his adopted homeland and the life he's made in the U.S, frequently to very funny effect.
Ferguson is all over the map here, talking about his hero, Sean Connery (putting his Scottish accent to good use,) his own enormous genitals and watching porn in hotels. If that doesn't make it clear, this performance is a tad dirtier than what "Late, Late" viewers are used to. There's a touch of stream of consciousness at work, as a bit about Connery's ridiculous work with Christopher Lambert in Highlander devolves into a tangent about grabbing your crotch, which leads to a scene between his own aged penis and younger members who come to his for guidance. The lack of focus is partially explained by an extended segment involving drugs, rehab and Blue Oyster Cult, which certainly makes sense considering he spent time on Long Island as a teenager.
Though his storytelling is top-notch, thanks mainly due to the amount of energy he expends and his willingness to simply be silly, there's one part of his act that didn't work for me, and that was his more topical material, which feels forced and dated. Perhaps it's because some time has passed since the special was shot, but gags about Tom Cruise being crazy, Paris Hilton being slutty and George W. Bush being hated are old hat at this point. Plus, the jokes he tells that aren't personal, like the previously mentioned "porn in hotels" bit, aren't particularly fresh, having been done plenty of times before. But hey, the guy just became a citizen, and hack comedy has a strong tradition in this country, so maybe he's just trying to fit in.
The one-disc release is packed in a standard keepcase, and features a animated, anamorphic widescreen menu offering options to play the show, select scenes, adjust languages and check out the special features. Audio options include a choice between English Dolby Digital 5.0 and 2.0 tracks, but there are no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on the show is pretty good, with solid color, a clean image and a good amount of fine detail, though most of the angles are softer than some other recent stand-up specials (with the exception of the dead-center close-up, which looks great.) There are no problems with dirt or damage, and no obvious issues with compression artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack (read: no bass) provides Ferguson's act in clear, clean quality, separating him (mostly( in the front from the audience in the sides and rear speakers, thus replicating the experience of being there. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward audio.
Just two extras are included here, starting with a 16-minute interview with Ferguson done in Boston (presumably when he hosted the 2008 Fourth of July Pops concert in the city.) Prompted by an off-screen interviewer, it's not a gag-fest, as he talks about his decision to become an American citizen and the process involved, though he keeps it light (like the skills needed to be American, including waving a giant foam finger.) It's a good lead-in for the eight-minute speech he gave that Fourth of July at Faneuil Hall in Boston, which starts off comedic, and gets personal and touching, as he talks about the freedom he found in America. It's not a joke, but it's something fans will want to check out.
The Bottom Line
Craig Ferguson the late-night host is the mild-mannered twin brother of Craig Ferguson the stand-up comic, a man unleashed, slinging tales of drugs, testicles and Sean Connery. Though his act isn't packed with great jokes, he's genuinely funny when it comes to telling stories, which makes it easy to enjoy this 80-minute set. The DVD offers up the show in fine quality, and tosses in a few interesting, though more insightful extras, making a fine package for fans of the new American.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.