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In his wee small hours of the morning duty serving as the Emmy nominated host of CBS Networks’ The Late, Late Show, Craig Ferguson was described by Newsweek as “Late night’s best kept secret.” And of course the best way to unveil a secret is to shout it from the rooftops or voluntarily choose to make Boston’s Wilbur Theatre the site of his first ever stand-up comedy DVD by journeying to a city that Hollywood warned him was filled with loud, “surly drunks.”
Chiding that “that’s my family you’re talking about,” the Scottish comedian who recently became a full-fledged American citizen proudly returned to the city for the first time since his citizenship ceremony to deliver an 80 minute sprawling routine on America’s birthday in the summer of 2008 which is titled A Wee Bit o’ Revolution.
On the disc, he explains that it was his goal to become an American citizen following his first visit to the United States at the age of 13 when he memorably traveled in a car that wasn't stolen along with his cousins to see Blue Oyster Cult in concert (complete his first experience with pot).
And throughout the special, Ferguson is at his best when he goes off on unrelated narrative tangents thereby solidly and succinctly shocking us into laughing along in lieu of the ho-hum through-line as he gives us an overview of his life so far. Although this approach begins on an extremely strong note, it soon starts to decline downhill when the young Ferguson “the goofy kid gags” evolves into discussion of Ferguson “the man in rehab.”
In one of the DVDs most hysterical bits, Ferguson goes into Bill Cosby mode as he discusses life with “America’s stalker,” a.k.a. his beloved mom whom he affectionately describes as “an acid casualty” that never took any acid who coined nonsensical phrases like, “I can’t do eight tings at once, I’m not an octopus,” or—like my own father—warning that if you eat too much of the same kind of food, you’ll turn into it.
In describing his life in Scotland which he always saw as a steppingstone to where he knew he needed to be—America-- Ferguson bravely ventures into discussing the twenty years it took him to get sober with a mixture of humor and pathos. While doing so, he blends in some hard facts of his life with hilarious anecdotes about why Chloroform never caught on as a street drug to why alcoholics feel superior to junkies and why it’s always great to have sex addicts come to a meeting.
However, this segment borders on squirm inducing after the first few minutes when it seems to continue on a tad too long and makes us sorely miss his downright fall-out-of-your chair funny riff about Sean Connery which involved Ferguson engaging in Connery's perpetually unwavering Scottish accent in films like The Untouchables (“I’m Irish”), The Hunt for Red October (“I’m Russian”) until he reenacts Connery speaking Japanese in Rising Sun.
Thankfully, soon the humor gets back on track after his sobriety monologue finds him landing in Los Angeles. Recounting his audition as a Latino photographer for the Brooke Shields sitcoms Suddenly Susan which was so memorable yet so awful, that’s how he secured his gig on The Drew Carrey Show up through his discussion of marriage in a Jewish/Scottish ceremony to the birth of his son—Ferguson subject-jumps all over the map in his autobiography.
Yet, most intriguingly, he seems to do his finest work when he moves away from his own life and comments on everything else—most likely since that’s what he’s accustomed to doing on The Late, Late Show by discussing the events of the day.
And this is evident immediately in the disc’s most memorable one-liners and segments that find Ferguson describing the Scottish take on Star Trek's character Scotty in an accent that they felt sounded more like a Pakistani man who had had a stroke as opposed to somebody from “the old country,” to a brief but astute inquiry about why men frequently “adjust themselves” in public which will find an immediate kinship among women everywhere who are annoyed by the exact same action.
Eventually—in yet another tangent that interrupts another slightly dull anecdote about his life, Ferguson moves into an inspired and hysterically inventive take on an infomercial for a product he calls “the phone glove.”
But less successful are the more obvious and outdated jokes about Tom Cruise (which would’ve fit better in 2005), discussion about Oprah being a super-power (Kathy Griffin, anyone?) and a riff about the Hollywood-like sounding titles of adult movies that we’ve all heard before along with others that seem a bit like he was going for some easy baskets when what we really wanted from the incredibly talented Ferguson was more risky slam dunks.
Despite this, ultimately the DVD just released from Image Entertainment that also features a bonus sixteen minute interview and speech with Ferguson which were previously unavailable in the special’s initial airing on Comedy Central, is an uneven yet mostly funny disc. And although his Revolution is quite “Wee” and definitely from a killer opener had the potential to become quite a major one—probably it would’ve improved with editing or a different approach than the unsuccessful timeline with segues idea since the segues are so much better than the timeline.
However, at least we know we’ll be seeing a whole lot more funny from Ferguson both on a nightly basis as well as in more stand-up gigs in support of the DVD and in the future.