Tuesday, November 09, 2010


One of the most engrossing books I've not read, is Craig Ferguson's "American On Purpose." I listened to the audio book, instead. It was fascinating to hear of his 20 year struggle toward fame. There were funny anecdotes, and at times the book was very moving as he discussed his loves and losses. The underlying theme of it could make most any American feel patriotic. Here's a guy who wanted to come to America because…it's AMERICA. Well, read or listen to the book for yourself.

Craig's first attempt at making waves across the pond was an early 80's gig at the "Just for Laughs" festival in Montreal. He was told that if he expected to make it down South (ie, New York) he'd have to tone down his outrageous Scottish accent, and think up a less punky and confrontational name for himself. "Bing Hitler" after all, was guaranteed to outrage Americans. We do not like to see our sacred idols abused; there's only one "Bing." Oh, and the Hitler part of it…some actually still remember his slight abuses of human rights. Although any modern day Hitler will find himself instantly admired if, whatever he says, he includes free music downloads on his website.

Over nearly two decades, Ferguson struggled with sobriety and his accent (might've been a related problem) and had successes and failures in indie movies, some of which he wrote and directed. His big break after a failed sitcom with Marie Osmond was steady work on Drew Carey's show. From there, he was shrewdly, if strangely anointed to replace obnoxious Craig Kilborn on late night television…becoming its quirkiest love-or-hate host since his boss David Letterman.

For a while Craig topped the inept Jimmy Fallon in the ratings via a wild combination of charisma and chutzpah, which has included an unusually conversational monologue style, and deliberately annoying his audience by overdoing things that once worked (pretending to be gay, using puppets, repeating catch-phrases, deliberately cursing so it can be censored, etc.) As he no doubt learned from his relations with women, a combination of arrogant raging ego, unpredictable bad-boy wit, and warm cuddly smiles and unexpected moments of love and candor, can keep people fascinated and tuning in.

Oh yes…the opening theme song on Craig's show is actually sung by Craig. He began his career as a punk drummer before writing songs and singing in the guise of bellowing punk "Bing Hitler." As much of a cult figure as Craig now is (people even sell replicas of his snake-design coffee cup on eBay) his 1986 ("Bing Hitler at the Tron") and 1988 ("Bing Hitler is Dead") albums have not been re-issued. The latter, mostly songs, contains the selected track below, "Scotland Hooch Och Aye." It must be remembered that "Bing Hitler" arrived at a time when he was urgently needed, as Johnny Rotten couldn't tell jokes and Bobcat Goldthwait couldn't carry a tune. "Scotland Hooch Och Aye," sounds a bit like Spike Milligan as the poet McGonagall trying to remember how to sing "Whiskey in the Jar," having consumed most of it.



Vanessa said...

I know I'm a bit late to the party on this but Craig's book is actually titled "American on Purpose"

Ill Folks said...

Thanks Vanessa...made the correction. This is what comes of downloading mp3s and not having album notes or a box cover in front of you! Too bad most newspaper websites aren't that much better...seems that they've fired all the proofreaders and hope people in the comments section report the mistakes!