Published Jul 15, 2016I'm Here to Help is Craig Ferguson on his A-game. Recorded in 2012, near the end of his tenure as host of The Late Late Show, this is Ferguson in his element, unencumbered by the CBS censors and free to be unapologetically himself. Sharp, sarcastic, boundlessly energetic and with a sailor's mouth to boot, Ferguson is clearly enjoying himself, and his ebullience is contagious.
Ferguson greets the audience by letting them know how happy he is to be there — because he is finally away from his two-year-old and can get some real sleep. When the audience applauds the fact that he has had a child, he proclaims: "Thanks everybody, I had sex!" It's a perfect segue into Ferguson's segment on the horrors and helplessness intrinsic to fatherhood, from standing passively by during the act of childbirth itself, to the actual raising of the baby. All babies, he insists, are evil shitting machines that intentionally keep you up at night. But the verve with which he tackles this special makes it hard to believe this is a man with any sort of sleep deprivation.
Ferguson has a knack for using his goofy façade to tackle serious topics with a light-heartedness that helps him to avoid ever coming across as didactic. In fact, he outright states that it his not his intention to come across as evangelical by assuring the audience that "from the bottom of my heart, I really mean this — I don't give a fuck what you do." He scorns those in Hollywood who assume their fame legitimizes any life advice they may give. He need only point out the examples of Honey Boo Boo, the Kardashians, and Dr. Phil to demonstrate the ridiculousness of assuming that fame inherently means having anything of substance to say.
He also addresses the lack of accountability in Hollywood, and how rehab seems to be a "safe" spot for celebrities who fuck up, much like the idea of bases in tag. When a colleague equates his chocolate addiction to Ferguson's previous alcohol addiction, Ferguson paints a hilarious picture of someone waking up from a chocolate-eating bender much in the same way Ferguson would wake up from his own alcoholic benders.
As always, Ferguson unselfconsciously plumbs his past for material that is at once hilarious and moving. By poking fun at himself in his darkest times, Ferguson demonstrates that everyone is fair game in his comedic routine; not even he himself is safe. But he nevertheless takes time to address the contentious issue of political correctness in comedy. Although Ferguson has gotten into heat for politically incorrect jokes, he lets the audience know that it is never his intention to hate on anyone's way of life. In a statement made all the more relevant three years later, in the midst of the terrifying prospects of the U.S. election, Ferguson has a message for all those who are preoccupied with hating the "other": "It's easier to look at other people's shit, then you don't have to look at your own."
Ferguson demonstrates that he's honed his craft by weaving together disparate topics in such a way that they coalesce into a hilarious and poignant whole. His very first line in the special is spoken on his tour bus, before he's even on the stage: "If you watch this show and you don't like it, then I can't help you, cause it's the best I can do." But have no fear, Craig, cause your best is pretty damn good.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.