Published Oct 03, 2015Craig Ferguson, the former Late Late Show host and general late-night TV alternative option, is among the most genuine stand-up comics out there. He doesn't seem to have any qualms with diverging from whatever semblance of a script he's got. He doesn't distinguish between so called high and low humour either. If the water's right, Ferguson will go for toilet humour — as he did quite literally at his show at the Sony Centre in Toronto — just as easily as he'll go for something clever, and damn the consequences.
Opening for Craig was Mark Forward, award-winning comedian from Oakville, ON. He received a backstage introduction from Craig Ferguson himself, though Ferguson referred to the Sony Centre as the Gordon Lightfoot Memorial Hall. Mark's persona — a disgruntled old crank ahead of his time — was in many ways exactly what Craig is not. He was calculated to the nth degree, well-rehearsed, and over-the-top in more of an angry way, whereas when Craig is flipping out, it's always more silly or incredulous. The two comedians contrasted well — though they did share an affinity for the old bait and switch gags — with Mark Forward winning over most of the crowd almost immediately.
Craig Ferguson's performance had a solid start and an unreservedly brilliant conclusion. There were times in the midst of his performance when his tangents might have gotten the better of him, but that's been part of Craig's nature and likeability since he first began hosting the Late Late Show in 2005. His hour-long set was often reminiscent of Eddie Izzard, with Craig plumbing the catacombs of history for jokes about ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics, haunted hotels from the '20s, and ultimately, the oldest joke in the world. He was also current at times in his railing on Donald Trump (the only reason he ever missed quitting late night television), and many times bringing up new condos in Toronto, claiming on several occasions that "Condo in Toronto" was an old Gordon Lightfoot hit. Craig's impressions were endlessly popular with the adoring crowd, full of name recognition fans and members of his cult following as well.
Ferguson neither dwelt on nor avoided the subject of his old show, which he left in December 2014. Some of his best moments were in his honesty regarding his tenure on the show, his feelings about it and his stories about leaving in order to get "all that celebrity shit out of [his] head." He was also expressive as ever. Whether in the front row or up in the balcony, there was no mistaking what a look or a gesture meant. Craig has this strange, jerky, twinkly eyed way of moving about on stage, and after a decade of seeing him do it on the Late Late Show, there was no mistaking a "see what I did there?" glance for a "will I say it or won't I?" stare. In essence, the physical side of Craig's comedy made the Sony Centre a much more intimate setting. He practically shrunk the theatre by half. There wasn't a bad seat in the house.