Craig Ferguson marvels at Jay Leno's schedule. The longtime “Tonight Show” host, who will be stepping down early next year, does about 150 stand-up dates annually.
“I only do about 35 shows a year,” Ferguson said. “I don't know how Jay does it. Hosting a talk show is so grueling.”
Hosting “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” which the easy-going humorist has done for the last decade, isn't just time consuming but filled with pressure.
“That's the story for anyone on a talk show,” Ferguson said during a phone call from his Los Angeles office. “It's a business. I work very hard when I'm here. But I love to go out and do stand-up on the road. I feel like I'm a piano player. I have to go around and play.”
Ferguson, 51, won't be tickling any ivories when he performs tonight at the Palladium, but he will try to tickle some funny bones. The self-effacing Scottish-born humorist, who is an American citizen, will be topical, irreverent and unpredictable.
“It'll be different from when you see me do stand-up on television,” Ferguson said. “On my show, I have to deal with standards and practices and be aware of sponsors, but the thing that's great about the road is that you don't have to worry about that. I just have to worry about being funny.”
That hasn't been difficult for the charismatic comic. That's how he landed his gig with a high-profile late-night CBS chat show.
“I can't believe I've been doing this for 10 years,” Ferguson said. “When I started this, I didn't think I'd make it through the week.”
The quick-witted entertainer with the thick Scottish brogue never saw much of legendary late-night host Johnny Carson, who turned chatting and joking into an art form when he hosted “The Tonight Show” from the turbulent days of Vietnam until the Clinton era commenced.
“He was the best,” Ferguson said. “I might not have seen much of him, but Peter Lassally, who produced his show for 30 years, is our executive producer. He knows how a talk show works.”
Ferguson, who played the mean boss on “The Drew Carey Show,” isn't as tightly wound as his late-night peers. There is a looseness to his program that's appealing.
“I love to have fun,” Ferguson said. “I have a great time with our guests. People like Rashida Jones, Samuel Jackson and Betty White have been incredible. But that list of who has been great goes on and on.”
It's apparent that Ferguson doesn't always go from question one to question two during interviews. “Sometimes something happens and you just have to go with that,” Ferguson said. “You have to live in that moment. I have fun interviewing. I love what I do. Things have really worked out for me.”
Perhaps Ferguson would still be in Scotland if his career in music took off during the 1980s. Ferguson was the drummer for the Glaswegian act, the Dreamboys.
“If that band was successful, who knows what would have happened,” Ferguson said. “The more I think about it, I'd be dead if I stayed in that band. I would have died in the late '80s or early '90s. Fortunately, I was a total failure as a musician.”
Ferguson found his calling. “This is what I was meant to do,” Ferguson said. “I appreciate it like you can't believe.”