“Here come the playaaas!” And yes, they were fine. Craig Ferguson and opener Josh Robert Thompson tickled The State Theatre Thursday night, filling the theater with great jokes and raucous laughter. Starting off with Thompson who warmed up the crowd with perfect impressions, and closing with Ferguson and Thomson performing their Geoff Peterson and Craig schtick, the night left the audience pretty satisfied (I’ll get to that inside joke later). My only real problem with the night was the mother who decided it was a good idea to bring along her restless toddler. But I digress. It’s time to get to the actual show.
Comedian and voice actor Josh Robert Thompson started off the show with his signature Geoff catchphrase, “Here come the playaaas!” For those not familiar with The Late Late Show, Thompson plays Ferguson’s sidekick in the form of a gay robot skeleton, Geoff Peterson. Trying to get the audience to work off of each other was the real joke, however. Those in the orchestra sections could get the “Here come the playaaas!” but the balcony people really struggled with “They so fiiinnne.” The joke continued throughout the night with those in the balcony regularly missing their cue. The rest of Thompson’s routine was thoroughly entertaining as well.
He also has an impressive knack for impressions which he showed off with potential bedroom encounters. This allowed the audience to escape into the boudoir with their favorite celebrities. Who knew that having sex with Robert Downey, Jr. would be such a drag with his incessant need to talk? Saying things like “[d]on’t worry about the five o’clock shadow down there; just pretend you’re hugging a cactus … with your mouth” could kill your mood ladies (at least in the way Thompson put it). Nothing, though, could top Mr. Thompson’s rendition of Morgan Freeman reading from the runaway hit, 50 Shades of Grey. In fact, the impression was so good that Thompson has even received a cease-and-desist from Freeman himself after a video of it became viral on YouTube. Luckily, Thompson took that to refer only to web content and felt free to perform it live. He capped it off with Regis Philbin reading the book which was slightly more than I could handle. Overall, Thompson performed a solid set of impressions although it did feel like the audience was left wanting more. But then again, everyone was there for a certain Scotsman waiting in the wings.
Enter the man of the hour, Craig Ferguson. He started off with his usual opening, “It’s a great day for America, everybody!” Thus began a night of expletives, offenses, history lessons, addiction-addled anecdotes and sexual gratification — essentially your basic comic routine grievances. Now, anyone who was expecting the typical tame monologue form that is his style on The Late Late Show, was in for a surprise. It is always interesting to see the true comic form of any late night talk show host once they get free rein on stage. Ferguson was so free on that stage that it made him super twitchy — not that he is normally stoic, but the twitches were more noticeable live on stage rather than in front of a camera. He then started off the night making fun of the rude hobos of Ithaca while still remarking how welcome it is compared to the screaming 19-month-old at home. He then riffed on family life for a while, clearly playing to an audience that was of an older demographic although not completely. One of the more notable moments was when he described the deleterious effects on the eye upon seeing a child come into the world. It made Ferguson question going back there again … at least for a little while. Which led to the inside joke I mentioned earlier in which Ferguson proceeded to air pleasure the “ladycock” (as he so eloquently put it) of the women in the audience — an act that was repeated throughout the night.
Next came the topic of getting on television and the history of asses. Now how does one segue from one subject to the other? None other than the most famous Armenian ass of them all: Kim Kardashian. I mean, the man did have some great examples: Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Hitler. Yes, Hitler. Who doesn’t love a good Nazi joke? No group will be sending hate mail, then. This also holds true for Canadians, in Ferguson’s opinion. These are the only two groups that can take a joke and will not necessarily identify themselves even if offended — which is a shame as Ferguson held nothing back while offending different groups left and right. Whether through direct targeting of audience members who cheered at the wrong times or through analysis of transgenders or the teletubbies, Ferguson was a force to be reckoned with.
Along with the earlier candidness, Ferguson tackled his cocaine-addicted and alcoholic days, all with reserved judgment. Although judging by his twitchiness, the remnants of those hazy insane days still afflict the comic every day. It could also be due to his shark dive without the cage in the Bahamas. But that was pretty much the end of the hilarity of his act. While delving into the topic of his childhood and life back in Scotland, the act began to fall flat. It was sadder at times than the funny thrill ride that Ferguson had given the audience thus far. The laughs began to fade away. And the last attempt to revive the audience with a live rendition of what Ferguson and Thompson do every night between host and the gay robot skeleton, also failed to fully deliver. They tried to prove the point that the act is always improvised on the show. Although that may be true, they probably have more preparation with a rehearsal rather than the raw skit they put on for all on stage.
Despite the lackluster ending to the evening, overall the night of comedy was enjoyable. There were definitely ab workouts from some hearty belly laughs. It was also a breath of fresh air to see the comedian fully let go rather than act within the confines of a scripted talk show. If ever you get the chance, go see Craig Ferguson live. You are guaranteed to laugh and feel no remorse for doing so even if it is so morally wrong. Because the most important lesson of the night is to not be so sensitive about a fucking joke. Oh, and the impressions from sidekick, Josh Robert Thompson will also surely awe and amaze.