Craig Ferguson: ‘My Job Is to Be the Naughty Kid’

Craig Ferguson rocked the Paley Center for Media with laughter last night in New York. The self-effacing host of CBS’ The Late Late Show will perform at Radio City Music Hall this weekend, and he gave the Paley Center audience an up-close view of his career and his candid approach to late night comedy. Wearing Kermit the Frog socks in solidarity with Sesame Street, he also weighed in on Mitt Romney’s PBS debate comments.

Since no one can deliver a line quite like Ferguson, we’ve listed selected quotes on various topics that he made in reply to audience queries and questions from moderator Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times:

On Mitt Romney’s debate comments about cutting PBS funding: “How much are we going to save by getting rid of PBS, forty bucks?”

On his influences growing up: “I used to watch the Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, so you could say I was drawn to black and white absurdism.”

On overcoming his alcoholism, [which he described in his book, American on Purpose]: “When I got sober, I experienced life on a whole new level. My career is based on resentment and alcohol, and I’m not the first.”

On his accent: “No one in the casting community in Hollywood really knows the difference between British and Scottish accents.”

On the early days of The Late Late Show: “When I auditioned, I said ‘This should be a lark.’ I thought the show would only last three weeks to one month, and I’m not the only one who thought that.”

On his monologue: “The death of Johnny Carson happened three weeks into my new show, and I didn’t know what to do… I like that my monologues now are frightening.”

On doing impersonations: “As Americans, we can use Prince Charles for fun whenever we want… I realized it didn’t matter how good my impersonations were.” (actually, they’re spot-on, based on our viewing of hilarious footage of Ferguson as Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Bill Clinton)

On late show rivalries: “There’s a lot of old thinking in late night TV. The idea of a late night war is an old idea. Now the late night show hosts appear on each other’s shows.”

Interaction with his talk show guests: “I have a callous disregard for their careers. If they want to promote something, let them mention it. It’s absurd for me to have to see their latest movie.”

Self-appraisal: “I survived by my wits… I resist the temptation to please everyone… I promised myself I’ll only do this [late show] as long as I enjoy it, since I’m not professional enough to fake it… Life is too short to change people’s ideas about me… I’m f****** awesome at being me.”

His publicist: “My publicist is here, and she is looking at me in a very conflicted way.” (Despite Ferguson’s cussing, she was laughing along with the rest of the audience.)