You may never have seen Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson hosting the Late Late Show on CBS. His brand of comedy is filled with in-jokes and the sort of quirkiness some say could disqualify him as a replacement for David Letterman. But if he doesn’t get the gig, he may reap a $12 million payday for being passed over.
If you’ve missed the Late Late Show you have definitely missed some very funny moments. Ferguson has some strange recurring characters for bits (a smart alecky skeleton robot and a pantomime horse) and he often interrupts his guests with wild ideas and broad jokes. But is is certainly different than other hosts.
His offbeat humor, though, causes many to wonder if he is just too weird to make it in Letterman’s time slot. The Los Angeles Times recently wrote that Ferguson is “too eccentric to appeal to a broader audience.”
But if he doesn’t get the gig, he may end up with the nice consolation prize of at least $8 million–and some say upwards to $12 million–thanks to an “opt out clause” in his contract.
If he gets passed over he stands to rake it in with the payout. This is not an uncommon contract clause, though. Conan O’Brien and even Letterman were both paid big bonuses not to host The Tonight Show.
On the other hand, if he does get passed over for Letterman’s slot, some feel Ferguson will quit the network altogether.
Ferguson certainly offers a manic, quick witted comedic style. Playing the perennial outsider, the Scot started his career as a member of several British rock bands. Switching to the field of stand up comedy, he got his big U.S. break playing Drew Carey’s boss on the Drew Carey Show in the 1990s. He suffered through years of alcohol abuse before getting clean, was hired in 2004 as host of the Late Late Show and in 2008 became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
If Ferguson leaves TV, if only for a time, audiences will lose a fresh, funny late night host. But he will be laughing all the way to the bank
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org