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Tonight's show is a little different.
May 25, 2013 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Craig Ferguson seems to have a special liking for conversation with Stephen Fry. Previously. On Wednesday night, Stephen was back on the Late Late Show as the only guest. The naturally wide-ranging discussion includes Arthur Conan Doyle, America, mortality, religion, philosophy, science, homosexuality, Wagner, and more. Enjoy.

for some reason there's a repeated segment here. when you get to it, skip ahead to 36:45. additionally, trigger warning for some genuinely awful stories involving sexual assault and prejudice.
posted by lazaruslong (93 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite

 
I seriously wish this was a 2-hour show they did several times a year*. There's something about the energy between the two of them that tones down their on-ness, so that it's still a conversation meant to be overheard but really just a conversation.

*While I'm making wishes, Douglas Adams would still be alive and on this show with them. And then it would be 3 hours, minimum.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:19 AM on May 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


"I have a late night show, and sometimes, I like to take advantage of that." What a terrific breath of fresh air Ferguson is on TV right now.
posted by xingcat at 8:26 AM on May 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


This feels like the right place to link to Stephen Fry on Buzzcocks a few years back.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ferguson is really something isn't he?
posted by LarryC at 9:01 AM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


even though i know they could never pay him a rate that matches what he makes for an appearance, i really wish this friendship translates into ferguson doing an episode of qi (and then if we're wishing for things, i hope he enjoys it so much he just hops over to "would i lie to you" and tapes an hour with them).
posted by nadawi at 9:07 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Frys take on atheism is awesome. "It's a terrible thing to be told what to think, either way." Classy dude all the way.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:11 AM on May 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Like Sherlock Holmes and Watson..." Ha. IBM Watson. Computer/machine... The man is clever! He just doesn't let up bam bam bam. Look forward to actually getting into the meat.

That Buzzcocks clip is hilarious "I feel like I'm being beaten by a stack of encyclopedias" LOL...

He's the kind of geek who would come across as an annoying little know it all, except for the fact that

1) He's pretty much right all the time (and doesn't have a need to angrily defend his flawed theses)

2) He's got that Received Pronunciation and that softens the impact because it seems to legitimize it.
posted by symbioid at 9:23 AM on May 25, 2013


Looking forward to watching this later. Stephen Fry is a treasure, as is Craig Ferguson.
posted by arcticseal at 9:40 AM on May 25, 2013


This feels like the right place to link to Stephen Fry on Buzzcocks a few years back.

This is one of a few episodes of Buzzcocks that I can watch over and over again. Josie Long asking Stephen Fry to adopt everyone is one of the most adorable things ever. But I have the world's biggest crush on her.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:47 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a wonderful thing to happen on regular television for those who may not otherwise be exposed to such viewpoints/opinions/personalities.

Any other time this would be aired on the internet exclusively to be watched but those of similar opinion and shared likewise. Excellent post!
posted by FiveNines at 9:51 AM on May 25, 2013


This feels like the right place to link to Stephen Fry on Buzzcocks a few years back yt .

Simon Amstell is the perfect foil for Fry. I wish he was on QI.
posted by srboisvert at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2013


It's so weird that we have these two Brits talking intelligently and thoughtfully about really quite deep and possibly even upsetting subjects such as the holocaust, and every time one of them swears we get a cute little graphic over their mouth and a stupid "bleep" like "Ai Caramba!" And then Ferguson (or more probably his bosses) feels the need to add a "Sorry if you were upset" disclaimer at the end. American TV needs to grow up.

That said, this was hugely enjoyable
posted by Decani at 10:13 AM on May 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


I have the vague idea they've done this once before. Am I imagining it?
posted by hoyland at 10:14 AM on May 25, 2013


Er... maybe I'm thinking of the thing in the previously link. But I thought it was on the regular program.
posted by hoyland at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2013


OK I obviously haven't watched the whole thing, but is there a reason that this starts with the disclaimer that some of Stephen Fry's views may be objectionable?

When I think of Stephen Fry, I think of sketch comedy, BBC documentaries, tweed, and Oscar Wilde.

I suppose he's politically liberal, and he has very specific ideas about the Elgin Marbles, but...?
posted by Sara C. at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hoyland: they've definitely done it before. I remember it.
posted by Decani at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2013


Sara, they talk about atheism and homosexuality, both in a positive sense.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Josie Long asking Stephen Fry to adopt everyone is one of the most adorable things ever. But I have the world's biggest crush on her.

God yes. Feminism and intelligence and wit wrapped up in an awesome t-shirt she almost certainly made herself.
posted by jaduncan at 10:31 AM on May 25, 2013


Craig Ferguson's ease in conversation always amazes me. Pairing him with Stephen Fry was a great idea.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:32 AM on May 25, 2013


they talk about atheism and homosexuality, both in a positive sense.

Is that terribly rare on a late night talk show? I mean yeah I know it's usually celebrities on promotional junkets, but surely you get people like Richard Dawkins making the rounds occasionally, or celebrities talking about their support of equal marriage.

I understand listening to more of the disclaimer and reading this FPP that they eventually get around to some tough subjects. But I thought it was unusual that Ferguson started by saying that Fry is an opinionated man with some controversial ideas. As if he were the president of NAMBLA or Mel Gibson or something.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's the previous one. They did it with no audience.
posted by Decani at 10:35 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just at the beginning - but Ferguson describes Stephen Fry as someone with strong opinions who might offend some people? Maybe I've been listening to too many uncensored podcasts, but Fry is like a big teddy bear - a gentlemanly teddy bear - compared to some of the people I read/listen to.

Ah, I see - yes, apparently mentioning that "the gay" exists - let alone the godless - is something that warrants an audience warning. I was listening to an old This American Life the other day and they also did a whole "we will mention homosexuality so cover your kid's ears if you want" which was so annoying - it's one thing if you're going to discuss sexual matters in detail, but a warning for a mention of a same-sex partner? that should always come with the addendum "and yes, this warning is for bigots who we don't want to offend for some unfathomable reason."
posted by jb at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


basically what Sara C. said.
posted by jb at 10:39 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then Ferguson (or more probably his bosses) feels the need to add a "Sorry if you were upset" disclaimer at the end. American TV needs to grow up.

Definitely his bosses. I doubt those disclaimers will keep the angry letters from pouring in, but CBS probably has a policy to dissociate itself from "objectionable" views that might lose some of its audience. Atheism in particular is likely to be near the top of their list, particularly when it is discussed with more than platitudes.

Maybe if it were cable, the disclaimers wouldn't be needed. But American TV does still have a lot of growing up to do.
posted by mcoo at 10:41 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe all the disclaimers were really for Fry's hilariously inept American accent.

(I kid, it's actually gotten a lot better since the last time I heard him do it.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:44 AM on May 25, 2013


last time they talked pretty in depth about mental health stuff - so maybe not just the gay and the godlessness. the disclaimer might be more "if you're looking for puppets and dancing panto horses, this probably isn't the night for you."
posted by nadawi at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's CBS. They'd run a disclaimer if someone expressed an actual opinion of any kind. Craig is actually really careful on the show generally, and I'm sure that's at CBS's direction because his stand-up material is significantly more opinionated.

I think nadawi's right, it was also about the fact that this wasn't the show the audience would generally expect. That's a big deal in TV, and he's gotten all kinds of backlash for trying to make small changes (like when he said he was going to stop doing puppets).
posted by Lyn Never at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2013


Except it's... not.

Ferguson actually says verbatim that Fry is outspoken about controversial topics. Which, really, he's not.

That's what seemed weird to me.

Though they are talking about pretty heavy topics. I'm still towards the beginning of it and we've gone straight to graphic talk about dead bodies and Bertrand Russell. So yeah, This Is Not What We Usually Do, but was there really a need to cast Stephen Fry as a complicated guest who requires special disclaimers about his controversial opinions?

It's that specificity that bugged me, not the nature of telling people this show is different from the usual three fluffy celebrity guests format.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I almost like the warnings - not because I think anything Fry or Ferguson said was an objectionable view point or inappropriate for American television. I kind of like it because yes, that was an extremely different show from what we expect to see on CBS at 1 AM. I mean, compare this to anything Jimmy Fallon has done. Ever. There are people who don't want to see much beyond stupid celebrity stories at this hour. (My mother stays up late and watches these shows and generally like Ferguson, but there's no way she would have sat through this episode. Even without the politics, they discussed body farms and the Holocaust.) I thought this was Ferguson reassuring his audience that it's OK if they didn't like this episode.
posted by maryr at 10:56 AM on May 25, 2013


I kind of like it because yes, that was an extremely different show from what we expect to see on CBS at 1 AM.

Yeah but that's not really what the disclaimer actually SAID.

I agree that I'm OK with the notion of telling people "hey this is a different format from the usual." And I think it would have been cheeky fun to "warn" people that, tonight, they might actually learn something.

But the focus on Stephen Fry specifically as someone with extreme views that the audience should expect not to agree with is really problematic to me, sorry.

I mean, it's Stephen fucking Fry, for crying out loud.
posted by Sara C. at 11:00 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stephen Fry is the Anti-Boris Johnson.

Discuss.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Mel Gibson or Michael Vick get disclaimers before they appear on late night talk shows?
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would just like to say at this point that if any of you have not read the first volume of Fry's autobiography (Moab Is My Washpot) you really should. Sadly, the second volume is not nearly as good.
posted by Decani at 11:03 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder if Mel Gibson or Michael Vick get disclaimers before they appear on late night talk shows?

I mean no, because they're not going to bring up child abuse? Your problem with the warning is weird, it's a standard TV/NPR thing where they don't want anyone writing angry letters because a serious subject was broached. You have to admit most people don't expect to hear about Goebbels where the usual subject is "Do you have any pets" (though that would be a controversial subject for Vick I guess.)

Plus the warning makes us hip enlightened folks who stick around feel even more intellectual and watch the whole thing. What's up you cool babies?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:15 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly if I could get away with "Me and Stephen Fry hanging out and shooting the shit for 2 hours", I'd do it as often as possible.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:16 AM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Plus the warning makes us hip enlightened folks who stick around feel even more intellectual and watch the whole thing. What's up you cool babies?

I suspect this is part of it. It's the difference between the generic 'viewer discretion is advised' notice and Ferguson making a little speech.
posted by hoyland at 11:25 AM on May 25, 2013


"My only guest tonight will be my friend, Stephen Fry. Now, I warn you, Stephen is an outspoken man. He has views which you may find difficult, and you may find make you angry or upset. Let this be the point where I say to you, maybe this is a good night to get an early night."

This is the part of the disclaimer that bothers me. And this is how the disclaimer STARTS, not an aside thrown in. I really couldn't care less if they want to do a disclaimer about the format being different, and frankly I think the subject matter is definitely intense enough to merit a "this might not be the night to let your ten year old stay up late" sort of thing.

But to frame that disclaimer around "outspoken" Stephen Fry and his "difficult views" is really problematic, I'm sorry. It's the most disgusting namby pamby American media bullshit and the prime reason I don't own a television and have never paid for cable in my adult life. I'd frankly rather live in a world of the internet and digital media and the assumption that grown adults can talk about grown up subjects without being cast as Dangerously Controversial people.
posted by Sara C. at 11:35 AM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's all about knowing the audience. Given the generally non-political framing of his interviews, I imagine Ferguson's audience has a couple conservatives or even people who just don't like watching politics. The introduction seems like a clever way to include some of these folks.

Note that he didn't say that Fry's views were difficult, but that some members of the audience may find Fry's views difficult. He's shifting the responsibility to the viewer. I think that's an important distinction.
posted by yaymukund at 11:49 AM on May 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ferguson actually says verbatim that Fry is outspoken about controversial topics. Which, really, he's not.

Well, Ferguson didn't know exactly what Fry was going to talk about. Maybe Stephen Fry is punchy in private conversation, and Craig thought there was a chance it might get heated. It's worth warning people about explosives even if they don't in fact explode.

Or maybe the warning was for Stephen Fry's benefit: Craig wanted him to feel free to talk about whatever he wanted to talk about.

If the warning was about anything, I think that Craig was worried that Fry might go off on an anti-American tirade. Not a left-leaning tirade; an anti-American tirade. I get the impression that Stephen Fry thinks very poorly of America. That show that Fry did where he travels across America was really pretty insulting and condescending.
posted by painquale at 11:52 AM on May 25, 2013


I'd guess the warning was due to the fact that it's broadcast TV, as opposed to cable, and the network suits probably shit themselves in terror on a regular basis over fears of offending their presumed (both politically and culturally) conservative viewers. I mean really, what sort of Luddite wallflowers haven't bought into cable by now?

I've begun to wonder recently how much longer Ferguson's going to last in this job before he finally busts loose and walks. Have you noticed he's really trying to cut back on swearing lately, with the undertone that he's actually worried about pissing off his bosses? I wouldn't be surprised if he's getting more and more pressure to conform as his show gets more popular. More than once I've heard a ring of truth in his voice when he explains to his guests that the picture of his kids is there on his desk to remind himself why he's hanging on to this job.

This is all guesswork on my part of course, but it's the impression I'm getting from the show.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:56 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that Craig was worried that Fry might go off on an anti-American tirade.

Does he has a history of doing this that I don't know about?

I feel like I'm Aware Of All Stephen Fry Conventions, but I guess there could be something I missed.

He just shot a comedy pilot for CBS. I don't think it got picked up, but I'm fairly sure that if it had, he would have needed to relocate to the US to do the show. People who hate America usually try not to spend a lot of time here.
posted by Sara C. at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2013


I would think that anything seen as the promotion of atheism would get bring some letter-writers to bust out their pens. I mean, gayness will also offend lots of people, but I also think that we underestimate how much atheism deeply offends people.

I remember someone on, I think, B3ta (or the Chris Morris listserv) worked in the complaints department for the BBC. They were consistently hilarious. There are some profoundly thin-skinned people out there.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2013


I didn't mind the disclaimer at all. A show like his has many different kinds of viewers, and I would imagine there are some who don't really pay much attention, and for them to suddenly be confronted with a conversation containing Grown Up Topics would be disconcerting. Ferguson, as usual, respects the audience and would rather give extra warning than not enough. I mean, they DID talk about the holocaust and child rape. On a late night chat show that's not really meant to be quite that dark.

I also think that part of the issue is the casualness and non American-ness with which Fry discusses everything. Whether discussing important things or silly things, he gives off a vibe of detached amusement. Most of us know where he is coming from. But I can see where, without some kind of warning, this would be jarring to some people.

I love that Ferguson mixes it up like this! Good for CBS for letting it happen at all. They seem to be very good about trusting him and Letterman to get a little creative with their shows and do interesting things outside of the box.

I honestly wish Ferguson would do more of this kind of thing. His travel shows and these single guest shows are really great, except that they aren't nearly long enough. I was quite disappointed at the Paris and Scotland shows because they wasted so much time on filler, when it seemed obvious there was much more interesting stuff laying on the cutting room floor.

(He's also great about getting lesser known and foreign actors on the show to widen the scope beyond famous people just hawking their projects.)
posted by gjc at 12:03 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


with the undertone that he's actually worried about pissing off his bosses?

and see - that's why the warning was about stephen fry and not about the show - because for some people (like myself) i think the whole swearing/bosses thing is a shtick. i think he plays it better than letterman ever did (which, you know, remember that he's one of the bosses) - but i don't believe much of it. so - if he warned his viewers that it might get a little rowdy or different or that the network wasn't gonna like it, some people would still think it was part of this shtick, or something like the scotland episodes. by saying that some viewers could be offended by fry, he's indicating a change in tone.

also, i'm betting that fry enjoys being a controversial figure on late night american tv. it seems like the sort of thing that would tickle him.
posted by nadawi at 12:05 PM on May 25, 2013


I get the impression that Stephen Fry thinks very poorly of America. That show that Fry did where he travels across America was really pretty insulting and condescending.

The one in which he emphatically expresses his love of the U.S.? As he has done on a number of other occasions?

Well, Ferguson didn't know exactly what Fry was going to talk about.

These shows are pre-taped and edited down for broadcast. Ferguson asks the audience outright to pretend that they hadn't seen him come out yet. He then repeats the same disclaimer after the interview, with the closing remark that he thinks people ought to be able to say what they think.

The disclaimer is definitely issued assumimg a largely conservative audience, and it's a fairly ordinary spiel (in Craig's case, given half-heartedly), meant to lighten the load of angry letters CBS will certainly receive having broadcast the show.
posted by mcoo at 12:09 PM on May 25, 2013


I think that Craig was worried that Fry might go off on an anti-American tirade.

Does he has a history of doing this that I don't know about?


I doubt it. Even if he did, it would probably be well-deserved, well-reasoned and polite. He did an entire documentary series on the wonders and vastness of the US, and if memory serves, he was basically a coinflip away from being born an American. He is too thoughtful to be simply anti-American. If he has a problem with something the US does, he will reason it out.

(I also believe Ferguson shoots his show more non-linearly than most. The cold open often refers to things that will happen later in the show in a way that could only happen if it was shot after the rest of the show. And the occasional guest will mention things about there having been no break between segments. This is opposed to something like Letterman, where they shoot pretty much live-on-tape, complete with a show clock that is set for broadcast time.

In fact, more than once, he has scrapped parts of the show and recorded a new open, saying something like "we pre recorded today's show before this thing happened, and after I talk a little bit, we will run the interviews because it's not fair to the guests to have them come in here just to be pre-empted by a re-run, simply because I made some jackass comments during the monologue. So forgive us for any insensitivities, we didn't know at the time.)
posted by gjc at 12:14 PM on May 25, 2013


Stephen Fry is the opposite of anti-American. He has spoken at great length on multiple formats about how much he enjoys the US, and specifically demolishes British prejudices and stereotypes of Americans. Just gotta throw that in there.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:16 PM on May 25, 2013


[A couple comments removed, let's absolutely not have a side-argument about pedophilia and moral equivalencies just for fun in here.]
posted by cortex at 12:24 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stephen Fry is the Anti-Boris Johnson.

No, the anti-Boris would have to be politically left-wing which Fry is, but he'd also have a deep antipathy to learning and scholarship which Boris (for all his other faults) definitely doesn't have.

I get the impression that Stephen Fry thinks very poorly of America. That show that Fry did where he travels across America was really pretty insulting and condescending.

I don't think it was a very good show but that is absolutely not the vibe I got from what little of it that I saw.
posted by atrazine at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2013


Regarding the warning preface to the show, at one point in the conversation Fry straight up said "if you claim to know anything about an afterlife you are either a liar or an idiot". I imagine that would piss off a big portion of the typical American TV audience. Hell, I have seen metatalk threads started around here for less.
posted by idiopath at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The one in which he emphatically expresses his love of the U.S.? As he has done on a number of other occasions?

Plus in this interview he openly states that much of his core philosophy is derived from the ideals of America's founding fathers. Which is to say he probably loves America more than most Americans.
posted by srboisvert at 12:52 PM on May 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


God yes. Feminism and intelligence and wit wrapped up in an awesome t-shirt she almost certainly made herself.

And the perfect blend of earnestness and honesty that I like to call "earnesty".
posted by elsietheeel at 12:56 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


American TV does still have a lot of growing up to do.

Audiences. American audiences need to grow up.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The idea of Stephen Fry as some great controversial subversive is pretty wonderful.
posted by dng at 2:06 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stephen Fry is the opposite of anti-American. He has spoken at great length on multiple formats about how much he enjoys the US, and specifically demolishes British prejudices and stereotypes of Americans. Just gotta throw that in there.


To illustrate here he is in 2009 talking about American politics and about the differences between British and American comedy. Relative to most British people he seems much better informed about America - and he also seems to have a love of it.
posted by rongorongo at 2:19 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The puppets are permanently gone? Goofy music numbers too? I've been away too long from the show.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:20 PM on May 25, 2013


I'd noticed that the puppets hadn't been appearing lately, but I'd missed that he'd made a decision to retired them completely. Does anyone know why?
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:46 PM on May 25, 2013


WARNING: the following program will feature a person who actually speaks SENSE, as opposed to "Common Sense" which is a code word for tradition-bound-bigotries.

Of course, you can't say that on any American television network. (Including PBS)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:46 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The line around 24:00 where he says he's not so much a Jew as "Jew-ish; not the whole hog", is actually stolen borrowed from Jonathan Miller in Beyond the Fringe. Still, good to hear it again and since he too was in the Footlights he's in some sense entitled to use it. (If that's not in the club rules it ought to be.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:07 PM on May 25, 2013


Fergusen is really at his best in these kind of interviews. Hi is surprisingly good at it. I wish he had his own weekly interview show along the lines that Whoopi Goldberg did back in the early 90's.

And with that said, I also miss the puppets and the goofy/wonderful music videos.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


He would be so great in a "Charlie Rose Lite" type of format. Guests like this, who are thoughtful and worth talking to for an hour, but maybe a little less heavy than the world leaders and intelligentsia on PBS.
posted by Sara C. at 3:37 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Confirming that the show is shot non-linearly. The live taping we went to ended up with the monologue in one show, the close monologue another, and the stand-up segment in a third show, and I have no idea if the first guest ever made it to air*.

*Crivens. It was Kristen Davis from Sex and the City, and while the two of them talked about their sobriety...she had something going on. She hit on him ferociously during both segments, and after the cameras went off she strong-armed him into a really creepy hug, during which he (facing the audience) gave us an apologetic expression before kind of foisting her off to handlers. It was super weird.

(That said, if you are visiting LA or are a local hosting guests, LLS is a great very fast Hollywood tourist experience, and the staff and warm-up comic and Craig himself and even Geoff Peterson are astoundingly grateful for your free 2-hour visit. You also get to share the queue with The Price Is Right, and those audience members are so terrifyingly intensely into the show, the most popular on that lot, that it's worth it just for them. It's worth a stay at the Farmer's Daughter hotel across the street, which makes it easy to walk over to the line. Then you can have Loteria tacos for dinner and bourekas from the Middle-Eastern place for breakfast at the Farmer's Market. Plus Bob's donuts for breakfast-desert.)
posted by Lyn Never at 3:58 PM on May 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


CBS cares!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:39 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lyn Never: "Confirming that the show is shot non-linearly. The live taping we went to ended up with the monologue in one show, the close monologue another, and the stand-up segment in a third show, and I have no idea if the first guest ever made it to air*.

*Crivens. It was Kristen Davis from Sex and the City, and while the two of them talked about their sobriety...she had something going on. She hit on him ferociously during both segments, and after the cameras went off she strong-armed him into a really creepy hug, during which he (facing the audience) gave us an apologetic expression before kind of foisting her off to handlers. It was super weird.

(That said, if you are visiting LA or are a local hosting guests, LLS is a great very fast Hollywood tourist experience, and the staff and warm-up comic and Craig himself and even Geoff Peterson are astoundingly grateful for your free 2-hour visit. You also get to share the queue with The Price Is Right, and those audience members are so terrifyingly intensely into the show, the most popular on that lot, that it's worth it just for them. It's worth a stay at the Farmer's Daughter hotel across the street, which makes it easy to walk over to the line. Then you can have Loteria tacos for dinner and bourekas from the Middle-Eastern place for breakfast at the Farmer's Market. Plus Bob's donuts for breakfast-desert.)
"

Favorited for the Crivens.
posted by Samizdata at 4:50 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hate the skeleton sidekick. HATE HATE HATE. Utterly irrational of me, I know.

But I made a point of recording this episode when I saw it on Late Night Lineups. (Bookmark that page!)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:00 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously? I can't even imagine a more perfect foil for Craig than the guy who plays Geoff! I think the combination of personalities brings out the best of both of them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:32 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the voice. The voice just bothers me.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:51 PM on May 25, 2013


And then Ferguson (or more probably his bosses) feels the need to add a "Sorry if you were upset" disclaimer at the end. American TV needs to grow up.

Definitely his bosses.


Yeah, Craig didn't sound very concerned about it. Definitely the bosses.
posted by homunculus at 12:45 AM on May 26, 2013


Well, having listened to the whole of the interview, there really wasn't that much to get upset about. I suppose the religion/atheism discussion, if you were really afraid of atheism, because Fry was being one of a very polite, respectful atheist -- Dawkins would do well to imitate. The rest of the discussion was at times serious - particularly the powerful and moving story he repeated from a holocaust survivor - but never controversial or disturbing in its detail. (I'm assuming that we're all against child rape in Uganda, regardless of the genders involved).
posted by jb at 5:22 AM on May 26, 2013


To be fair, Stephen Fry has espoused some unfortunate, unpopular opinions about trans* women.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:35 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Fry has a history of not thinking before he speaks about something he knows little about, and being a middle aged white dude, he will happily throw around turns of phrase that maybe aren't the best way to be talking about people who are different from you.

But even that, I think, doesn't merit a WARNING: THIS GUY IS, LIKE, ANTON LAVEY LEVEL CRAZYPANTS disclaimer.

Also, have you ever seen any CBS show before? I think casual transphobia is a requirement to be a writer on any CBS comedy.
posted by Sara C. at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2013


I think your exaggeration of the warning is way off base, and I don't really get why you want to keep harping on it. I think we've established that you don't understand why it was there, some people have theorized that it's a cover-your-ass statement from CBS to try and tamp down on the letters they will get because Jesus is the Third Rail of American TV, and maybe we can move on? I feel like most of this thread has been about the 30 second warning at the top of the show, and not so much the actual content, which is a shame and a bit of a derail.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:24 AM on May 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be fair, Stephen Fry has espoused some unfortunate, unpopular opinions about trans* women.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:35 PM on May 26


I saw that show and just re-read the transcript of those comments and I really don't see why they are a problem. The gist was that many of the stereotypical "tell-tale signs" of a trans woman were, in fact, bullshit, and Fry's "so... be careful out there" was blatantly tongue-in-cheek and heavily ironic, coming from a famous and famously gay man known for his all-round liberalism and humanity.
posted by Decani at 10:27 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


His repeated use of the term "ladyboy" bothered me. I got that he was speaking as somewhat of an insider -- probably moreso than the panelists depending on who they were that episode -- but from an awkward place of not actually being a part of the culture he's talking about. But wanting to be breezy and campy and wink at the fact that he is gay himself. And, I don't know, maybe "ladyboy" is totally normal in Britain and not reminiscent of "tranny" and "he-she" and other gross transphobic terms.

Definitely more of an eyeroll and a feeling of, "oh man you are so embarrassing yourself right now and you don't even KNOW" than something that would cause me to be permanently against Stephen Fry forever.

That might be because I'm not trans, and it doesn't hurt me personally if this random celebrity I think is neat says things that are casually shitty about trans people. Maybe if I was transgendered I would be on his lawn with a pitchfork.

Then again, he is sort of the same way about women and feminism. I can tell that he's not a raging sexist. But he'll just casually joke about how women don't like sex. And I know it just seemed like a clever flip thing to say, and he has no IDEA that this is one of those things that's been a huge source of discussion in feminist circles for decades. So I roll my eyes and think "oh man you are so embarrassing yourself right now and you don't even KNOW."

I want to live in a world where that sort of casual "stop embarrassing yourself" level of not-politically-correct merited a late night TV disclaimer.
posted by Sara C. at 10:57 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well I want to live in a world where political correctness is openly ridiculed and where free spech and intelligence are valued and openly encouraged.
posted by epo at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2013


Well I want to live in a world where political correctness is openly ridiculed and where free spech and intelligence are valued and openly encouraged.
So-called "political correctness" has been a hobbyhorse for people who want the right to be abrasive towards those who have fewer advantages for longer than it's been a benefit. When someone pits political correctness against so-called "free speech", I hear someone who just wants to call trans* people tr---ys or tell women to get back in the kitchen. YMMV.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well I want to live in a world where political correctness is openly ridiculed and where free speech and intelligence are valued and openly encouraged.
"Political correctness gone maaad" has now been the rallying cry of the openly bigoted and extremist for decades. To paraphrase a great man, if you're sincere in what you're saying then you're too stupid to be listened to.
posted by fullerine at 3:05 PM on May 26, 2013


Well I want to live in a world where political correctness is openly ridiculed and where free spech and intelligence are valued and openly encouraged.

Take it away, Stew.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:11 PM on May 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I actually got the sense that Craig's disclaimer may have been from a sense of personal protectiveness of Stephen Fry, for lack of a better word - he and Stephen are friends, and so he may have been feeling a little more....self-conscious? self-aware? something like that? of how Stephen's views don't fly with certain segments of the American population; so those disclaimers may not have been CBS/Worldwide Pants/Craig Ferguson As A Professional, they may have been from Craig-who's-got-this-really-cool-guy-Stephen-he-wants-you-to-meet-but-sometimes-he's-got-some-ideas-that-may-seem-out-there-but-it's-okay-really. You know?

I wanted the audience to not be there, like they did last time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I only caught the end of this, which just rehashed the Wagner documentary I'd seen twice on TV. It was still the best. I love Stephen Fry.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting chat, although the language censorship was really annoying. Aren't we beyond that these days, particularly "late late night"?
posted by Diag at 8:25 AM on May 27, 2013


Interesting chat, although the language censorship was really annoying. Aren't we beyond that these days, particularly "late late night"?

I think its pretty funny, especially since we still get it in Australia... where at 1am you could probably show hardcore sex. Its like the Something Awful wordfilters.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:11 PM on May 27, 2013


even if american tv allowed vast and creative swearing after 10pm or whatever, i'd never want craig to lose his oohlalas or whatsacomeandagos
posted by nadawi at 10:26 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's apparently been getting some pressure on the swearing front of late, since the move to the new studio at least, and there have been times when they just dropped audio and threw up a blur in front of his mouth, rather than the flags-and-fake-foreign-swears. Which is all quite depressing, actually. I feel like they're progressively trying to smooth his rough edges -- oblivious apparently that the rough edges are what he is, and are what make him interesting and different in a field of blandness -- with an eye to grooming him for... something.

I almost hope he bolts, as he so often threatens to do, before he lets that happen to him.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:15 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Finally got to watch this. It's utterly clear to me why Craig was compelled to disclaimerize. Corpse farms, atheism, gayness, child-rape, Mengele, the holocaust, all discussed without frills or filters or dipshit swooping-graphic baritone-narrator dumbed-down televisual jerkoffery. Not what your average seeker after soothingly predictable latenite fare wants.

Pretty great conversation. I love both those gentlemen-I've-never-met inordinately.

and as an aside, I reckon it would be a fine thing for certain MeFite apologists-for-assholes-who-make-art to pay much closer attention to Stephen Fry's discussion of his feelings about Wagner. Seriously.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:24 AM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've also spent a lot of time watching QI as a sort of TV comfort food. I let some of Fry's transphobic attitudes go, even though they're completely, stereotypically, blatantly, blandly transphobic. Like, QI is supposed to be about finding the interesting, unexpected truth behind 'common sense', yet on some subjects Fry is completely willing to soak in age-old received ignorance.

Maybe I'm too sensitive because I'm a trans woman? Hmm, perhaps. But the casual misogyny on the show -- Fry consistently trying to portray women as yucky, how most shows have at most one woman as a guest, how some of the guests' abhorrent 'comedy' is only somewhat offset by the gentler tendencies of other guests -- tells me that I'm not being oversensitive. Fry is very progressive on some topics, but really regressive on others. Like a lot of us, he's great at challenging others' preconceptions, but not so much his own.

What finally got me to stop watching QI, though, was how they actually got some of the facts wrong. Flat-out wrong. The elves may have a lot of good degrees, but when I can spot gaping errors in topics I'm not even that much of an expert in, and they've got dollops of misogyny and transphobia to boot, then the show is pretty wide of my sweet spot. I don't expect them to get absolutely everything right -- it's a TV show, not the living embodiment of Truth -- but in combination with the other problems, it tipped the balance in favor of me not watching any more.

I know Fry is a darling of the atheist movement and lots of other folks. I think he's done a lot of important work: his US show's emphasis on Hmong folks in the Twin Cities was a refreshingly non-stereotypical way of portraying Minnesota, and I really appreciate what he's done to move our conversations about mental health away from pure demonizing. But like Fry and Ferguson mentioned in their discussion, and like all of us, Fry has blinders on to some issues, and some of his work is very problematic. Hopefully he can drop those blinders eventually.
posted by jiawen at 6:26 PM on June 6, 2013


I think a big part of that is the show QI. Like, Stephen doesn't choose the guests, you know? Nor does he write the questions. And, frankly, while the show frames itself about being "the unexpected truth behind common sense", a lot of the stuff they talk about, if you actually know anything about the subject, is pretty facile.

But yeah. My take on him is that he's who he is -- a 50-something year old wealthy white guy who's never really wanted for anything and has not really had to question his own take on the world. He is great on the stuff where his take is the outsider take, but where his interests align with the mainstream world, he's pretty blind.

And, I don't know, I can't hate him for that. That describes like 90% of people I know -- great about stuff that they get because it's their lived experience, less great about other stuff they are privileged about. And the other 10% consists mostly of total bigots who aren't even a little bit sensitive. I wish I knew more people who were exactly politically correct on every single issue, but not many of those folks exist. Most people have blind spots, no matter how hard they try.

I'm curious about what else of his work you find "problematic".
posted by Sara C. at 6:56 PM on June 6, 2013


Sara C.: "I'm curious about what else of his work you find problematic."

Casual racism, orientalism (a subset of racism, but a particular concern for me)... can't think of anything else right now. Well, strong inconsistency about descriptivism vs. prescriptivism in language, but that's a much more minor concern. The main points for me are the transphobia and misogyny.

I didn't say I hate him -- not sure if you were getting that message from what I wrote. I just don't like what he does, sometimes. (Well, and can't stomach watching QI anymore.) Maybe I hold him to a higher standard, because he's someone I want to like a lot. And he just hits some of the points I'm especially sensitive about.
posted by jiawen at 7:12 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, not what in his work, what work of his?

I mean, he's an actor. He's a pretty opinionated person, and I think it's fair to judge him for that. But, like, are we talking about a movie he was in, or QI, or?
posted by Sara C. at 7:20 PM on June 6, 2013


Occasional annoying things in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, I suppose, but mostly what he's said in QI.
posted by jiawen at 7:29 PM on June 6, 2013


So your beef is basically with the people who make QI, then, with a bit of Fry being sort of privileged and not thinking much about his glib cutesy monologuing.

I definitely agree that QI is the worst forum for that tendency that he has. Put him in a room of dudebros with material written by slightly nerdier dudebros, let him free-associate a bit, and his worst privilege seeps out.
posted by Sara C. at 8:57 PM on June 6, 2013


I don't think telling me what my "beef" is will be very productive. What you've said comes across a bit patronizing.
posted by jiawen at 9:05 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


i really like fry - but, i get what jiawen is saying - he has this sort of casual misogyny that i've seen in other gay men - like, women aren't really a concern of his. it can come of as grating and privileged even if you know his intent is not to indicate that women are less awesome than men. a blind spot is how i've always seen it. he might not pick the guests or write the material, but he could say, "we need to book more women" (something they've done in the last few years, actually) and "that joke is over the line" and he's certainly responsible for what he says off the cuff (which, for me, is usually where i find myself cringing). he's awesome and has absolutely added more than he's taken away in the grand scheme of things - i just don't think this critique of him is out of line.
posted by nadawi at 11:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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