Craig Ferguson

I'm Here to Help

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With sets that wander and flow like Eddie Izzard's, plus a style that juggles smart, smug, and silly, late-night television talk show host and standup comedian Craig Ferguson is an acquired taste. Those who acquire it find the Scottish-born American charming, sharp, and effortless to the point of unscripted, but after close inspection, his 2013 live album I'm Here to Help feels much more planned and purposeful than his nightly monologue, suggesting he's got plenty of respect and love for the comedic craft (and even more for a paying audience, rather than the "Seatfillers" or "paid hobos" that are thrown ten bucks to sit through The Late Late Show). Besides a couple behind-the-scenes stories involving his show's guests, the insider stuff is left for the TV as the set here unfurls with Ferguson's true love of the female butt (a universal and timeless love for men, he suggests, as Helen of Troy's derriere launched the first war ever) plus a Mel Brooks/Blazing Saddles-sized twirling of the politically incorrect, with Hitler being offered up as a proto-hipster since he enjoyed painting, weird facial hair, and the life of a vegetarian. If that's too far when compared to the material on his television show, then the swearing and the abundance of female anatomy talk (if "clitoral callbacks" stats were kept, this album would hold the record) will likely push some more puritan viewers over the edge. Still, the ribald stuff is anchored by smarts and true pathos when he speaks of his encounters with wounded soldiers, and save a grouchy and old bit about Brangelina, this is a definite upgrade in both craft and laughs from his nightly monologues. Add to this a brilliant bookending device that involves the Ferg's old pal Drew Carey and I'm Here to Help is not only a delight for fans, but an easy entry point for the curious. To use his own catch phrase, it's a "Great Day for America" everybody.

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