Thursday, June 17, 2010


American on Purpose

"I don't say this to try and impress you but I was a bed wetter until I was around eleven years old. Then I stopped, but not for long. I started drinking alcohol regularly when I was in my early teens, at which point I returned to intermittent bed-wetting until I was twenty-nine. I haven't peed myself since the 18th of February, 1992, the day I got sober."
Craig Ferguson, Scottish late late night talk show host that follows Letterman, starts his story with: "It probably began when the Germans tried to kill my parents." Instead of continental Europe, we're in Scotland, where his parents had to deal with bombing raids on cities that produced Britain's war machine. That's not the focus - he goes back to his family history to sketch out his story, which is hilarious, humble, sad, and moving. He goes from his childhood, dropping out of high school, his stand-up career, marriages, America, alcoholism, sobriety, acting, getting his talk show, becoming an American citizen, all the way up to his speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner - which opens his book, "American On Purpose."

It's not a boring memoir, it's not a self-congratulatory bio, it's not a self-help book, it's not written by a ghostwriter (he wrote a novel before he got super famous, I believe this is his writing), it's not a humor book. It's a warm, witty, hilarious, humble take on one man's life and the crazy things he put himself through. He's got the perspective to point out his flaws, and show you how things could have been better. Maybe this passage describing his Uncle James perfectly encapsulates the idea behind the book:

"He is a mathematician who is also literate and loves music and the arts. He is an extraordinarily charming gentleman, tall and elegant, with a huge infectious laugh that trumpets out of him after even the very first dram of Laphroig. He's worn thick glasses since he was a teenager, his hair sticks up when he's thinking, and there is nothing about our planet, our universe, or human relations that doesn't interest him. If you meet Gunka James and you don't like him, you're a dick."
He also gives a bit of a take on how show business works:

"There was a quick meeting with the show's producer and co-creator, Bruce Helford - a Tolkienesque character who was small and dark and busy, like some kind of super-intelligent alien hamster from a world more advanced than our own."

Love it. Go read this! If you've never seen his show, this is a great example of what he's doing differently...

1 comment:

  1. I read this a month ago and somehow... forgot it. Oh well.