Craig Ferguson: ‘I Wanted to Leave the Show Before I Stopped Enjoying It’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Craig Ferguson Bids Farewell to CBS'

Craig Ferguson is relieved — he’s been wanting to let people know of his plan to move on from “The Late Late Show” for months.

The CBS latenight host also is resigned to the fact that few people will believe his assertion that he began thinking about ending his run on the show as long as two years ago, but he re-upped after CBS persuaded him to stick around a little longer. Early this year, he began laying the groundwork for his exit, before he had any idea that Letterman was preparing to announce his plan to retire in 2015.

SEE ALSO: Craig Ferguson to Leave ‘Late Late Show’ in December

“It wasn’t contentious. I was just like, ‘I feel like I’m done,’ ” Ferguson told Variety. “We were all fine and were tying up loose ends. And then Dave surprised everybody with the (April 3) announcement and that threw a spanner in the works. And I had to sit and keep my mouth shut while speculation raged wildly.”

Ferguson initially planned to sign off this summer, but CBS asked him to stay until December to give them more time to set a replacement. Ferguson agreed because it gives his staff and crew more time to find new gigs.

“It’s an inevitable thing when David announced his retirement, people are going to say ‘Oh he’s leaving because of that.’ No matter what I say or what I do, they’re gonna say that. Well they can say what they like. It’s America. I understand.”

The simple fact is, Ferguson wanted to move on before the work became a chore. He’s proud of the show and how oddball it is — with a robot skeleton and stuffed horse for sidekicks. But he has “ideas” for new things and is engaged with the various projects that his Green Mountain West production banner is developing for Science Channel and Discovery. And he’s got a new gig starting in the fall as host and producer of the syndie gameshow “Celebrity Name Game.”

“Ten years is a very long time in one job — for me,” he said. “I wanted to leave the show before I stopped enjoying it. That was my goal. I didn’t want it to be a chore….The whole idea is that show business should have some adventure to it, I think. It’s not about knowing what you’re doing day in and day out, year after year.”

Another latenight talk show is highly unlikely, despite the vacancy that’s about to open up at Comedy Central when “The Colbert Report” wraps. “I don’t know if I would ever do a latenight talkshow (again). It just doesn’t feel like that’s the way I’m headed,” he said.

Ferguson reiterated, as he has in interviews over the years, that taking over the 11:35 p.m. slot from Dave was never his ambition. But again, he accepts that people will view this as a he-doth-protest-too-much situation.

“I had no desire — none — to do that job,” Ferguson said. “I could barely keep it together at 12:30, never mind 11:30. Nobody wants to hear it. It’s so bizarre. People want it to be Jay and Dave or Jay and Conan or some kind of big story. That’s not me, that’s not what I want. I think what happens is that certain people want you to want it, and they want you to not get it. If that makes ’em happy, well…It really wasn’t what I aspired to. Doing this job wasn’t something I aspired to, either. I kind of fell into this.”

But what about the reports that Ferguson’s last contract included a clause that calls for him to see an eight-figure payout if he was not chosen as Letterman’s successor? Ferguson paused, and then cited words of advice from a seasoned Scottish comedian, Johnny Beattie, who befriended him years ago.

“He told me, ‘There’s two things we never discuss: Wages and ages.’ So I think I’m gonna stick to that.”

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  1. Penny Tilden says:

    I miss you so much!

  2. loved your show and your wicked dirty humor

  3. Ripped1x says:

    What a loss this is for CBS, Craig Ferguson is one heck of a funny guy, he would have made a much better host of the late show instead of that nasty creep Dave Letterman, now there is a guy a lot of people will be happy to see go.

  4. karen says:

    CBS is going to crap!!!!! I hate that Craig Ferguson is gone and David Letterman is leaving so now both shows suck!!!!!!!!!

  5. catalina says:

    Things were fine until the novelty started wearing thin a few seasons back and he started tiring both of himself and the show’s repetitive format. IMO the introduction of the robot definitely sealed the beginning of the end of the show. No matter what anyone says, the stupid gimmicks became so tedious that Ferguson was actually relieved to be able to call it quits after Colbert got the nod from CBS instead of him. There’s definitely life for talented, funny Scotsmen after late night show fiascos like this one however, no thanks to CBS. I will never forget those Sean Connery impersonations.

  6. A wise jester says: “FOLLOWING THE TRUTH THAT CHANGE IS THE NATURE OF GOD’S MIND, AND RESISTANCE TO IT IS THE SOURCE OF GREAT PAIN.”

  7. gator says:

    W.T F. REALLY. CRAIG, Gonna miss ya bud. Good luck in life and blessed be..
    P. S. What’s the gay bot with no testies gonna do, not that I’m interested. . Lmfao

  8. Ron A. Zajac says:

    I guess a “Variety” blog would be the go-to place to leave an encomium.

    Craig, you were my ideal cheeky monkey. I knew (as most of us did) what you were after, sensed the precariousness of it all along with you and, at the end of the day, respected you 10 times the norm because you risked it all to bare your neovaudevillian soul to a tired polity that just wanted an excuse to follow your divine lead and blow it out our asses along with you, if only for a brief moment out of each weekday.

    Thanks so, so much. And I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled. My wish (and I know it’s only mine) is that you find or write a dynamite script, keep true to your spirit, and tease it into a one-of-a-kind must-see full-length feature… for the ages!

    Bless you, good fellow.

  9. Craig you will be missed. No one could make 12:30 AM seem so wacky and fun. When you do find your new home in the entertainment world you have to bring Geoff the robot and the horse with you.

  10. Mary Hendrickson says:

    I’m sorry to see him go. His “interviews” are unique – down to earth. I’ve recorded and watched all the movies he’s done and quite frankly, I can easily see him not wanting to be a Talk Host for the rest of his career. When his stage surroundings changed, I actually wondered how long it would take for him to say adieu. Still, I will miss his craziness at night :(

  11. He says:

    Ferguson shoukd have been Letterman’s successor

  12. i watched craig for the first time in early 2006, from Ronald McDonald House in Memphis. My son had just had his first operation and was receiving treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It was a bleak time for us. craig made me smile when i had very little to smile about. my son and i watched him in our room at RMH and when we returned home to Springfield, Mo, i was a devoted fan. i am unbelievably sad at his departure. my son, who is fine and healthy now and i owe a very real debt to craig for making us laugh at a time when it seemed like we would never laugh again. thanks for that, craig.

  13. mary sears says:

    Craig you are a very upbeat, funny, daring and contagious. I feel I know you after watching many of your shows so late at night. Craig, please take the offer of the Late Show with DL. This is the natural progression. Carson, Letterman, Ferguson. You earned it, and a totally different spirit from David. Change is good! Your fan.

  14. lee dickey says:

    Love the.show hey I could replace you as host but want to keep the robot..lol

  15. Dean Miller says:

    I’m gonna miss you Craig. Whatever you have planned for the future count me in as a huge fan!

  16. Craig is the only one I watch. While I’m sad he’s leaving I can understand his desire to do something new and different. I love the fact he extended his ‘deadline’ to be assured that his staff hopefully has other jobs. <3

  17. Nancy Hainew says:

    Craig, I joyed your show because it was different, light and funny, it brought to me a sense of ease and entertainment after a hard day. I only watched your late night show the others did nothing for me. I have to admit that I like Jimmy Fallon, the best of my world would be you and Jimmy which I watch every night. I’n gonna miss ya, I have your shows recorded which I will watch when your gone. I hope your future will still be in public show business. Gonna miss ya!

  18. Angela says:

    If you are taking applications for your next gig Craig,I’m a Louisvillian who’s been desperately been seeking work for several years and would love relocating my disabled vet buddy and daughter to a healthier climate!😇

  19. Val says:

    I’ll miss Craig, the show was my way to end the day and go to sleep happily. But I do understand why he wants to leave. I have had some fun jobs, like being a barmaid, at first it’s lots of “cheers” type fun then later you realize your just a baby sitter bottle feeding a lot of drooling adult drunks. I used to play darts for fun too, got into a tournament league and since I had to play on their schedule it became a chore instead of fun. For some reason when I find anything fun to do somehow it becomes a bother later and the fun runs out of it. Here’s hoping Craig finds something that will be a lot of fun to do that remains fun for the duration. :) Goodluck to Craig, Secretariat and the skeleton!

  20. Oh CRAIG Y DO YOU HAVE TO LEAVE I REALLY ENJOY WATCHING YOU HOPE THEY PUT SOMEONE ON THAT’S CUTE LIKE YOU. I LOVED WATCHING YOU AND DAVID LETTERMAN AND NOW BOTH OF YOU ALL R LEAVING Y DO YOU HAVE TO LEAVE EARLY?

  21. FINALLY. I remember hearing him saying things to this effect in past interviews, and I got so sick of hearing people saying how he just got mad that he didn’t get Letterman’s slot so he took his ball and went home, metaphorically speaking. He never wanted the 11:30 slot….it would’ve forced him to become the format he was blatantly satirizing with his show. But I will say it was pretty clever of him to insert that clause in the contract knowing he was leaving anyway…good on you, Mr Ferguson.

  22. His show is the coolest thing on tv, but as a fan, I think I’ve grown to know him, and as I am kind of like him, always needing new challenges, and a volatile life, rather than doing the same thing everyday, I totally understand that he’d like to end this part of his career. Being a Dave or a Leno, would have been just a way to prolong the same career path, instead of trying different things. He’s multi-talented and he should branch out and begin afresh. I hope his crew get good gigs after his leaving. And as for his replacement, a woman is needed in the Late Night slot, and I really think they should hire Chelsea Handler.

  23. Bryan Keller says:

    I will definately hate to see him leave. They might as well just sack the slot/not replace him with anyone else. However, I HOPE he’s getting what he’s always wanted…A gig on “Doctor Who” ESPECIALLY now that his former bandmate Peter Capaldi is taking over the lead!. With Craig leaving CBS in December, he could even become a REGULAR/Companion as shooting for Peter’s second season will begin in Cardiff March of 2015. (I could imagine Craig reprising the “Meddling Monk” role from “Who’s” 1965 season. That mischievous, not MEAN fellow Timelord who LOVES to screw with history just to see what happens”). Also, hope Craig gets a chance to play the villain (Or the BAR TENDER!) in either “Foyles War” or “Sherlock”. NOW, I’m wondering if I should even try to get tickets for his Final Show out in LA OR are they all gone?

  24. Jeannie says:

    Well said, Mary. Will miss him much, but wish him Well on his next adventures. Hope they are ones we can share!

  25. Mary says:

    Craig Ferguson is very intelligent, very funny, and very good at surprising his audience. I enjoyed Bishop Tutu and Madeleine Albright. I laughed at the horse and the leprechaun. I wish him all the best and look forward to being entertained and educated by whatever he does in the future.

  26. Margaret says:

    Good for Craig. I wish him all the best. I have really enjoyed his show, and will miss him.

  27. I would love to see Geoff the Robot Skeleton have a show!

  28. Farah Far says:

    I love Craig watched him every single night until this skeleton. I hated the skeleton.
    I do not like the side kicks they add to these shows , most side kicks are not funny, not good looking, not pleasant.

  29. Gary says:

    See you everywhere else soon. Loved the show

  30. Karen VanDeVelde says:

    Sad to see him go but looking forward to his next gig

  31. Ali Barsanti says:

    I too faced many medical, personal and financial losses and Craig Ferguson was truly a saving grace ( no pun intended) for me. Allowing those nights to be filled with promised, as well as delivered, laugher when those days were anything but. Thank you Craig. I look forward to what you have in store for us in the future.

  32. Donna Linardo says:

    I as others are just heartsick over the departure of Craig Ferguson. He has become a huge part of our lives and while we appreciate and respect him for his great talent, in the next breath, we are saddened to be without his persona in our lives every weeknight. I speak from my heart and say thank you for all the time you gave us because during this time I had 3 brain surgeries, and looking forward to watching you every night was such fun, and helped me to recover. Laughter is the best medicine, and you sure are Thee Ace, and it just comes naturally. Thank you, and one small request from your friend, Donna Linardo in Las Vegas, You have 8 months to reconsider, and make Jeffrey, Secretariat, and the world Happy Again! It would surely be a”Great Day for AMERICA! !!! ☆☆☆☆☆

    • Michele says:

      I couldn’t have said it any better! Craig, you’ve become an important part of our lives. Making the good days better and the bad days very bearable! I thank you for that! Good luck on your future endevours Sir! We love you! And we will look forward to joining you in your new adventures!

  33. Brett says:

    I’m gonna miss Craig. He was like the tosh.0 of late night.

  34. barbara says:

    I am so sad that Craig Ferguson is leaving. I just love him and all the people on the show. You can tell that everyone on the show cares about each other. It is Michael’s fault isn’t. He is such a racist. your breaking our hearts. good luck to all of you. love

  35. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for the memories, as the saying goes. You brought laughter, compassion, and Appreciation of America. Especially when you say: “Its a good day in America!” I regret your going, I do wish you well on your next adventures! Thank You, and God Bless You.

  36. Jenny says:

    Awwww sad news. I’m late to the party. Only discovered his show a few years ago. Stumbled onto it and it made me laugh. Caught it again and made me laugh. Every time it was on it made me laugh. Till I started staying up just to watch.

    Sigh. I know nothing lasts forever. And I respect Craigs reasons for calling it quits. But still.
    Darn good show as quirky as it is. I’ll be sure to catch every last one until the end. Just as I did when Leno announced he was leaving. I miss that show and will miss this one just as much.

    Take care Craig and all your staff. Thanks for the laughs.

  37. Anne Wrublewski says:

    We will miss him terribly. He is by far and away the best talk show host I have ever seen. But I suppose there is a time for everything.

  38. liz says:

    I am so upset that Craig was not chosen to replace Dave — he’s funnier than Dave and funnier than Colbert — I’M NOT GOING TO WATCH CBS LATE NIGHT ANYMORE!!!!!!

  39. ferris craig says:

    Craig Ferguson is the funniest man in the USA!

  40. Paul Shaefer says:

    Craig is the funniest host since Steve Allen.Those who don’t know will never understand.The wit,the intelligence,the spontaneity – just the greatest.And yes,I have changed the channel and been stung by the annoyed bee,Bing Hitler…

  41. Janet Wood says:

    If Craig says he has been planning to leave for a while then I believe him. Nonetheless, I would have voted him in as Dave’s replacement. He’s brilliant!!

  42. Mary says:

    Who would Craig like to interview that hasn’t ever been on the show ?

    Can we have an auction, all proceeds go to Craig’s charity if choice for the note able favorites on the show???
    This would be a great fundraiser!

  43. Tyler Elliott says:

    Overall Craig Ferguson’s a good guy n’ all but I lost respect for him along with every other late night TV host when a few years ago it came out in the public that David Letterman was having an on-going affair with one of his staffers even though married with a child and only stopped it when someone was trying to blackmail him.. And no one.. absolutely no one made fun of Letterman or the affair! These pompous smug bleeps will viciously attack Presidents (well, Republican ones) and other celebrities for the slightest misstep and yet Letterman got treated with kid-gloves. Ferguson did admit that he wasn’t to attack his boss (Letterman’s production studio owns the Late Late Show) which made him come across as a complete lackey. So for that, I don’t look upon Ferguson and all the others with much professional fondness but wish him the best overall.

    • Place yourself in their shoes and what would you have done? Really, I don’t see that issue as being so severe with all that is at stake and the power wielded by DL. Lack of personal ethics has been a problem for all our Presidents, Demipublican and Republicrat alike.That’s my opinion and I’m a Conservative. Craig has made fun of the Obamacare debacle and that is our current Administration’s biggest flop. I disagree with your statement that Craig doesn’t behave professionally. I think he has done an excellent job straddling that line and remaining funny despite the challenge.

      • Mary says:

        Tyler, you’re incorrect about the timing of Letterman’s dalliance. He was neither married nor had his son, Harry, yet. At the time of the scandal, he was in a long term relationship with Regina Lasko, a writer on the show. It was after the relationship ended that Lasko got pregnant and then Harry was born and they married when he was about five years old. The only reason it made for such big news was that the young woman, Stephanie, in question was an intern for his production company, i.e., World Wide Pants, (of which he owns) and thus it became a sexual harrassment situation. Not to mention, the intern’s boyfriend tried to black mail and extort Letterman and both police and the courts were involved.

  44. Ed says:

    You will be missed…
    I have one query:
    What happened to the smokin’ hot CBS censor?

  45. Betty Diamond says:

    He will be missed by all ages

  46. Suzanne B says:

    I was tired of the formulaic typical talk show and they bored me to tears. I immediately became a fan of Craig’s. So different, so smart, so honest, so clever, so crazy, so fun and the way he dealt with serious subjects was a class act I have never seen before. He is brilliant. I dearly wish he could do daily podcast monologues so I could selfishly have a smile to get me through the day because so many times he is the only one that could crack the shell of darkness and bring in the sunshine. I need to hear “It’s a great day in America” because then I would crawl out of my morose and realize….You know, Craig is right, it is a great day. I needed that reminder. I am going to miss Craig terribly. It’s odd, I have never been broken up about a show ending before but this one is killing me. I had no idea I was so affected by it but the crocodile tears are real. Late night will never be the same. Thank you Craig Ferguson and I wish you all the best in your future adventures.

    • Donna Linardo says:

      Yes, I totally agree with you! He and his fabulous wit and spontaneous fabulousness I looked forward to every night. He helped me recover from my 3 brain surgeries last year. I have seen him live in Las Vegas where I live, and he is just amazing to watch on stage too. I hope that he maybe by the grace of God, reconsiders and maybe a few more years! ! One can only hope! The Ultimate BEST since Johnny Carson! ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

    • Completely agree. The impact of seeing Craig’s show on TV was severe. Then I saw it in person and my preference toward him and his style was cinched forever. Best host since Carson!

  47. George Leddick says:

    I record Craig on DVR every night and could tell he was just going through the motions for several months now. Craig had a show that was intentionally slapdash and impromptu. His lead in, Dave, became the same way unintentionally. Perhaps Craig will tame more dragons with film projects?

  48. Jodee Dalton says:

    Can’t wait to see where he lands next! He is is so quirky and unique! A treasure on late night and possibly a bigger joy on another network!!

    • Mary says:

      I agree. I’ve been watching him from the git-go, back when his accent was so thick you could hardly understand him. Lately, he hasn’t looked content. Appears he’s been phoning it in and often tried to conceal his boredom. But he certainly has been revolutionary for late night TV and I really admire his creativety. No one that creative since Steve Allen in my opinion.

  49. whiteyjd says:

    I believe Ferguson here. I recall reading an interview with him a few years ago where he was questioning at that time how long he would stick with the show, and he said pretty much the same things about leaving it before it stopped being fun, and also saying he had other things he wanted to do.

    I think he’s genuine and it’s a shame because he was relentlessly entertaining and he had wonderfully whimsical interviews with his guests. It didn’t matter who he had on, he would have a fun interview.

  50. Trudy Boyle says:

    Noooooo!!!! Who the hell am I gonna watch now Craig??? You are the BEST…….
    I tell everybody in Australia about you, you are the funniest man on the planet…..we only got your show in 2011 and you have made me laugh so damn hard…will miss you…boo hoo xx

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