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Series / The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

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"It's a great day for America, everybody!"

"Keep banging on
Banging on your drum
Keep banging on
And your day will come
Keep banging on
Banging on your drum
And they will hear you"
— "Bang You Drum" by Dead Man Fall (from the final episode)

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson is an American late-night Talk Show that was hosted by Scottish-American comedian, author and actor Craig Ferguson. The third iteration of The Late Late Show franchise, it aired from 2005 to 2014. It followed The Late Show with David Letterman in the CBS late-night lineup, airing weekdays in the U.S. at 12:35 a.m.

During the late 2004 transition of guest hosts following the departure of previous host Craig Kilborn, Craig Ferguson hosted a series of shows in October and November, culminating in being announced on December 7 as the pick for new host. Since launching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on January 3, 2005, Ferguson achieved the highest ratings since the show's inception in 1995.

Craig was a seemingly unlikely pick at first, since his previous claim to fame was as the prickly Nigel Wick on The Drew Carey Show. Over the next nine years of his tenure, Craig would gradually stand out from the other late-night hosts, using a combination of cheap, low-budget bits and sketches (most famously, his long series of hand puppets, which often opened the show, and one of which hosted the 1000th episode), and ceaseless improvisation. His often self-indulgent style meant that the show had a ton of Running Gags, to the point of making the whole show feel like one big inside joke.

Craig was also notable for a more conversational style of interview than is typical of other talk show hosts, symbolically tearing up his interview cards right before the guest sits down, and preferring to get to know his guests as people rather than simply celebrities promoting a show or movie. Probably the most frequent guests were Kristen Bell — one of Craig's best buds, who for some time semi-seriously lobbied to be Craig's sidekick — David Duchovny — who started as Craig's very first guest, and just kept coming back constantly to bounce his dry wit off Craig's for a while — and Craig's Old Friend, Betty White, who often showed up as an "expert" in a topic of the day (really just an excuse for Craig to be the Straight Man for Betty in a comedy skit).

While comedy was emphasized in the majority of the episodes, Ferguson also addressed difficult subject matters, such as the deaths of his parents, his struggles with alcoholism, and commentating on national tragedies; and undertook serious interviews, such as one with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which earned the show a 2009 Peabody Award. Craig didn't initially have a sidekick, until comedian and voice actor Josh Robert Thompson joined the show in 2010, as the voice of Geoff Peterson - a robot skeleton, designed by no less than Grant Imahara, as a parody of the typical late night sidekicks. Geoff Peterson would be joined by pantomime horse "Secretariat" - also a parody, this time of the biopic of the real article - and they would be Craig's sidekicks until the show's finale.

On April 28, 2014, Ferguson announced that he was ending the show at the end of the year. The last episode aired on December 19, 2014. Afterwards, Late Late Show began a series of episodes with guest hosts; new permanent host James Corden began his iteration of the franchise on March 23, 2015.

Tropes associated with The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson include:

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  • Achievements in Ignorance: Craig only only had a passing interest in late night talk shows but took on the show because he was getting divorced and needed a steady job (and one that stayed local). This attitude and his natural charisma gave the show a fresh "anything can happen" that emulated (often surpassing) Letterman at his best. He ended the show despite the immense success because he was never really invested in the format to begin with.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: According to the Grand Finale the entire 10 year run was actually just one of these experienced by Nigel Wick.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism:
  • All Just a Dream: At the end of the series in December 2014, on the segment "What Did We Learn On The Show In The Past 10 Years, Craig?", Craig and Geoff ask Secretariat's operator to take off the costume. He is revealed to be Bob Newhart who tells Craig he's dreaming. Nigel Wick then wakes up in bed next to a still-fat Drew Carey, announcing that he's had a terrible dream where he had to host a late night talk show with a robot skeleton and a fake horse for ten years, and even worse, Drew had gotten skinny. Drew says to Wick that he was just dreaming and to go back to sleep. Wick groggily mumbles, "Good night, Geoff," and falls asleep. The camera zooms into a snow globe on the bedside table with Geoff, Craig and Secretariat.
  • The Announcer: Unlike the previous runs of the show, Ferguson has some bits announced by Shadoe Stevens.
  • April Fools' Day: For 2014, Drew Carey and George Gray switched places with Craig and Geoff; Craig would host The Price Is Right the following morning, with his announcer Shadoe Stevens replacing George Gray, and Geoff/Secretariat being prize models. For Drew, it fulfilled a prophecy from a previous April Fools' day episode where Drew was introduced during the opening as host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
  • Audience Participation: The show's cold open frequently involves selected members of the audience standing facing the camera. Craig circles them while questioning them, initially in the manner of an aggressive trial lawyer.
  • Author Avatar: Craig often uses the puppets as an outlet for thoughts and opinions that he might get in trouble for expressing in person. Sid the Cussing Bunny especially has become a thinly-disguised alter-ego who even has some of the same vocal and physical mannerisms. Sid had a memorable rant about the CBS censors in which he amusingly kept slipping into first-person:
    Sid: And I was like "well 'ow come Geoff Peterson can do it but I can't do--I mean, Craig Ferguson can't do it?"
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: "You've got A and B. One is (list of insulting characteristics that sound like they describe A), and the other one is A." Craig is the king of this trope, able to pull it off episodely without even trying.
    • Subverted once, when on his wedding anniversary (and Joseph Stalin's birthday) he started comparing his wife to Stalin, and then he caught himself and stopped.
    • Subverted on the shared birthday of Elvis Presley and David Bowie "Elvis and David Bowie are very different though, one of them was a music legend who was whacked out on drugs and wore sparkly jumpsuits... Actually, they are pretty similar if you think about it."
  • Beat: Craig enjoys ending his monologue and guest interviews with an awkward pause.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Since Craig's show was owned by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Incorporated production company, that meant he answered to Letterman more than CBS, and thus Craig had a little leverage to get away with a shot at CBS here and there. Craig, late night's patron saint of "no fucks given," took full advantage, and regularly made a mockery of their censorship rules and viewership.
  • Blatant Lies: Craig likes to use these in his comedy. "My next guest appears on the show Doctor Who. I've never seen it." Also, when his Doctor Who cold open, that he was forbidden to use, was leaked to the internet: "He was horrified."
  • Brick Joke: The show has this in spades, with jokes from one night creeping into the next.
  • Broadcast Live:
    • Not. But Craig often jokingly implies that it is. (This may also be allusion to when Tom Synder hosted the show, when it was broadcast live on the East Coast. Notably, a picture of Synder is on the mantle above the fake fireplace on his set.)
      Craig: And I'll be watching the American Idol final tonight...or I already did because we're live. Congratulations, [covers mouth with hand and in a slightly deeper voice] winner!
    • In early 2011, a change was made so that the opening segment of the show as the viewers see it is taped following the monologue. Sometimes this leads to a skip in continuity, where A) something that happens in the opening segment isn't referred to at all during the monologue but then is brought up again during the "Check the Tweets" segment or B) something the home viewers haven't seen happen yet is brought up in the opening segment.
    • Both Craig and Geoff will often make jokes about Ferguson's clothing, in that it was worn (or will be worn) on another day's show, most often at the end of the week as Thursday's and Friday's shows were usually taped together, with the same audience. This carried through even up to the last episode of the show.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The professional warm-up comedian, the producer, and Aqualad.
    • After he crashed Craig's car, the production assistant, Bridger, was cemented as this. And he was already picked on a lot before - having Secretariat crash into him while he's carrying ming vases, for example, and thrown into the field as a reporter despite Bridger obviously being a Nervous Wreck who's clearly unsuited for that job.
  • Call-Back: During the final episode's celebrity-filled music number, Matthew McConaughey is playing bongos as his drum of choice; referencing his interview with Craig where they joked about if he "still played the bongos" (a reference to a drug-induced arrest where he was playing the bongos).
  • Camera Abuse: Craig slaps the side of the camera after coming out for his monologue. Only twice (May 8, 2009 and March 7, 2011) has it backfired, with the former causing a piece of glass to fall out, shattering on the floor. And then Craig grabbed the broom and cleaned it up himself while continuing to do his monologue.
    Craig: That was AWESOME!
  • Captain Ersatz: When Craig discovered that the French talk show Ce Soir Avec Arthur had plagiarized his intro, he ended up inviting its host Arthur to appear as a guest (and even made an appearance to deliver the monologue on "his" show, much to Craig's dismay). The two seem to be friends now, as seen by their trip to Paris.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "It's a great day for America, everybody!" (used to start off his monologue most every night; for a time, he approached the phrase in an impersonation of Walter Cronkite)
    • An incredulous, half-whispered "I knooow!" after sharing an unusual news item with the audience.
    • "You too, ladies."
    • "I look forward to your letters."
    • "Eyes up here, mister!"
    • "By the way, _____ was the name I used to dance under." Usually followed by "Ladies and gentlemen, _____!" and him singing "Black Velvet!"
    • The vacuum with "the proper amount of suction".
    • "CBS in no way endorses [whatever remotely objectionable thing he just said]."
    • "CBS Cares." "They do, just not about you..."
    • "REMIND you of anyone...?"
    • "It's kind of a papery blog." (after mentioning a newspaper, magazine, or book)
    • "A lot of people say to me, 'Craig, put your pants on!' And I do."
    • "You're welcome stoners!"
    • While pointing at the bird icon on a Check the Tweets printout, "[name] is actually a [bird/goose/duck/etc.]"
    • "What do the ladies say when Craig and Geoff walk in the club? 'Here come the players! (They're so fine...)'"
    • (bows to Secretariat) "The horse is learning Japanese, I'm being supportive."
    • And for Geoff Peterson:
      • "You're...all...that!"
      • "Loooooove it!"
      • "Naaaailed it!"
      • "IN YOUR PANTS!"
      • "Balls."
      • "Seeex partyyyy!"
      • "Is that code?"
      • (when confused) ".....the hell??"
      • Lately, after Craig says something sexual, "There goes my penis!"
      • "I bid you adieu!" (turns his head sideways)
      • Careful Icarus...
    • For the puppets:
    • Animated bits:
      • The Check the Tweets animations always include the phrase "Ass Möde".
      • "What did we learn on the show tonight, Craig?"
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Geoff Peterson started off with a high pitched, robotic, Cary Grant-ish voice. Later, he received an "upgrade" and became the wisecracking effeminate robot with a low voice we know today. Beginning in late May 2011, Geoff is usually voiced live by Josh Robert Thompson instead of the original canned tidbits.
    • When Thompson was out of the country for two weeks in November 2011, several celebrities filled in as Geoff's voice. One of them, Tom Lennon, created a whole new character for the robot - Khloe Banderas, Antonio's lesser-known sibling. Lennon/"Khloe" filled in for Thompson a few times afterward.
  • Chick Magnet: Craig has become pretty notorious for being able to charm almost any high-profile actress he interviews on the show, to the point that there are multiple "Craig Ferguson and the Ladies" compilations on Youtube of flirting between him and his guests.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Sid was prone to this, most memorably in a cold open for one of the Paris shows where he vented his frustration over people walking dogs on the Champ de Mars and French restaurants serving rabbit meat.
  • Crossover: The "cold open" to an episode featuring the cast of The Big Bang Theory as guests featured Craig applying to be a roommate in the show. He fails.
    • When Craig Ferguson guest-hosted The Price Is Right for April Fools Day 2014, Shadoe Stevens was the announcer, while Secretariat and Geoff note  were the "models".
  • Cute Kitten:
    • The closing segment of each show, "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?" ("¿Qué aprendimos en el programa, Señor Craig?" or "Qu'est-ce que nous avons apris ce soir, Craig?") is introduced by a graphic of a kitten.
    • Also Nadine (voiced by Lauren Graham), Wavy Rancheros' girlfriend.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Sid the Cussing Bunny.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Craig loves to make jokes painting himself as this.
  • Determinator: This show had the only two major television appearances of Wendy Booker, who is a remarkable example of this trope. She's a self-described "adventurer," author, speaker and advocate, who has climbed some of the highest mountains on Earth (including McKinley and Kilimanjaro), had ran several marathons by the time she appeared on the show (and would do two more after), and, at the time of her first interview, was preparing to dogsled through the North Pole. She'd already qualify for this trope, but then add the fact that Booker does all this with multiple sclerosis, and you can see why Craig is lighter on the silliness than usual, just out of sheer awe of this woman's accomplishments.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Poor Alex Kingston. Had she simply said "Yes, I like rabbits", no one would've been the wiser. Instead, she spends five minutes trying to change the subject while Craig's trying to figure out what "rabbit" she's talking about.
  • Dirty Mind-Reading: Speaking of rabbits, Sid claims to be capable of this.
    You dirty bastards.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The "Check the Tweets"note  sequence.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Geoff irritated Russell Brand so much that he first poured his glass of water on him, and then proceeded to smack him in the head so hard that the top of his skull came off.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Craig both co-wrote and sung the theme tune. Later seasons have shown him performing the song in a musical sequence at the start; for the Paris episodes, he performed a special version.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Often used for bonus humor, ex. right after a Hurricane of Euphemisms, "Look, I'm talkin' about masturbation!"
  • Double Entendre: By the truckload.
    Geoff: Is that code?

  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Geoff's voice used to be VERY different from what people are now used to.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: Craig and Geoff made more and more jokes about the impending end as they approach it, complete with a "Just a few more weeks of this crap!" jingle.
    Geoff: You're watching the very last Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson; now Grandma can finally get some sleep!
  • Evolving Credits: In 2013 a revised opening sequence debuted that replaced shots of Craig and his hand puppets (who hadn't been featured on the show in a while) with shots of Geoff Peterson and Secretariat.
  • Fan Boy: Ferguson is known to be a Doctor Who fan, who keeps a TARDIS on his desk and once had a Dalek stand next to the entrance to the set for a week. Ferguson is credited with being the first major-network talk show host to feature then-current cast members of Doctor Who on his show, with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Alex Kingston all having made multiple appearances. The show has also run a segment shot at a Doctor Who convention.
  • Fly Crazy: During the tweets segment Craig gets constantly pestered by a fly that sounds like Jay Leno (and sometimes one that sounds like Jimmy Fallon).
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • For his 1,000th episode, Craig stayed off-camera and performed the whole show (including opening monologue, guest interviews, etc.) as Wavy.
    • In the episode from February 24, 2010, Craig did a show without the usual Studio Audience or comedy bits, and featuring only one guest (Stephen Fry) where they discussed a number of subjects including Technology, Language, and the different cultural attitudes between Britain and America. As Craig explained in the opening, it was intended as a sort of homage to Tom Snyder.
    • Occasionally, shows will feature one guest. In 2013 alone, both Stephen Fry and Robin Williams were the only guest. Considering the guests involved, this seems less of an error or due to a 2nd guest not showing up, but more by design. The Stephen Fry appearance in particular, as it was taped well in advance of its airdate.
  • Freudian Slip: "Tonight I might say sexy words penis. I could even boobies by accident. Oh, my vagina!"
  • Fun with Acronyms: One of the games Craig and Geoff like to play is making up meanings for CBS.note 
  • Grand Finale: Among other things, we got an epic musical cold open, Craig randomly deciding to introduce a new character, Pipey McPiperson, and Jay Leno as the final guest. The ending? Well, it started off as a normal "What Did We Learn on the Show Over the Last 10 Years, Craig?", where he decided that it was about time to resolve the show's greatest mystery: just who is in the Secretariat costume? It's Bob Newhart?! Apparently the whole show was All Just a Dream by Nigel Wick, who wakes up in bed with Drew Carey, who he accidentally offends by mentioning the Drew in his dream had lost weight, looked well, and became a game show host. Cue the final shot of a snow globe with a miniature version of the show's set in it and a Sopranos-style Smash to Black with "Don't Stop Believin'" getting cut off.
  • Gratuitous French: The 2011 week in Paris, which among other things re-titled the show "Le Late Late Show avec Craig Ferguson a Paris" (which, by the way, should've really been "Le Spectacle Plus-Plus Tard avec Craig Ferguson")
  • Gratuitous German:
    • "FlügenWeb, Späcecode, Twit Zöne, Ass Möde...Check ze Tweets..."note 
    • Whenever Craig reads a Tweet or e-mail from a person living in a German-speaking country, he insists on reading it in a faux German accent.
    • A running gag through the 2013 season had Ferguson ringing a concierge's bell to force he and Geoff into speaking into different accents. On the first ring [in faux German accent]: "One ring, we speak German. Two rings -" the the second ring: [a pause, then still in the faux German accent] "Still German."
  • Gratuitous Spanish: "Craig's Spanish Word of the Day". His goal was to do the final show of 2010 entirely in Spanish, until he realized learning Spanish is...well, hard. The segments were subsequently replaced by such features as "Gardening Tips with Willie Nelson", "Style Tips with Tim Gunn", and "Summer Livin' with Sean Connery".
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Frequently and jokingly inverted by Ferguson.
  • Happy Dance: "Who's that at the door?? It's Secretariat!!!" Secretariat, everyone's favorite pantomime horse, first showed up on the show on October 11, 2010, and just kept appearing night after night, at Craig's whimsy. Craig would celebrate Secretariat's brief appearance - Secretariat would simply bounce into the studio, then turn around and bounce right back out again - with a happy dance to Secretariat's Leitmotif. For those who haven't seen it, it's basically Craig pumping his fists in the air back and forth, which gradually became more... flail-y. Instead of the bit getting tired, the fanbase got into it, and soon enough the entire audience was doing Craig's dance with him every time Secretariat showed up. They eventually cooled off on the bit once they moved into the new studio and Secretariat became a full-time sidekick, but they did one more for the road on Craig's last show.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: "You know who else doesn't like ________? Al-Qaeda!"
  • Hot Librarian: Back in June 2007, Craig had an ongoing bit where he asked U.S. mayors and state governors to declare him an "honorary citizen" of their town or state. On June 22, he aired a pre-recorded video response from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (this was before she was famous), who granted Craig's request while enthusiastically promoting everything her state had to offer. Craig's first thought?
    Craig: Is it just me, or do you get a kind of naughty librarian vibe from the Governor?
    • Once the 2008 election rolled around, he referred to her as "governor by day, naughty librarian by night."
    • Beth, the CBS Censor, sports attractive glasses and rather tight business attire. Presumably this was accidental on her part.
  • Human Resources: Played for Laughs. Canadian Bacon is made FROM PEOPLE!
  • Improv:
    • A lot of the moments on the show are not scripted, and as such, it's common to see Craig (or even Geoff's voice actor) crack up laughing at something that was done or said, to the point sometimes where Craig can't continue with the skit.
    • Craig has also done a few serious and unscripted monologues (many times at the opening of the show) when events in the news have bothered him, or when someone in his family passed away. Sadly, these cold opens have occurred more and more often, as in after the Newtown massacre, the Boston Marathon bombing, and when his friend Michael Clarke Duncan passed away. Usually, he'll also forgo the "It's a great day for America" tag in the opening monologue as well, if he even decides to tape an monologue at all.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's not a harmonica, it's a mouth organ!
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: Discussed many times in-universe. Craig is of the opinion that it's better to have mediocre ratings as then the network doesn't pay attention to you (unlike a show that's Adored by the Network), thus averting Executive Meddling.
  • It Was His Sled: invoked Not directly used, but definitely talked about during one of his email sessions.
    "Are you ready, film students??? It Was His Sled! Hahaha! Now you don't have to sit through THREE HOURS!"
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
    • Craig often invites guests with whom he used to run around with in his pre-sobriety days. And he doesn't tend to shy away from talking about having a crush on a guest in his younger days (like when interviewed author Helen Fielding) or inferring having a relationship with a guest before he was married, like he seemed to when interviewing actress Olivia Williams, with whom he co-starred with in the 2000 film Born Romantic.
    • British comedienne Hattie Hayridge appeared in a guest slot, when she turned up in the studio audience and was spotted by Craig, who then invited her onto the show. As Ferguson was a fixture of the stand-up circuit in the UK before he decided to pursue acting in the US, he obviously knows many British comedic actors from those days. Hayridge is probably best known to US audiences as the second Holly on Red Dwarf, on which Craig once had a guest role (he actually appeared on the show a few years before Hayridge joined the cast).
    • Some actors like Kristen Bell, Angela Kinsey, Adam Goldberg, and Rashida Jones have been on the show so often, he seems to treat them more as friends than as guests, often having them on the show without having something to promote.
    • Bell, Jones, and Kinsey were all guests during the final two weeks of the show, and appeared during the finale's musical open.
    • Ferguson's love of Doctor Who converged with this trope when his friend and former bandmate Peter Capaldi started his role as the Twelfth Doctor in 2014. Unfortunately, he didn't get to have Capaldi back on the show since he began the role before it ended, but he did have him on as a guest in 2009.
    • Quite a number Craig’s guests were either already friends of his or became a friend of his during the time he hosted the show. These guests include Kristen Bell, Stephen Fry, Rashida Jones, Gerard Butler, Mila Kunis, Matt Smith, Sophia Bush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Lauren Graham, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Brie Larson, Peter Capaldi, Sarah Chalke, and Ewan McGregor.
    • Gerard Butler who co-starred with Craig in How to Train Your Dragon trilogy and The Ugly Truth was a guest on the show several times.
    • Craig previously was fairly well known for working with Drew Carey on the The Drew Carey Show, Drew would frequently be a guest and even hosted the show for April fools.
    • Craig’s The Hero of Color City co-stars Christina Ricci, Wayne Brady and Rosie Perez were guests on the show.
    • Kelly Macdonald who starred in Brave with Ferguson appeared on the show the same night as the film’s premiere, Craig also has his fellow Winnie the Pooh (2011) cast members Zooey Deschanel and Jim Cummings on the same episode to promote the film.
  • Large Ham: Craig himself, particularly when he plays Aquaman.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Till it collapsed. Craig spent extraordinary amounts of time making jokes about the show's utter absurdity and lack of budget, as if Craig himself was some great cosmic joke on the entire talk show genre.
  • Loophole Abuse: Craig shows us a very suggestive picture of a haggis. He's been told he can only show the picture he leaves it up for about thirty seconds.
  • Market-Based Title: In-universe, Craig occasionally jokes that in Japan, the show is re-named Super Happy Fun Time Hour with Robot and Old Man.
  • Mayan Doomsday: The Mayan Apocalypse spectacular episode, where Craig and Geoff swapped logs and enjoyed the "Simple Pleasures Of Daffy Dook".
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Craig's bondage boy Chris. "Apparently, Chris has what the kids call 'pecs'."
    • Craig himself.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Beth the (fake) CBS censor, played by actress Dana DeLorenzo, during a brief tenure on the show.
    • He'll occasionally have a pair of his female makeup artists, who are both very attractive and usually are in very flattering costumes, come out and dance, usually before the introduction of the second guest.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Geoff tells many mutually-exclusive stories about how he died and became skeletal. For example, on the 7th Anniversary episode, Craig showed a fake clip of his very first monologue, which retconned Geoff as his original flesh-and-blood sidekick (with a strong resemblance to Josh Robert Thompson) who went on an ill-fated skydiving trip.

  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Geoff aside, there was also a sketch where Craig pitched Ghost Chimp M.D. to a very familiar-looking CBS executive.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Geoff Peterson's current voice bears a striking resemblance to that of George Takei. Indeed, his voice actor (Josh Robert Thompson) describes Geoff as "one part Snagglepuss, one part Vincent Price, and two parts George Takei".
  • Non-Human Sidekick:
    • His variety of Hand Puppets, including (but not limited to) an Unicorn, a dinosaur, a penguin, Kronos (King of the Monkey People), Brian the Shark, Agatha the Chicken, Wavy Rancheros the Waving Crocodile, Connery the Bull, the Swine Flu Comedy Pig, a sheepdog, a camel, a ball on a stick, Skully the flaming Ghost Rider skull on a stick, an owl that doesn't have a mouth, Sid the Cussing Bunny, Storm Trousers the Fourth from the Planet Thunderpants (one of the "People of Earth" intros), and himself.
    • According to his fans, Betty White and Mahmoud Ahmadinnerjacket (the President of Iran) are puppets as well.
    • Geoff Peterson, thanks to Grant Imahara. "Ha!...Ha!...Ha!...You'!"
    • There is also an (un)explainable giraffe puppet. "Don't you hate it when you explain your giraffe by accident?"
    • The new set has a talking rhino head above the fireplace named Sandra.
    • And don't forget about Secretariat too!
  • Oh, Crap!: Geoff Peterson has one with "Uh...oh!"
  • Pantomime Animal: "Who's that at the door? IT'S SECRETARIAT!" (Participants in the Secretariat Dance receive "Team Secretariat" t-shirts.) As of the last set, Secretariat has his own stable and window on the right end of the set; Craig personally feels his presence is a little creepy.
  • Patchwork Map:
  • Precious Puppies: The time that Craig brought his French bulldog, Cabbage, on the show (April 13, 2009). He actually seemed pretty dismayed at the audience's reaction.
    Craig: Why did you laugh when the dog came on, and then when I came on, you went "Awwww...."?
  • Priceless Ming Vase: A bunch of Ming vases were supposedly loaned to Craig from the Getty Museum for the first show of 2011, and destroyed by Secretariat during the Tweetmail segment.
  • Quietly Performing Sister Show: Not just to The Late Show with David Letterman but late night talk shows in general. While Craig Ferguson built a devoted fanbase, received critical acclaim and performed adequately in the ratings, CBS didn't seem to go out of their way to publicize his show very muchnote  and his presence on a regular broadcast network didn't give him the trendy cred he might have gotten on cable. His Grand Finale got a fair amount of media coverage, but a lot of the stories started off with some variation on "The Colbert Report isn't the only late night show signing off this week."
  • Rearrange the Song: Not long after it was introduced, the theme song was re-done a little and had a line added ("You can always sleep through work tomorrow").
  • Recurring Character: The puppets ‘Wavy’ the Crocodile and ‘Sid’ the Rabbit.
    • Craig also gained ‘Gay Robot Skeleton’ sidekick “Geoff Peterson” voiced by Josh Robert Thompson and “Secretariat” the Horse.
  • Refuge in Audacity: A lot of Craig's tweaking of "the censors" ended up here. For example, in one segment featuring a rather suggestive picture of a haggis, Standards and Practices supposedly decided that he could only show the picture once. He left it on-screen for about thirty seconds, commentating the entire time.
    Keep looking at it!
    • When the host of Ce Soir Avec Arthur, the French late-night show with a suspiciously similar opening sequence, came in for an interview, he insisted that his show did not "plagiarise" The Late Late Show, but was an "homage" to it. Craig (jokingly) called him out for the flattery, but ultimately things seem to have turned out amicably.
  • Replacement Flat Character: Craig has said on the air more than once that the purpose of having Geoff Peterson on the show is to make him seem less creepy and weird by comparison, even invoking original Trope Namer Niles Crane as a precedent.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played with; Wavy Rancheros is pretty friendly and likes to wave, but rarely gets through a segment without talking about eating someone.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Geoff, since Josh started doing his voice.
  • The Rival:
    • Ferguson sometimes jokingly alludes to the competition with his counterparts at ABC (Jimmy Kimmel) and NBC (Jimmy Fallon, and before that Conan O'Brien), and occasionally interacts with them by proxy. Ferguson and Fallon have waved at each other with giant Mickey Mouse hands, and once sent each other Christmas gifts (a pair of kittens for Jimmy, a garish Christmas sweater for Craig) and displayed them on their respective shows.
    • Craig often self-mockingly refers to himself as "the Scottish Conan guy".
    • Whenever Kristen Bell is on the show, the "rivalry" between her and Geoff Peterson is renewed. She blames him for stealing her chance at being co-host, and the two have no problem hurling insults at each other whenever she's a guest.note 
  • Robot Buddy: Geoff is thorough aversion of this, since he's not very functional (he can only move his head and arms) and he frequently mocks and bickers with Craig.
  • Running Gag: Constantly.
    • Asking for a picture of Paul McCartney and receiving one of Angela Lansbury. And this is a gag that exists because of spite!
      • Early on, The Los Angeles Times newspaper gave the show a terrible review, quoting “and he continually shows a picture of Angela Langsbury instead of Paul McCartney without any apparent irony.”
      Craig: So I've been showing the picture at least once a week ever since. In your face, now a website.
    • Whenever Craig asks for a picture of Cher, he gets one of Marilyn Manson.
    • Whenever Craig asks for a picture of Kim Jong Il, "That is one angry lesbian."
    • Whenever he mentions a network besides CBS he spits, but if said network airs the show of a guest he adds "but the show's good!"
    • Commenting on the nature of the audience's applause at the beginning of almost every show, usually about how it was coerced out of them by a warm-up comedian with candy.
    • Insisting that the show is done live when it quite obviously is not.
    • Secretariat running into the studio to a happy Leitmotif, and Craig doing a Happy Dance to it, was this for a while, although in true Craig fashion he added that he won't stop it until people stop sending him tweets telling him to stop it. Secretariat eventually became so synonymous with the show that he became a full sidekick.
    • Craig and his ferrets. Occasionally, the camera will linger on the photograph for far too long.
    • Craig asking Geoff if he's ever visited a random location, and Geoff responding that he has a place there, note  and Craig should come by sometime.
    • Early in the show's run, Craig would make repeated jokes about Bob Barker being a vampire.
    • When he mentions Elton John, he shows a picture of Elton from 1980's concert in Central Park, wearing the infamous Donald Duck costume.
    • Craig brings up "Fashion!!!" and a few seconds of generic dance music plays. It sounds suspiciously like "Get Ready For This" by 2 Unlimited.
    • The cartoonish graphics on the monologue, usually celebrating incredibly trivial holidays. Each one explodes after a few seconds for no reason.
    • Jerry from Room Service, who calls Craig instead of the other way around. Started out as a skit which followed from another running gag about ringing a bell (One bell, speak German; two bells, still German; three bells, Dracula; four bells, Italian Bill Clinton; five bells, room service).
    • Alfredo Sauce and the Shy Fellas, a house band that is too shy to come out from behind the curtain.
    • Craig inviting an expert on a topic of the day as a surprise guest, and inevitably the expert is just Betty White making a cameo. A running gag within this running gag is that Betty's only involved in this field because she "needed some cash; she lost it on (insert any incident here)".
    • Michael Naidus is a racist. Explanation 
    • It had been a long-standing running gag that what Craig really wanted out of life was a secret volcano base with an army of robot skeletons (one of the Tweets & Emails animated intros still shows a volcano with an army of Terminators.) Robot Master Grant Imhara of MythBusters (a show Craig had repeatedly said he was a fan of) then contacted him and offered to actually build him a robot skeleton. Geoff Peterson is the result.
    • Whenever a show or movie is mentioned - in particular Game of Thrones - a musical snippet vaguely similar to (or nothing like) that work's theme is played because they couldn't afford the real thing. In Game of Thrones' case, a generic medieval theme is played.
    • References to the warm-up comedian usually begin with this: "We call him a comedian... he's not really a comedian."
    • All the endings to interviews, from mouth organs, to quiz questions, to awkward silences.

  • Self-Deprecation: Craig employs this a lot, with regard to himself as well as the show in general.
  • Shameless Self-Promotion:
    • "You know, Clash of the Titans comes out this weekend...but will you learn anything from it? Why don't you watch something you can learn something to Train Your Dragon? ...Alright, I'm in it!"
    • Did it again when the sequel came out, lauding it as "the greatest movie in the history of movies". Jay Baruchel, the guest in question, admitted their opinion might perhaps be a little skewed on the matter.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Craig's anchorman schtick for "It's a great day for America, everybody" had him adjusting a dial which would briefly switch to Tijuana Taxi, then make a series of beeps before proceeding to deliver the "news" in a voice that usually was an impression of Walter Cronkite.note 
    • Craig ran side-by-side his intro and the intro of a French talk show that's copied it. The host sings, plays drums, and ends up in a water fountain...same as Craig does. The logo even uses the same font as the Late Late Show graphic. The only difference is that the French show's intro didn't have any hand puppets and was shot from different angles.
    • Geoff Peterson wears a nametag from The Price Is Right.
    • Josh Robert Thompson as Morgan Freeman: "Get busy watchin', or get busy sleepin'!"
  • Signature Transition: Craig would always end his opening monologue by smacking the side of the camera as they cut to commercial.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Sid the Cussing Bunny.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Geoff and Kristen Bell become these to each other when Kristen gets passed over to become Craig's sidekick in favor of Geoff (obviously not in reality). Starts off as an absurdist gag when Geoff is just an inanimate puppet, but once Josh Robert Thompson begins voicing him, Kristen's appearances invariably devolved into Snark-to-Snark Combat between the two.
  • Show Within a Show: Bone Patrol with GP and the Fergs.
  • Shrinking Violet: Amanda Seyfried proved to be very timid and awkward in her one interview on the show, not helped by the fact that she was completely caught off-guard by Craig's more personal interview style and bizarre sense of humor. It's mostly thanks to Craig's kindness and wit that the interview comes off as well as it does.
  • SkeleBot 9000: Geoff Peterson is, well, a skeleton robot.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: During the the teaser and the monologue, the censors pixelate Craig's mouth and mute the audio when he swears. When one of the puppets swears (i.e., Sid or Wavy Rancheros), there's a beep and sometimes pixelation over their mouths. During other segments of of the show, the censors place CG flags of other nations over the mouths of Craig, Geoff and the guests, accompanied by sped-up audio of Craig saying a phrase supposedly associated with that country, such as:
  • Spoof Aesop: What did we learn on the show tonight, Craig?
  • Straight Gay: Geoff, at first, but then became bi - or as Geoff puts it, ac/dc.
  • Studio Audience: That's Completely Genuine In Their Applause Which Is Not At All Prompted By A Warm-Up Comedian.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The graphics during the occasional "theme week". Hell, just about ANY graphic he calls for explodes at the end. NOTABLY averted during "Nobel Prize Week", where the graphic simply rose up to a small trumpet fanfare, then lowered back down without incendiary incident.
  • Stylistic Suck: If Secretariat were two people in a costume, and not an actual horse, he'd be this. "The Rather Late Programme" and most of the green-screen sketches also fall under here. Craig likes to use it as an excuse for Biting-the-Hand Humor, blaming his bosses for the show's low budget.
    • Averted with Geoff Peterson, most of the hand puppets, and the occasional musical opening.
  • Take That!: Against CBS, Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, himself ("Take that... me.") — actually, pretty much anything and everything. He even does them against people he likes. "Take that... man who's been nothing but nice to me!"
  • Take That, Audience!: Craig sometimes mocks the studio audience as a bunch of drowsy, toothless seniors who still lament the cancellation of Matlock and Murder, She Wrote; "paid hobos"; or full of people who were turned down to get into The Price Is Right. (His sidekick Geoff Petersen even wears a name tag taken from the game show).
  • The Teaser: The show opens with one of these every night. Sometimes takes the form of a mini-monologue from Craig, sometimes it's a backstage sketch with that night's guest, sometimes it's an all-singing, all-dancing musical lip-sync number.
  • Theme Tune Extended:
    • A fully recorded studio version can be found here.
    • For the closing credits of the last episode of Scotland week, The Imagineers (the Glasgow band who was the musical guest for all five shows) performed the full version of the theme.
  • Throwing Out the Script: Symbolising his free-wheeling interviewing style, Craig begins every interview by tearing up a set of palm cards that presumably contains his notes for the interview. Sometimes he says "We won't be needing these" for good measure.
  • Title Theme Tune: All together now...
    It's hard to stay up, it's been a long long day, and you got the sandman at your door
    But hang on, leave the TV on, and let's do it anyway! It's okay!
    Tomorrow's just your future yesterday!
  • Troll: Craig often taunts Geoff's inability to move more than 12 feet from an outlet, move his left arm or play the harmonica.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Played straight with many of the show's female guests. Some of the men, too. Especially if the guest opts for an awkward pause with sexual subtext to close out the interview.
    • Especially with Kristen Bell, who has such great chemistry with Ferguson she has appeared more times than any other guest and at one point lobbied to be hired as a full-time co-host (see above for who she accuses of "stealing" the spot from her). During a series of episodes shot in Paris, she did in fact serve in a co-host capacity, and the UST is referenced when the two actually have a "moment" (played for laughs) during one on-location sequence. In reality, the two are happily involved in other relationships; they just carry on as if they're involved. In her final appearance they had more of a brother-sister vibe, mainly due to Kristen being nine months pregnant.
    • He and James McAvoy created a Vortex of Scottish Charm.
  • Vacation Episode: A week in Paris in 2011, a week in Scotland in 2012 and a special episode in New Orleans that aired after the Super Bowl in 2013.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Craig and Geoff Peterson often give off this vibe, made a bit surreal by the fact that one of them is a robot skeleton.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: One sketch was about Craig and Geoff going to Las Vegas to celebrate Geoff's birthday with guests like MythBusters' Grant Imahara, who originally made Geoff, and Morgan Freeman doing Secretariat's voice for lord knows what reason. It all builds up to Craig and Geoff getting married, much to their (or at least Craig's) surprise.
  • Walking the Earth: Craig's plan once the show ends. Drew Carey compares this to Jack Reacher, but only in the books because he doesn't like the movie.
  • Weasel Mascot: Craig and his ferrets. Occasionally, the camera will linger on the photograph for far too long.
  • We Care: Craig likes to mock the ones his network does — "CBS Cares."
    Craig: In fact, that's what CBS stands for — Cares...'Bout...Stuff.