American On Purpose (CBR4 #29)

Let’s start my summer comedy tour! Wherein comedians tell us about their vices and demons and make us laugh.


I should start out by saying that I am a ridiculously devoted fan of the slightly creepy but undeniably lovable Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show. I record his show nightly because I can’t stay up for the entirety of it and I really want to watch them, so I view them the next night when I get home from work. I find this a lovely way to unwind from the stresses of my job and commute.

In his memoir, American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot Ferguson delves into his childhood and family in Scotland, his incomplete education, adventures in punk rock/bartending/comedy/acting, alcoholism, failed marriages, emigration to the United States, and choice to become an American citizen and what he means to who he is and what his ancestry means to him. Needless to say, he covers a lot of ground.

Avid fans of his show (c’mon, there’s more than just me) will be familiar with a lot of the material covered in this book from 2009. Some of the topics at hand – his year living in New York, his decade of active alcoholism are common enough talking points on the show. Many of the memories shared in this book would’ve been brand new if I hadn’t watched his shows from Scotland where he covered even more of his personal history. By which of course I mean the psychotic killer ducks of  Kelvingrove Park.

What I appreciate about Craig the show host is what I appreciate about Craig the author. He is unflinchingly honest. This is perhaps clearest in the portions of the book where he is recounting the end of his first two marriages, his alcoholism, and less than stellar foray into movies in the early 2000s. He claims guilt and responsibility for his actions, explains how things worked for him, doesn’t shy away from the dirty details, and in certain instances points out when others have screwed the pooch.

The only real complaint I have about the book is that 268 pages long is broken up into 45 chapters. What this does to the narrative is make it choppy. Much like that last sentence. To a certain extent the format of the book is like reading several monologues. This is not always a bad thing, but sometimes the chapter ended and all I could think of was: ‘well then what?’

This is an honest, at times very funny story of a man working his way through himself and pulling back the curtain to let us common folk have a view and find ways to complete what we’ve gone through ourselves.