"I never wanted to be a late-night host," says the 52-year-old comedian
Craig Ferguson will host his final Late Late Show on Friday, wrapping up a stellar decade-long run.
Ahead of the big night, PEOPLE spoke to the 52-year-old Scot about why he was ready to walk away from the franchise and how he changed the late-night genre.
When did you know it was time to leave late night?
“I knew when I signed my contract the last time, that was it. It began to feel repetitive. I will have done more than 2,000 shows by the time I’m done. That’s a lot of shows. It’s time for a change. I don’t know what’s next, really, and that feels better. That kind of uncertainty feels quite refreshing after 10 years.”
Are you leaving because you didn’t get The Late Show?
“I didn’t want it. I know it is very hard to get people to believe it. I never wanted to be a late-night host. I did it because it was fun and entertaining and engaging. I think I got pretty good at it, but it’s not a career goal for me.”
What do you want to do?
“I don’t know, really. Have a good time, make a little money, and stay out of jail. That would be enough.”
What are you most proud of over the last 10 years?
“I think we messed with the format, and I feel that had an impact on all the late-night shows. I think they all had to change the game a little bit, because we messed with it. I think when everyone was zigging on Britney Spears and her nervous breakdown, we zagged. That kind of pile-on with someone who is clearly in distress was not something that I wanted. I was very proud of the fact that when we had Desmond Tutu on the show, we won a Peabody Award. Also, reintroducing pantomime horses to American television was a big moment for me.”
Is it hard doing a late-night show?
“Jimmy Kimmel’s always really good about this. He says that doing the show is easy. What’s hard is all the bulls— that goes around putting on a show every day. It’s a beast that has to be fed, and I won’t miss that.”
Did the content of your show ever make CBS nervous?
“Nobody ever said, ‘Please don’t.’ I don’t recall anyone censoring me at any point throughout the run. I never got that vibe from them at all.”
Did your guests get used to having to be on their toes?
“I think so. It probably wasn’t going to go the way their publicist told them it was going to go. But I wasn’t trying to sabotage them, either. All I was trying to do with any guest, particularly guests who are very inside the Hollywood machine, was to humanize them make them loosen up a little bit, to relax, and to have a good time. It’s about no-harm TV.”
Will you get misty-eyed on your final show?
“No, I won’t do that. James Joyce said that sentimentality is unearned emotion, and the media is awash with it. I’m a man who tells jokes. I will continue to do so. I’m very grateful to the people that watch the show, don’t get me wrong, and they’ll continue to watch it. But you know, it’s okay. We’re not breaking up. This is not me dumping you. We’re just changing our paths.”