Written by Craig Ferguson
I’ve never much been one for biographies, whether written by the actual person who lived the life or not. I’ve just always been too concerned with creating a life for myself that the idea of reading about other peoples actual lives never really interested me. To me, biographies, at best, provide a vaguely entertaining yarn, and at worst, offer up a life that suggests I make the same mistakes (I’m easily influenced) or completely jealous. (Let’s face it, as sad and troubled as most autobiographies can be at times, they often end on a positive note, i.e. the writer becomes famous and someone who everyone else would be willing to shell out 40 bucks for to read the life story of. In other words, for a while they live the lives of the rest of us, but then something extraordinary happens that makes them different and the rest of us go on reading and dreaming about their exploits.) Wow, just reading that last part back now is making me realize how cynical I’ve become lately. I should probably do something about that… maybe.
“American on Purpose” is the autobiography of the Craig Ferguson. For anyone who knows me or even gives this page a three-second scan, you know that he’s a man who I adore very much. There’s something about Craig that separates him not only from the other late night talk show hosts, but celebrities in general. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure exactly what that is, but it’s there. Perhaps it’s that he is the only celebrity that I have ever seen that seems truly and completely humble. Just watch his show once, and even through all the crankiness and curtness, you can tell that he genuinely loves being able to do what he does and realizes how lucky he is to be there. After reading “American on Purpose” you’ll realize just how true that last statement is. Craig Ferguson is lucky he didn’t die at the age of 23 from kidney failure. He’s lucky of not only that, but many, many other things. And he’d be the first to admit it to you.
The book is an extremely interesting look into the mind of an extremely self-destructive man, that despite it all, just wanted to make people entertained be it through music or comedy. And as low as he sinks (and it gets pretty low) as a reader you never stop rooting for him due in large part to that intangible factor I spoke of earlier: Craig Ferguson is Craig Ferguson and there is no one else quite like him. And if you love him and his work it’s because he somehow finds a way to create an intimate relationship with his audience despite never actually meeting 90% of them. He doesn’t placate you, he tells you how it is. He’s more ready to insult you than he is anything else, but he does it in such a playful, mischievous and (God forbid!) intelligent manner that you not only forgive him, you laugh right along with him.
Ferguson started off as a musician but eventually found his way into stand-up comedy, which I believe is a very important point worth noting. The reason for that is this: I have been convinced for quite a few years now that for a little over the past century, society has seen a very interesting shift in two areas: poetry and philosophy. As late as the end of the nineteenth century, both of these practices were very much alive and well. But over the past 150 years we have seen a rather abrupt end to these things. No doubt they are still around, but their popularity is no where near what it once was… that is, as they originally were. I believe that Poetry has transformed into Popular Music and that Philosophy has transformed into Stand Up Comedy. One needs look no further than the lyric booklet for any CD to understand the poetry/music connection. Without a doubt, 90% of most lyrics in popular music don’t hold a candle to the works of men like Elliot, Yeats, or Shakespeare, but the rhythms, melodies, and intentions are all there, clear as day. Music is as popular today as poetry once was, and has gradually taken over as such. Comedy as Philosophy might be a little harder to buy into, but I believe that it’s stand up comics that view the world as different from everyone else just so that they can point out the inconsistencies, irregularities and absurdities, and make us laugh at the same time. They analyze life in every shape and form to find a new way of looking at things, and they stand up in front of us and tell us of their findings. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae that many of these observations are also hilarious.
So you see, Craig Ferguson is a combination of both of these worlds and in that, is somewhat of an irregularity. Read his book “Between the Bridge and the River” and it will quickly become apparent to you that he has the soul of a poet and the intelligence of a philosopher. He’s one in a million and “American on Purpose” is a very entertaining read on how he got there.