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Craig Ferguson Honoured At Banff Festival With Comedy Award

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CRAIG FERGUSON EDMONTON
Craig Ferguson honoured with comedy award at Banff festival. (Photo illustration by Getty Images) | Getty

BANFF, Alta. - The popular host of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" brought his unique brand of often ribald humour to the Banff World Media Festival where he was receiving the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award.

"My people built this country. I don't know if you know that. Oh, I'm lying? It's not true?" Craig Ferguson said Tuesday to laughter and applause.

"This is what I said when I drove into Banff. It's lovely here. This is what Scotland must have looked like when they first built it," said Ferguson, with a much more pronounced Scottish accent than he has on his show.

Ferguson, 51, has been hosting the show for nine years. He's been nominated for an Emmy and won a Peabody Award for his interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu, has written books and appeared in TV shows and movies.

There's the air of a bad boy about Ferguson, who often refers to himself as just another "late-night douche" in reference to the typically formulaic state of late-night talk shows.

His show is unscripted and it's tradition that he tears up the carefully typed notes and tosses them as each guest sits down.

"That's just a kind of protest. It's saying I'm not going to do what your publicist told you I was going to do. That's how it started as and what it's become is some stupid OCD thing, I suppose, but I just do it," said Ferguson, wearing a casual grey Catalina Island T-shirt, jeans and running shoes.

"They're not props. They're really done and they still do them and I rip them up."

Even the addition of his gay robot skeleton Geoff Peterson was meant to be a shot at the cheerleading responses of most late-night sidekicks.

"Geoff Peterson is emblematic of my failure as a late-night talk-show host because what I wanted to do, as a protest, have a robot that would give the sidekick pat answers. This is how robotic it is. It's ridiculous," he said.

"Then Josh Robert Thompson, who's the guy who operates and voices Geoff Peterson, started doing the voice and did the voice live and he became really, really good and the whole idea of me deconstructing the sidekick failed because he became a really good sidekick.

"That robot makes me laugh really like nobody else."

There have been serious moments on the show. Ferguson delivered a diatribe after the Boston Marathon bombing. There were no jokes and he called in longtime friend Larry King to discuss the matter for most of the show.

"Boston felt like I'd seen it unfold. I couldn't not talk about it. The idea of voicing my frustration with any particular thing, whether it's the despicable nature of some individuals and whatever twisted logic they have to justify doing stuff or if it's my annoyance that a light bulb doesn't work in the studio, I will continue to vocalize my discomfort."

Ferguson is working on a screenplay which should go into production later this year called "Last Man Out" based on the book "The Ghosts of Belfast" by Stuart Neville. He said it's a dark story of murder and revenge set in Northern Ireland.

"It's not comedy. It's great fun to write."

As for the comedy award, Ferguson said he met Peter Ustinov about 20 years ago at a hotel in Edinburgh.

"Sir Peter Ustinov was in the breakfast area. I saw him and said good morning. He said, 'Good morning. Try the bacon.' I said OK and that was me and Sir Peter Ustinov. And here we are full circle back in the land of bacon."

Winning the award doesn't come without a certain level of discomfort for Ferguson.

"The idea of accepting an award makes me feel very uncomfortable. A big part of it in my head is 'Who do you think you are? A comedy award for you? Rubbish.'"

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