Craig Ferguson, the Late Late Show’s warm-and-fuzzy Scottish host, has had a lot of gigs—stand-up in Britain under the name Bing Hitler, a handful of romantic-comedy parts, and the role of Drew Carey’s nasty English boss. And now he’s written a novel, Between the Bridge and the River—a messy but highly entertaining hodgepodge of coming-of-age story, Hollywood send-up, and Jungian spirit quest. He talked to Boris Kachka about his latest career twist.
You tried to get Kurt Vonnegut as the first guest on your show. Have you always harbored secret literary ambitions?
I suppose so. I’d written a couple of screenplays, and I wanted to be able to write something where I didn’t have to get anyone else’s permission or worry about demographics. For a lot of my life, I’ve been trying to figure out who is someone like me. Then I realized I don’t fucking care anymore.
It shows—your public persona is so friendly, but there are a lot of barbs in this book, about the movie business and L.A. in general.
You would not believe how moronic it gets. Ask any filmmaker what they go through to get their film made. Some of them have the stomach for it, and some don’t. I’m one of the ones that don’t. There are some nasty slaps that Hollywood takes from me. But (a) I think Hollywood will survive and (b) I was careful to stress that there was a curative mysticism about this part of the world.
You make fun of a cult very much like Scientology, but the whole Jungian journey in the book is pretty New-Agey, too.
That was kind of the conclusion that I came to myself with a search for God. I felt less antagonistic towards other people’s perceptions of God. I’ve never met a Scientologist I didn’t like.
Are we to assume some real-life basis for the story of Fraser, the drunken talk-show host who gets nearly beaten to death, then becomes a prophet?
I drank myself halfway to death and got sober in 1992, and certainly I received a few good thrashings in the lead-up to stopping drinking. And I was strangely evangelical for the first couple of years I was sober. I’m much more of a libertine now—I mean a libertarian.
You lived in New York before making it back in Scotland. What did you do here?
I worked in construction up in Harlem, and I lived in the East Village. I was in this tiny little crappy theater that is now the Coyote Ugly Bar. We put on Telemachus Clay, by Lewis Carlino, and we had a crack at Caligula—oh, God, what a mess that was.
This was in the eighties. Were you constantly dodging drug pushers?
They were succeeding in selling me drugs. The ones that sold actual drugs I was okay with. It was the people that sold you soap powder and salt that got on my nerves.
EW called your book “a diverting-enough pseudo-philosophical spazz-out.” Do you care about critics?
I absolutely don’t care. What I did is, I wrote a novel that if I hadn’t written I would have ended up in a mental hospital.