Craig Ferguson revealed the secret of his survival in the cutthroat world of late-night television: He tries to maintain ratings that are just low enough to avoid being fired.
Ferguson, 51, articulated this unusual strategy when he appeared as a guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Thursday night.
Though the two didn’t mention it, the appearance may have been the final guest shot on the “Leno” show for the CBS “Late Late Show” host, who appears on the “Leno” show on rival NBC two or three times a year.
Leno is scheduled to hand “The Tonight Show” over to Jimmy Fallon in February. And of course, Leno and Ferguson talked about late-night TV on the “Leno” show.
“You’ve been doing your show [for] 10 years,” Jay said to Craig (who’s really been at it for eight-and-a-half years, having started in January 2005). “Are you still enjoying it? Is it still fun?”
“Yeah it’s alright,” said Ferguson. “The good thing is that the ratings are good, but they’re not that good, so we won’t get fired!”
Ferguson was referring to the fact that Leno has kept “The Tonight Show” in the top spot in the late-night rankings for 18 years, and yet, NBC is going ahead and replacing him.
“See, your problem was [you] have to keep it down a little bit!” Ferguson said. “And also, don’t go to the network parties,” he advised. “If they don’t know who [you] are, they can’t fire you!”
Ferguson also had some advice for Leno’s final “Tonight Show.” “I think you should trash the place!” he said. “Seriously, I think you should go nuts! I think you should break it up, get some rockers on, smash the place up, set fire to it, maybe eat a bat … Then you should cuss and throw your mike down and walk off!” The fact is, Jay may as well trash his studio since the network will likely mothball it anyway (until they find another use for it) because the Fallon “Tonight Show” will originate from New York.