Craig Ferguson welcomes French copycat to his show
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) — Craig Ferguson uncorked an on-air rant last week after finding out that portions of his “Late Late Show” were being hijacked and copied by a French TV host.
But then on Monday, Ferguson buried the hatchet and introduced America to the boyish cutup known in France simply as Arthur, as he made a surprise guest appearance.
At the top of the CBS show, Arthur was seen solo, wearing a wide grin and greeting the audience.
“What are you doing?” squawked Ferguson, stepping into the picture.
“I’m doing the show,” replied Arthur.
“You’re doing MY show,” said Ferguson. “You’re copying ME!”
As proof, he presented the title sequence of “Tonight With Arthur,” which was almost identical in side-by-side comparison to that of “The Late Late Show” — only with snippets of Paris substituted for Los Angeles, and Arthur (also pounding on a drum kit and splashing in a fountain) swapped for Ferguson.
“That was not a COPY,” Arthur argued in his thick accent. “It was an homage.”
“What about this morning, when I saw you walking my dog?” Ferguson pressed on.
“Also a tribute to your unique talents. And your dog really needs a bath.”
“And what about last night, when I caught you kissing my wife?”
“Another tribute to you. And, by the way, your wife also really needs a bath.”
“You’re just copying everything I do,” said Ferguson.
“YOU’RE just copying everything I do,” said Arthur.
Tribute, schmibute. Ferguson had radiated comedic ire on his Nov. 22 show, taped just hours after he learned on Twitter about Arthur’s so-called homage.
That night Ferguson shared with viewers another clip displaying Arthur’s fondness for hand puppets, including a sassy shark, that seem lifted from Ferguson’s own prop closet.
“If you’re going to steal from a show,” Ferguson appealed to Arthur in his self-mocking monologue that night, “what about a GOOD show like ’Lost’ or ’The Wire’? Don’t steal from THIS show! That’s like taking pants from a hobo!”
A guest that night happened to be TV personality and wide-ranging commentator Ben Stein, who, as a lawyer, among other things, prompted Ferguson to ask if he had legal recourse against Arthur.
“I think I’ve got whiplash,” Ferguson explained.
Replied Stein, characteristically deadpan, “I strongly recommend you sue.”
Here, it seemed, was brazen theft of intellectual property without so much as a “S’il vous plait”!
“Our first reaction had been: You gotta be kidding me!” said producer Michael Naidus on Monday. “But then, as with pretty much everything that happens to us on the show, we looked for the best way to make it funny and entertaining. And in this case, that didn’t seem to involve lawyers.”
Executive producer Peter Lassally added, “At one point Craig asked us, ’How should I be feeling about this?’ And we said, ’You should be amused by this.”’
“Tonight With Arthur” premiered in November on France’s Comedy! cable channel, but the host, whose real name is Jacques Essebag, is a 44-year-old veteran of numerous French radio and TV talk shows.
Over the weekend, he contacted Ferguson by phone.
“Craig spoke to Arthur for a few minutes,” Naidus said, “and quickly determined that the guy is a pretty big fan of ’The Late Late Show.”’
In a flash, Arthur was booked for a guest shot. On Sunday he flew to Los Angeles for Monday’s taping, in the process canceling the taping of his own show in Paris.
“It didn’t seem worthwhile, or interesting, to make this a confrontational thing,” said Naidus. “So the idea was for us to sort of give our blessing to him, in the form of comedy.”
Besides the “cold opening,” Arthur joined Ferguson for the reading of the e-mail.
“Do you have e-mails on your show?” Ferguson asked him.
“Not yet,” Arthur joked. “We don’t have enough audience to get e-mails.”
At the end, Arthur appeared one final time. Both he and Ferguson were outfitted in 1940s-era fedoras and trench coats. As the color in the picture drained to black-and-white, they performed an homage to the film “Casablanca.”
“I’ve had a wonderful time,” said Arthur. “I don’t want to go. I can’t get on the plane.”
“You have to. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it,” said Ferguson, adding, “Hey, we’ll always have Paris.”
“You know something, Craig, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship,” said Arthur as the two strolled into the fade-out of a magnifique show.
Associated Press Writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.
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