Book – American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson

A little like Chris Evans growing up in the North West, Craig Ferguson also tried not to stand out from the crowd as a school boy in Glasgow.

In fact there can not be more Glaswegian stereo typing in this book if he’d tried; alcoholism, beatings, racism, vandalism, drugs, more alcoholism all feature heavily. Not just at the start of the book but it’s talked about throughout that Glaswegians like drinking and violence. Try and stop ‘anyone from Glasgow drinking’ etc etc.

I only know of Craig Ferguson as the host of the Late Late Show, which is on after Dave Letterman in the USA and I have always rated him as pretty funny. Not as funny as Dave, but funny.

Having recently become an American Citizen after many years working and living in Hollywood, I guess he thought now was a good time to write the autobiography. He says he first got the idea for comedy when he was the drummer in Glasgow band, the ridiculously named, Dreamboys and he credits his band mate for suggesting it. I don’t recall the band and I was very much following the Glasgow music scene at the time. In fact, he seems to have appeared on a few TV shows not to mention successfully appearing at the Edinburgh festival in 1986.

He was also in a notorious punk band, James King and The Lone Wolves but basically what the book is about is his fight with the demon that is alcoholism. I find it curious that Ferguson remembers his last acid trip and that he managed to lay (sorry, felt I had to be crude there) so many apparently stunning women in his status as an unemployed, junkie, alcoholic Glaswegian.

I have no idea how he managed to not only marry at 21 but for them to go and both live illegally in New York and then how later he manages to live and work in the US for 20 odd years without becoming a citizen. 1. How the other half live and 2. Times have sure changed since the 1980s.

The princely sum of $625 rent for an albeit tiny studio in the lower East Side of Manhattan, coupled with a bath in the kitchen in what was then the most dangerous place to live seems steep. Either he woz robbed or he has his numbers wrong as you can get a pretty decent studio for $1500 in the gorgeous Upper West Side today. And they managed to afford plenty of coke in 80s New York at $60 a pop.

Still, I’m nit picking I know.
There are some lovely moments in the book and I can certainly resonate with ‘leaving New York was like the feeling there was a great party somewhere and I was not at it’. Like me, Ferguson also fell in love with America at an early age.

There are not many humorous parts from someone who appears so naturally funny but lots of more familiar UK names are dropped; Jimmy Mulville (now more behind the scenes but then also comedy acting and apparently an alcoholic, junkie too), Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson (with whom I had a huge crush on when he was in the Norwich band The Higsons – I followed the Norwich music scene too) and loads of others I’m not familiar with.

A weird moment was actually reading on February 18th that he had gone into rehab on February 18th 1992, crediting the aforementioned Jimmy Mulville for the life saving/changing moment even though at the time he claimed to be indebt to the tune of $ half million. That’s another thing; I do that a lot too, translating for the American reader and now I’m wondering if other British people find that irritating. Sweets = candy, petrol = gas, flat = apartment. Actually that last one has become much more standard in Britain.

Ferguson substantiates his decision to finally become American by making us believe that America is the only democratic country where there is complete freedom of speech.

It’s not even the biggest democratic nation and undoubtedly a racist one where people most certainly live in segregated communities, even though they no longer legally have to.

Overall, my empathy started disappearing quite quickly as the talk of taking drugs and drinking increased there was also the distasteful issue of low (no) morals and womanising. Can you go off someone you quite liked and therefore enthusiastically bought their book?

Still he loves his parents.

I enjoyed the book and it’s well written but I’m not sure if I will see him as the funny Scot who became a success in America anymore.

The boy still done good.

7½/10 Inspiration factor 7/10

PS I love the title!


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