Craig Ferguson sees Conan debacle as "wake-up call"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Craig Ferguson, host of “The Late Late Show,” sees Conan O’Brien’s ill-fated stint on “The Tonight Show” as a “wake up call” for himself -- as in, wake up and get away from being labeled “late-night talk show host.”

Craig Ferguson, host of "The Late Late Show" answers questions during an informal discussion during the CBS Summer 2009 Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California August 3, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

“As I watched that, whatever that was, unfold, I realized that I am not part of this -- I am not part of the late-night clubhouse,” Ferguson told Reuters. “Don’t ever rope me in as a late-night talk show host. I don’t want to be one.”

On his CBS show, Ferguson opens with jokes and moves on to interviewing celebrity guests, but where his peers are masters of one line jokes, Ferguson is more of a storyteller.

The 47-year-old comic has been discussed as a possible replacement for “The Late Show” host David Letterman, 63, if he ever retires, but Ferguson has no intention of doing so.

“I neither care nor have any ambition about that,” Ferguson said. “The thing is, Dave’s doing a great job and he does what he does. I don’t do what David Letterman does.”

Ferguson has the same 12:35 a.m. weekday time slot that O’Brien had on NBC before he moved up one hour to replace Jay Leno as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” in June 2009.

But low ratings and complaints from NBC affiliates forced O’Brien to quit in January after a tumultuous battle with the network, and now Leno is back.

“Look at the terrible thing that happened to Conan when Conan tried to do what Jay Leno does,” Ferguson said. “Conan shouldn’t do that. He doesn’t do what Jay Leno does. Jay Leno does what Jay Leno does. And then when (Conan) started doing what Conan does, it was too late.”

Ferguson, who is the voice of a blacksmith in new film “How to Train Your Dragon,” said he dislikes certain conventions of late-night talk shows, such as the standard business suit that hosts wear. “One of them that’s really been bugging my ass right now is why do I ... dress like a mortician?” he said.

But later in the interview, Ferguson rephrased his description of himself -- and his job.

“I do a show. It comes on late at night on TV. And if that means I’m a late-night talk show host, then I guess I am, but in every other regard I resign my commission, I don’t care for it,” he said.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte