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October 30, 2014

Did Craig Ferguson Ditch Audience to Save Money? Rep Calls Charge "Laughable"

by Gary Susman, posted Feb 26th 2010 4:10PM
As brilliant an hour of television as Craig Ferguson's Tuesday night show was - featuring just Craig and a single guest, fellow wit and raconteur Stephen Fry, chatting for an hour before no audience - could it be that the episode was less an experiment in reviving old-school Tom Snyder/Dick Cavett-style TV conversation and more an experiment in cutting costs?

That was the spin according to a report from Radar Online. The website quotes an unnamed insider as saying that 'The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson' has to pay audience members $20 each to fill some 50 seats at each night's taping, that such a practice is unique among late-night talk shows, and that Tuesday's show was more about saving CBS $1,000 on seat-fillers than about creating a more highbrow hour of television.

AOL TV did some digging of our own and found that, while there is a kernel of truth to this story -- CBS does sometimes pay seat-fillers to attend 'Late Late Show' tapings -- it's not a unique practice, though it's also not a routine one at the 'Late Late Show,' and was not the reason for taping Tuesday's show in an empty studio.

Radar quotes the insider as saying that 'The Late Late Show' uses a third-party audience-recruiting service to fill 50 or so seats in Ferguson's studio that would otherwise go empty each night. The studio seats about 100 people, with 10 house seats reserved for VIPs and only 30 or 40 going to fans who requested tickets, the source said.

Traditionally, talk shows, game shows, and other TV programs taped before a live audience have given tickets for free to fans who send requests to a waiting list. "No one else in late night pays for any portion of their audience," claimed Radar's source. "There's beyond enough of a demand for tickets to Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon" -- and those hosts have twice as many seats to fill as Ferguson does.

Radar's story seemed dubious to AOL TV. First, the 'Late Late Show' is very cheap already -- there's no band, no sidekick, practically no set. It's just Craig and his hand puppets, his desk, and a guest or two. Can CBS really need to save $1,000 that badly? Second, Ferguson is popular enough to beat timeslot rival Fallon routinely in the ratings. Are there really not even 100 fans in Los Angeles every day who would attend a Ferguson taping for free?

Radar's source seemed to agree on this point. "Why Craig has to pay people to sit through his show is beyond me," the insider told Radar. "It's even more funny that when he stopped, everyone is lauding him for 'breaking the mold.' He hasn't done anything original! This was a decision based solely on need."

Stephen Fry on 'The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson'


AOL TV spoke to a rep from the show who confirmed that the 'Late Late Show' does occasionally use a studio-recruitment service to fill a handful of seats at $20 a pop, but so do other shows. "Like many other television shows taped in front of an audience daily, we retain an audience consultant to occasionally fill in a small number of available seats shortly before we tape, when needed," the spokesperson said. "These instances are rare -- we have not made use of any seat-fillers in nearly two months -- and they almost never number more than 10."

Consequently, the spokesperson told AOL TV, there's no truth to the assertion that Tuesday's no-audience episode was "a decision based solely on need." Said the rep, "The show we recently taped without an audience was Craig's idea and is among the many creative formats -- much like our recent all-puppet show -- with which we have experimented over the years. Any inference that we would tape a show without an audience to save $200 at most is laughable."

Laughable, eh? Maybe Ferguson can turn it into joke fodder.

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rani

Hey, Gazerbeam - They show his audience every night, so you obviously don't watch his show. Laughter is not canned, the mic might get too close to the screamers at times, or the warm up guy might be trying too hard, but it's real, enthusiastic, loud laughter. I've seen Craig live and the audience really roars, so loud that I now bring earplugs for my manfriend so he'll go with me. I've been to lots of shows and the energy of Craig s audience like nothing I've experienced - the love is real. Men, women, young and old, get his humor. His shows are often sold out - his Nashville show was packed to the rafters - many shows are held over due to high demand, and people love him.
His TV show is on an unbelievably tight budget and I'd like to know why. Do you see any promos for his show?
I've noticed that other late night viewers comment on the great house bands, the highly produced segments, etc., but Craig doesn't have anything but what comes out of his weirdly beautiful mind.
So to keep this mythology alive - the canned laughter rumor, the paid audience crap, is just stupid. Go to one of his shows and report back, or watch when the camera scans the audience and Craig is right there with everyone, then maybe you'd have a point. Don't get dragged into the late night wars.

April 22 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gazerbeam

I know this thread is old, but I just have to point out that Craig's shtick is getting really tired.
And nowadays (2011) they NEVER show his audience.
And, if you pay attention to the laughter and the applause, its noticeably mostly CANNED laughter. Check it out/ its pretty obvious. This is probably due to a couple of factors; one, he's not that consistently funny, and two, there's such a small audience, if ANY at all on some shows, and audience responses would just sound too thin and unimpressed enough to support the vibe, and to keep Craig's dignity, as portrayed to the world of viewers.

I can't believe he doesn't realize that he RUINS most of his interviews, trying to constantly upstage his guests with the stupidest, condescending, inane crap, and the ENDLESSLY ENDLESS innuendos/ god, and then his horrible awkward pause shtick, and mouth organ ****. What a waste!!


I can't believe he doesn't realize that he ruins most of his interviews, trying to constantly upstage the guest with stupid, condesending, innane crap, and the ENDLESS inuendos/ god, and then his horrible awkward pause schtick, and mouth organ ****. What a waste!!

February 24 2011 at 4:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lena

Yes they do overbook the audience because of obvious reasons of people not making it but, they do not pay anyone. If you notice they do not show the audience very much on his show and a couple of empty seats would not be a big deal and there are such things as "Laugh Tracks" they can add in if needed but, with the warmup comedian keeping the crowd growing I doubt they would even need that if a couple people were missing. I do understand over-ticketing an audience since most audiences are people on vacation and most likely sent for tickets months in advance when they booked their vacation and scheduled the things they'd like to do while on vacation, one being attend a show but, things can come up and this is why they over ticket an audience.

Now, there are shows that do pay audience members, I work in casting and casting directors will put out in a call for audience members but, it's generally for a new show or a "special" show. Craig Ferguson is too well established, too good at what he does to ever have to pay someone to sit in his audience...

September 08 2010 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lena

Interesting, I don't know where the rumors of Craig Ferguson paying the audience initiated but I have been in his audience 3 times as well as Craig Kilborn's audience 2 times and was never paid a dime (unless you count the endless chocolates they pass out) to enjoy being a part of the audience and I'd gladly go back 100 times more to see Craig Ferguson... I'm just sayin...

September 08 2010 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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