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July 22, 2014

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Craig Ferguson: A funnier Scotsman

I don’t know what it is about Scottish expats, but they’re a funny bunch.

Granted, my experience with Scotsmen is basically limited to the immigrant doctor who would often prescribe me “a wee bit ‘o penicillin” as a child; the alcoholic landlord I endured while living in Australia a few years ago; and “Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson, who returned to Vegas for an eight-night stand at the MGM Grand last night.

While each of them is funny, they get laughs for very different reasons.

I found the doctor funny because, frankly, anyone who talks with an accent is hilarious to a five year old – sinus infection or no sinus infection.

The landlord was funny, too, because he’d often stagger into the house, spouting off a litany of insults, then loudly proclaim, “I’m straight as a die!” and proceed to urinate directly outside the front door.

(Looking back on it, I’m not sure why that was funny. The guy was a cranky old curmudgeon with a serious drinking problem. We really should’ve locked the front door more often.)

Without question, Ferguson, is the funniest of the three. Unlike the others, his comedic appeal needs no explanation. He’s a funny guy with a funny accent and has a pretty funny stand-up routine, too. Oh, and he also has an hour-long Comedy Central special out next month.

Ferguson first performed in Vegas in 2006, when he appeared at the Tropicana's Tiffany Theatre. Since then, he’s given a handful of shows at the Orleans and last year took his act over to the MGM Grand.

While the venue has changed over the years, the format and basic routine has not.

The 60-minute set still consists of now-familiar stories from his past mixed with jokes about current issues and, of course, the occasional opine involving his fellow famous Scot, Sean Connery.

The Cumbernauld, Scotland-native still has an issue with Connery’s accent.

“There’s only one person in Scotland that talks like that and it’s Sean Connery,” he proclaims.

He also talks about former co-star Drew Carey (a “fat guy who likes fried food and strippers”), Tom Cruise (“12 feet of crazy in a four-foot man”) and Oprah (“the world’s last super power” who he respects and likes, “you know, for safety reasons”).

On the opening night of at MGM’s Hollywood Theater, he once again told the crowd how hard it was for him to leave his native Scotland.

It wasn’t.

He repeatedly expressed his love for his new country and reminisced about his first trip to the U.S. of A.

The 46-year-old once again told the story of how he first came to the U.S. 30 or so years ago to visit relatives in Long Island. It was then that he experienced his first rock concert (Blue Oyster Cult), his first toke (pot at said concert) and his first stick of chewing gum, among other things.

It was love at first sight, sound, smell and chew for the lad.

“What really did it for me, I’ll be honest, was the teeth,” Ferguson said. “People had 10, 20 teeth – per mouth, I’m talking, here!”

Between lighthearted stories about growing up in Scotland and his early days in Hollywood, the comedian still cracks jokes about his failed marriages and struggles with alcohol.

“I loved rehab!” he proudly announced before sharing the lessons he learned while he was getting clean and sober – like the difference between a junkie and an alcoholic.

While an alcoholic will steal your purse, buy booze, get drunk, and feel really bad about it afterward, “a junkie will steal your purse and help you look for it,” he said.

Ferguson put on an active performance, loping, jumping, and otherwise flouncing around the stage while shamelessly animating his colorful routine.

The man was born to perform. While it’s not clear what kind of crazy Scottish showbiz juice they were serving overseas, Ferguson obviously drank the Kool-Aid.

While the majority of his jokes aren’t new, they’re not overdone or tired. This means first-time ticketholders can enjoy it and those who’ve already seen the act can laugh alongside the newbies, all over again.

Along with a few familiar punch lines, Ferguson’s opener, Randy Kagan, also returned to entertain and engage Vegas audiences.

It is the third time he has stepped onto the Sin City stage in advance of the Scottish funny man.

Some highlights from his opening act:

Reminiscing about rainbows: “Remember … when a rainbow was everybody’s rainbow, before they gayed it all up?”

On paying $4 for a bottle of water: “Water falls from the sky for free … Later on I’m going to pick up a six-pack of wind.”

Proposal for gated communities: Instead of whimsical names like “Whispering Ridge,” developers should give them more appropriate, reflective titles, like “Elitist Prick Village.”

Kagan and Ferguson appear nightly at the MGM Grand at 9 p.m. through Feb. 27. Tickets are $69.85 and are available online and through the MGM box office.

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