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July 25, 2014

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Craig Ferguson likes the acrobatic and the sexy — but will stick with the jokes at Venetian

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Venetian

Craig Ferguson.

Craig Ferguson is on the other end of the call. He asks the most rudimentary of questions: “What’s up?”

“Oh, you know, I’m just hangin’ and bangin’,” I mindlessly answer.

But Ferguson, his comic reflexes dependably quick, seizes that statement.

“Hangin’ and bangin’!” he shouts with a laugh. “That’s nice! It’s acrobatic and sexy!”

Ferguson is hangin’ a little himself on the Strip this weekend with two shows at Sands Showroom in the Venetian, at 10 p.m. today and Saturday.

Ferguson plays the Big V periodically, or as he says, “Whenever they want me, I come up and do a couple shows. It’s very informal.” The 51-year-old Ferguson is in his 10th year as host of “The Late Late Show” on CBS. He’s been a favorite on Vegas stages for several years, first at Orleans Showroom before moving to the Venetian three years ago.

More to be learned about Ferguson from our brief-but-lively chat last week:

He has no specific method of developing material for his monologue or standup act: “It all comes from a difficult childhood, I guess,” Ferguson says. “That, and the effects of aging on the human body, and just general bitterness.”

He doesn’t have a traditional “set” he performs each night: “I don’t really write everything down and remember it,” he says. “I’m happy just talking and seeing what happens. I have an act to get through, but a lot of it is ad libbed. If I’m in Vegas, I’m going to talk about being in Vegas. If I’m in Vancouver, I’ll talk about being in Vancouver. If I’m in Miami, I’m going to talk about Cuba, you know? That’s the way it is.”

His practice of rapidly pacing from one side of the stage to the other is not planned: “It’s a general kind of antsiness that I have, I think,” Ferguson says. “If you grew up in the neighborhood I grew up in (in Cumbernauld, Scotland, near Glasgow), it’s probably best to keep moving. Some people have scopes.”

His famous defense of Britney Spears in a monologue several years ago was an important moment in his career: “That particular monologue was a very liberating thing for me. People always used to say to me, ‘You should be able to make jokes about anything,’ and you should — except when it goes against your own moral compass,” Ferguson says. “That’s what I think I had fallen victim to. I was making gags that I wasn’t comfortable with just because I thought other people wanted them. And then I thought, ‘Well, (forget) other people. I’ll do the gags that I want to do.’

“If enough people will want to see that, that’s good. I’ll get a boat and do the show there. If people don’t want to see it, at least I won’t hate myself — on a boat.”

He refuses to beat up any individual just to get laughs: “It’s really about what I can stand to do for myself. I don’t feel constricted by it,” Ferguson said. “I feel I have more freedom because of that, actually. I won’t do material if I feel like I’m bullying people; I absolutely refuse to do that. I won’t pile on people who are suffering. Find someone else to do that.”

He is an accomplished drummer but has never taken the stage with a music act in Las Vegas, as has Drew Carey (among other famous comics): “No one’s asked me!” Ferguson said. “But, yeah, I would think about it, at least. You’ve got to remember that I play the drums, and the drums are the heartbeat of the band. You might be taking out a firm, strong heart and putting in a pacemaker. It might not be a great idea for your band (laughs)."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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