Book Review: American On Purpose by Craig Ferguson
Craig Ferguson has been a favorite of mine since his days on The Drew Carey Show where he played Drew’s boss, Mr. Wick. After The Drew Carey Show ended its run, I was pleased to hear that Craig had been chosen to host The Late Late Show on CBS. Despite a lot of quality competition in the late night television field, I believe The Late Late Show is the best show out there. I also think it is great that in a business where hostility often rears its ugly head, Craig has developed an amiable relationship with Jimmy Fallon who hosts the competing show on NBC.
I knew some of Craig’s background from watching The Late Late Show and knew that he had battled alcoholism and drug addiction. I knew he had played drums in a few bands, mostly punk rock. I knew he had been married twice before and recently wed a third time. I knew he loved his parents dearly. I knew he had a somewhat colorful past. And I knew he was very excited when he was finally able to become an American citizen.
I found some of the more serious monologues he opened the show with, focusing on what it means to live in this country, to be both entertaining and inspiring. Craig Ferguson has a one particular gift among his many talents-- the ability to make you appreciate what you might so often take for granted. Craig was able to talk about America both as an outsider and as a patriotic American. Craig can make you see that it is more than just democracy, more than just a promise of freedom, and more than just an equal opportunity regardless of race, creed or anything else. In a word, what it means to be American, is hope.
So when I ran across Craig’s memoir entitled American On Purpose, I immediately picked it up. From the very first chapter, despite my extremely high expectations, I was not disappointed. The book is filled with anecdotes and stories from his troubled youth through his successful rehab and climb to stardom. He tells of his early days when alcohol and drugs ruled and nearly destroyed his life with candor and modesty. He tells of his days playing in bands, drinking with his mates, and neglecting those who cared about him.
He discusses his first wife and explains he cannot blame her for leaving and then he tells us why. He then describes how he began making a name for himself in show business, found a new woman who loved him greatly, generally had everything going his way, and yet continued his dark descent fueled by substance abuse and self-destructive behavior. This is the way the book unfolds, revealing first the dismal days before Craig found his footing, put his faith in hope and rose from the ashes to become the man he is today.
He does not gloss over anything, which makes his successful recovery all the more thrilling. Once sober, opportunities became more plentiful. Craig followed his dream and moved to America. Here he eventually found even greater success and made his way onto The Drew Carey Show, though not without first paying his dues. But even as success embraced him, all was not perfect as his second marriage became a bit rocky and he found himself unhappy with his success. Then along came his son, a wee lad named Milo, and Craig found a new happiness greater than he had ever known in joy of fatherhood.
But even his new son could not save his failing marriage. Eventually he split from his second wife though they remained friendly and supportive, determined to give their son the parents he deserved. Craig's deep devotion to family is evident not only in his relationship with both his child and his parents, but also with his ex-wife, Milo's mother. Craig makes it clear that she will always be family to him as the mother of his child and it is apparent that though he may no longer be in love with her, he still loves her very much.
Along the way Craig finally gained the American citizenship he longed for. As he reaches the end of the book, Craig finds his current wife and, though they did not wed until after the book was written, Craig ends the book discussing their upcoming nuptials and the certainty that this time it is for good. The book ends as a book written by an American should end -- not only with hope for a better day but with a commitment to hope forever.