I have read a lot of celebrity memoirs lately. Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose differs in two big ways. First of all, it’s a straight up autobiography — starts with his childhood, hits all the highs (and lows) of his career, sums up with where he is now (well, 2008). Second difference? While I’ve read a lot of about the sad childhoods of now-famous people (bullied for being tall/smart/dumb/raised by hippies/a bedwetter, etc), this is the first one I felt genuinely bad for. Ferguson “bad childhood” consisted largely of being beaten in school by nuns with sticks, and tormented physically by bullies for being chunky and weird, until he dropped out at 16. Wow.
“He will know from and early age that failure is not disgrace. It’s just a pitch that you missed, and you’d better get ready for the next one. The next one might be the shot heard round the world. My son and I are Americans, we prepare for glory by failing until we don’t.”
Craig Ferguson grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, with the firm knowledge that he would be an American citizen one day. It took a long time, and a lot of stupid decisions and hard luck, but he made it after all. Now he’s a successful late night host, but he battled alcoholism and drug abuse for decades. It also took him years to break into comedy, although he seems to have known early on that he wanted to do something along those lines — he worked as a stand up comedian and as a drummer (in a band with Peter freaking Capaldi), as well as an apprentice and a bouncer (for a bit).
He’s brutally honest in his writing, and very, very funny. I listened to the audio version, which he read himself, and while he’s shit at imitating other peoples’ voices, his own voice comes across as charming as ever.