Thursday, June 02, 2005

Night Shift

The current issue of the Fort Wayne Reader features an article by Rebecca LaRue Fisher on Kevin Ferguson, host of the on-again, off-again late night show Night Shift. Who knew that he started out as a child prodigy?
Ferguson, a native of Fort Wayne, graduated from North Side High School and attended St. Francis College on a basketball scholarship. He had intentions of becoming an art teacher, but those plans faded when he was serving his student teacher assignment. “Because I’d graduated high school at 16, I was student teaching people my own age…it just didn’t work,” he says. When asked whether he graduated so young as result of great intellect, he laughs out loud. “No. I think my mom sent me to school early to get me out of the house. No one cards a kindergartner to see if he’s old enough to be there.”
Eventually, he landed a gig hosting a local show, which ended up on WFFT and became quite the local sensation.
Once he got settled at [channel] 55, the show was renamed “Night Shift.” Ferguson contacted the comedy club Crackers in Indianapolis, and the partnership routed comics through Fort Wayne on off-nights. Another symbiotic relationship developed about that time, with NBC and David Letterman’s “people” at Late Night. Network television is leery of taking chances on untested talent. Many comics who wanted a shot at Late Night were directed first to Night Shift, where NBC and Letterman could get a look at them onscreen and interacting with a host.

In fact, Ferguson thought he might be headed to the real Big Time when he was in the running to fill the chair soon to be vacated by Letterman. The pool of talent was impressive: Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, Garry Shandling, Jon Stewart and Kevin Ferguson. At one point, Ferguson’s agent called to tell him he was a “shoo-in.” “They say it’s an unknown who’s been chosen. That has to be you!” he was told. However, while driving down Washington Center Road, Ferguson heard on the radio that, indeed, an unknown had been named to succeed Letterman. “Wow, it is me and they didn’t even call,” Ferguson thought. But the unknown’s name wasn’t Kevin Ferguson. It was Conan O’Brien.
After an attempt at turning it into a sitcom, the current iteration of Night Shift takes viewers behind the scenes before, after, and during the actual staged portion in front of the Snickerz Comedy Club audience -- the monologue, the interviews, the comics doing their act, etc.

[Disclosure alert: the editor of this site appeared as a guest on the show two years ago when he was promoting his short film. (The audience, of course, loved him.) At that time the format was the same but Ty Black was producing the show. Mark Archer is current producer.]

We caught the most recent episode (it airs Sunday at midnight on WPTA) and thought it was fairly entertaining, except for the handful of times that they cut away from a stand-up in the middle of his act to one of the behind-the-scenes segments. It completely killed the momentum of the show. We think they ought to put all the pre-show preparation at the beginning, then air the "show" without interruptions, and conclude with the post-show footage. (If they refer to something that happened in the "show," cut to that particular clip to show what they're talking about.)

But that's just our opinion. (By the way, we'd love to be on the show again...)



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