Now that Britney Spears’ tell-all memoir, “The Woman in Me,” has been released, it’s started a lot of important conversations not only about what she went through, but what the media and the public at large put her through. Back in 2007, the “Toxic” singer was the punchline for many jokes and was relentlessly derided and humiliated in the press. One of the only people with anything thoughtful and kind to say was Craig Ferguson, then the host of “The Late Late Show,” and the speech he made in an episode that year has been going viral again for the best reasons.
Ferguson doesn’t see why comedy has to come at someone else’s expense.
In a monologue at the top of the show, Craig Ferguson remarked on how terribly Britney Spears was being treated by the press. “Jokes” or not, he didn’t like the idea of kicking someone while they were down.
“Comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it,” he said. “It should be about us attacking the powerful people, attacking the politicians and the Trumps and the blowhards, going after them. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people.”
He vowed he wouldn’t be making any more jokes about Spears and wanted to change the narrative.
Ferguson went on to say that while celebrities are easy targets for cheap jokes, it simply wasn’t funny anymore.
“I think my aim’s been a bit off recently. I want to change it a bit. So tonight, no Britney Spears jokes and here’s why,” he began.
“The kind of weekend she had, she was checking in and out of rehab, she was shaving her head, getting tattoos, that’s what she was doing this weekend. This Sunday, I was 15 years sober. So I looked at her weekend and I looked at my own weekend and I thought, ‘You know, I’d rather have my weekend.’”
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Craig Ferguson thought he might get fired over his refusal to mock Britney Spears.
Talking to The Los Angeles Times in 2019, Ferguson recalled the speech feeling like a “resignation monologue,” but at least it was true to how he felt. However, shockingly, the response he got was positive.
“I thought, ‘They’re going to fire me for this.’ And actually the opposite happened, and everyone seemed to be very happy about it. I never heard anything negative from anybody at the network or [production company] Worldwide Pants. But I was convinced at the time that I was getting into trouble,” he said.
In fact, it ended up being an empowering experience for Ferguson who felt more in-tune with his role as host of “The Late Late Show” after the speech.
“I think at that point I started to take ownership of the show. In a weird way, it liberated me from doing the show how I initially thought it should be done, which was the way it had been done before,” he explained.
“And it let the audience know a little bit more about what I thought about things. And I think that the show as it became was born from that moment. Up until then, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing.”