In light of the recent New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears, an old late-night clip has been making the rounds on Twitter. It’s Craig Ferguson on his CBS Late Late Show in 2007, delivering a monologue to his studio audience. In the clip, Ferguson observes a trend in comedy that we’ve all since identified as “punching down,” but which in 2007 still accounted for the dominant tone in mainstream humor and celebrity news coverage. “I kind of had similar feelings when I used to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. You’d be laughing at the kid falling over, and then you’d go, Wait a minute, put down the damn camera and help your kid!” The audience laughs; he continues. “I think we’re kind of holding the camera, and people are falling apart. People are dying. That Anna Nicole Smith, she died.” The audience laughs again. “No, it’s not a joke. It stops being funny.” The clip is from February 20, 2007, four days after Britney Spears had shaved her head in the midst of a very public meltdown. Ferguson goes on to state that he believes comedy should be about attacking “the Trumps” rather than the vulnerable and suffering:
I’m starting to feel uncomfortable about making fun of these people. For me, comedy should have a sentiment of joy in it. It should be about artists attacking the powerful people. Attacking the politicians, and the Trumps, and the blowhards. Go after them. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people. This is totally a mea culpa; this is just for me. I think my aim’s been off a bit, recently. I want to change it a bit. So tonight, no Britney Spears jokes.
This clip is from a larger monologue in which Ferguson speaks candidly about his own struggles with alcoholism and sobriety. You can watch the full thing below.