American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot

by Craig Ferguson


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In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson delivers a moving and achingly funny memoir of living the American dream as he journeys from the mean streets of Glasgow, Scotland, to the comedic promised land of Hollywood. Along the way he stumbles through several attempts to make his mark-as a punk rock musician, a construction worker, a bouncer, and, tragically, a modern dancer.

To numb the pain of failure, Ferguson found comfort in drugs and alcohol, addictions that eventually led to an aborted suicide attempt. (He forgot to do it when someone offered him a glass of sherry.) But his story has a happy ending: success on the hit sitcom The Drew Carey Show, and later as the host of CBS's Late Late Show. By far Ferguson's greatest triumph was his decision to become a U.S. citizen, a milestone he achieved in early 2008.

In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson talks a red, white, and blue streak about everything our Founding Fathers feared.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061998492
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/11/2010
Pages: 268
Sales rank: 136,542
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Craig Ferguson is the host of The Late Late Show. He is the author of the novel Between the Bridge and the River and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 A Seat at the Table 1

2 Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor 8

3 The Attic 14

4 Astronaut 19

5 James the First 25

6 Brick House 31

7 Satori in Long Island 35

8 Running the Gauntlet 43

9 Eldorado 52

10 The Filth and the Fury 59

11 The Real World 66

12 Love and Sex 72

13 Dreamboy 77

14 Art School 81

15 A Clever and Patient Monster 89

16 Tripping 94

17 Anne 101

18 New York 107

19 Adventures in the Big City 114

20 Setting the Tone 122

21 The Gong Show 129

22 The Rise of (Bing) Hitler 135

23 Edinburgh, 1986 140

24 On the Train 146

25 Jimmy's Wedding 154

26 The Aspirations of a Phony Englishman 158

27 The End of Daze 167

28 Rehab 173

29 Reboot 179

30 Buying a Knife 185

31 Providence 190

32 Scottish Women 195

33 Dudley and Jadis 202

34 The Aspirations of a Phony Frenchman 207

35 The Fat Man, the Gay Man, Vampires, and Marriage 213

36 America the Beautiful 219

37 Success and Failure 224

38 Father 229

39 Crash 233

40 Between the Bridge and the River 237

41 Latecomer 242

42 Riding the Pass 250

43 Feeding the Beast 254

44 Settling Down 260

45 American on Purpose 263

What People are Saying About This

Keith Olbermann

“Funny and poignant and inspirational and brilliant. Nowhere in his story of emigration and redemption does Craig Ferguson realize that as lucky as he thinks he is to be ‘American on Purpose,’ we are luckier still to have him.”

Carrie Fisher

“A great read . . . almost as good as my memoir.”

Dennis Lehane

“With American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson somehow manages to avoid the pitfalls of self-indulgence and self-importance that plague most (okay, all) Hollywood autobiographies. He has, instead, written a book that is hilarious and irrepressibly daft, yet also kind, poignant, and undeniably wise. It was a joy to read.”

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American on Purpose 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 260 reviews.
leanne97 More than 1 year ago
I rarely read for pleasure; most of the time it's research or academically related. I picked this book up because I enjoy Craig. It was entertaining, kept my attention, and I read this book cover to cover in about 48 hours. I struggle with attention and focus anyway, but I loved this book. Craig has lived such a life and he is a very gifted storyteller. I can't wait to read his other book(s). I urge you to pick this book up today.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
American On Purpose is Craig Ferguson's story of how he traveled from a childhood in Scotland to a career in Hollywood, an American citizenship, and a descent into and recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Though Ferguson is a comic, the story is mostly told with heartfelt, straightforward honesty. He comes across as a likable guy who made some mistakes along the way, but who never gave up on his dreams. The story offers some interesting and fresh insights into addiction and takes us behind the scenes in Hollywood movie production. I enjoyed this book and ended it feeling like Ferguson is a regular guy I'd be happy to know. I especially liked the love and respect with which he describes both his friendships and his marriages. Ferguson is a regular guy who still managed to achieve his big dreams through persistence, surrounding himself with people who believed in him, and clear self-reflection. I listened to the audio version of American On Purpose read by Craig Ferguson himself. He mentions in the book the positive affect his Scottish accent has on the ladies. Does it ever! The gorgeous Scottish burr is easy on the ears and hearing him tell his own story adds a nice depth and sincerity. I recommend listening to this book if possible.
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
First off - it has long been one of show business's little secrets that Craig is the best of the late night hosts. And has been for many years. The creativity and talent he exhibits nightly is now captured in the pages of this book. I looked forward to its printing and was well pleased with the results. If someone buys this book expecting a yuk a minute they will be disappointed. It is not a "joke book". It is however, a very funny book. I expect that with the way his mind works, it couldn't be anything else. While I appreciated the humor and the honesty of the book; more than anything, I appreciated the inspirational aspect. It is truly inspiring from many levels and many angles. I hope you find this review helpful. Michael L. Gooch Author of Wingtips with Spurs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
American on Purpose is an amazing memoir written by Craig Ferguson. From reading this book, I respect this man even more than I did before. Even though he had lots of rough times in his life, he still made his dreams come true. He is a very humble man, and he doesn't take his second chance at life for granted. That really shines through in his book. This book is funny and heart-felt. It will have you captivated from page 1. Even if you are not a fan of his show (The Late Late Show on CBS at 11:38 PM CT) you will love his memoir. Highly recommended!!!
Alla_S More than 1 year ago
In "American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot," Craig Ferguson, perhaps best known as the host of "The Late Late Show" on CBS or as the endearingly mean English boss on "The Drew Carey Show," hilariously but poignantly details his journey and the obstacles he has had to overcome in his life to achieve his lifelong ambition-immigrate to the U.S. and work in the entertainment industry. Born in Scotland, Ferguson underwent all the usual problems of adolescence-excessive drinks, drugs, partying, and sets of unsuccessful relationships. He quit school at the tender age of sixteen, mainly just to avoid the bullying, but clueless as to which course to take. Spots in punk rock bands and bartending followed. Ferguson's ultimate foray into the entertainment industry came unexpectedly, as he was working in a Scottish pub one night and one of the customers offered him to participate in a talent contest. After Ferguson successfully completed his first ever stand-up comedy performance, his life took an unexpected but exciting new course. However Craig's alcoholism, depression, and loneliness threatened to ruin it all. Beautifully written, Craig Ferguson's story represents the realization of the ultimate American dream-success in the country where anything is possible. Overall, the book is a very enjoyable read and Craig's story is easy to relate to. I especially enjoyed the second half of the book where Ferguson touched upon the workings of Hollywood and his new American life. I found this book to be inspirational, with Ferguson's life serving as proof for his advice in the beginning of the story-failures, however numerous they might be, are still important parts of the ultimate success.
spv More than 1 year ago
I have vague memories of Steve Allen and Jack Parr. Mostly Johnny Carson entertained me. Johnny was warm and funny and enjoyed his guests. His was quick and bright and funny. But you never felt like you knew him. Here in is the difference, I think the man you see on the TV, this Scotsman from Glasgow, lets you in on his reality. That is why I wanted to hear him read his words; to see if I was right. I am so I was! No one's life is easy, surely not his, but he makes no apologies for is what it is. He said something like, his son and he grow out of their mistakes. Isn't that lovely? His explanation of what addition was/is like for him is probably one of the best I have heard. Oh, don't doubt it, he is really glad to be an American. Is it a "tell all" book? Yes, about himself. No about others, he changes the names of people where he feels appropriate. Who is this for? If you are listening to it, those who like the Scottish burr. People who like memoirs. People who like a bit of a giggle. People that like him on TV and want to know more about the man; like did you know he wrote a novel before this book? Oh,all of you who like a good story told in the first person, read the book! For you vampire lovers, he likes them and likes to play them. What more can I say? I love this story and will listen to it again in future...just to make sure I didn't miss anything the first time. That is my story and I am sticking to it! (Oh, if you have have watched the program, you know Craig does have to be bleeped something....he is not bleeped here but it is not excessive and is part of who he is. Just do a mental bleep and go on. Of course I now have another book to add to my evergreen and growing list...yes, I gotta read that first book!)
SteveHC More than 1 year ago
I won't repeat what so many others have already said, but wanted to add my 5-star vote to the group here. American On Purpose by Craig Ferguson is well worth reading, regardless of whether or not you are a fan of his television work. Although I'd say that its title says a lot about it, it's also a book that's educational, inspiring, honest, and thoroughly entertaining all wrapped up together and written in Mr. Feruson's trademarked down-to-earth style. That makes it, at least for me, one of the very best modern autobiographical works that I've ever read, PERIOD. Once I picked it up I just could not seem to put it down. If you are even just considering this book, BUY it. You'll love it!
over_par More than 1 year ago
...then you'll be a fan of the book. It's his life on paper and it shows us the reasons why he is as successful and hilarious today. He doesn't shy away from his battles with alcoholism either. A good book for someone who can only read a little here and a little there. Enjoy.
lou1biggs More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was like having someone tell you a's written in a rambling way that takes its time to get to the point. I did enjoy this book and laughed out loud quite a few times. Would definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Honest and funny! I am not an avid reader but couldn't put this one down. Love his storytelling. It is what it is. All stories don't need explosions or heart wrenching background music to convey the intensity of the events. He conveyed the major downs in his life without actually making you feel like inhaling a gallon of ice cream to feel better. Can't wait to read his next book!
edofarrell More than 1 year ago
Ferguson obviously overcame a lot to reach his current position. He hints at it in the book, but it is obvious he never lost his work ethic, even in the depths of his alcoholism. That is what ultimately saved him. A good read and a lot of fun as well. I could have done without some of the name dropping, but that is to be expected in a piece such as this. Worth the read. Worth the money.
KidNurse More than 1 year ago
One of the appeals of Craig Ferguson is his honesty and willingness to "tell it like it is". He certainly does that in his book, and listening to him read his book and be able to put inflections where he wants them is the best way to "read" the book. He talks about Scotland, the US, his youth, this alcoholism, the important women in his life, and his love of the U.S. Endearing, sad, informative and LOL funny all at the same time, you get a sense of what it is like to grow up somewhere else, and why you should be proud to be an American. He also explains alcoholism (and it's destructiveness in his life) better than anything else I have ever read or heard. This CD (it's content combined with his accent) gives insight into why 74% of Marie-Claire readers rated Craig as the Late-Night talk show host they would most like to sleep with! LOVE the accent combined with the honesty. Can't wait for the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found it amazing that Craig Ferguson survived his lifestyle and became what he is today! A great read.
Neil_Collins More than 1 year ago
"It's a great day for America everybody!" in a thick Scottish borough is how TV's Craig Ferguson begins his monologue each weeknight. As host of The Late Late Show, Craig follows David Letterman, spinning his unique and very different style of late night comedy. Fans of the show are well aware that the Glasgow native is now a naturalized American, and a recovering alcoholic, but few have known the whole story. American On Purpose is a fascinating memoir, a cautionary tale, and a damned funny adventure into the world that formed what is possibly one of the most clever wits on television today. Without reveling in the past Ferguson manages to highlight just enough of the debauchery to let us see how it took hold of him. He opens his failings and weaknesses to examination without ever glorifying mistakes; humanizing himself and calling it what it is. With amazing humor and clarity, the story carries the reader along as each story unfolds. Ferguson is a master story teller, and has well succeeded taking those stories to the page. At times, I could almost hear his borough as the vivid pictures came to life and the killer ducks chased through the park. While it's true that I'm a sucker for anyone who finds the strength to admit they need help, and the courage to walk out their recovery; I also have little stomach for those who use it like a badge of achievement in Hollywood. Craig never does, but rather has the honesty and humility to do it day by day and let himself become a reminder that it can be done. American On Purpose makes that crystal clear, while still entertaining the reader. I highly recommend this book to any and all, especially if you are or care about someone struggling with addiction. Even if not, it's a great read. My copy was signed in person and will be one of my treasured possessions.
Ruestor More than 1 year ago
From the depths of debauchery to the heights of becoming an American Citizen; Craig stumbles, trips, crawls, and flies through each "phase" of his existence. Ferguson takes the reader from "OMG, and he is still breathing" to "Wow!, it is NEVER to late to turn ones life around." Craig deftly maneuvers through each startling event in his life with candor and humor. The later to help the reader garner enough courage to move on to the next chapter. This book is a study of over-indulgence, failures, triumphs and perseverance. If ever there was a book to inspire troubled souls who see themselves as losers with no way out, American On Purpose comes to their rescue. It is hard to fathom how one of the more talented and funny late night talk show hosts evolved from the individual depicted in this writing. It's a story that belongs in everyone's collection.
wapini More than 1 year ago
Intellectually Craig resonates for a man who didn't finish 'high' school. His obvious intelligence and wit shines through. I loved him on Drew Carey, I love him on Late Late Nite, I hope what is rumored is true, that he is heir to David Letterman. I further hope he writes more, both fiction and non, he makes us see America through fresh eyes.
2Murray2 More than 1 year ago
I have never read a book that I found myself "talking to it". As I read Craigs' challenges and discoveries, I found myself responding out loud to him as if he was in the room talking to me directly. I found him to be a most profound, gutsy, and very passionate person. By the Grace of God he should be 6 feet under, if all of his escapades written about are true!! He is a charm and I am so glad I had the opportunity to read about him. Welcome to the United States Craig!
katjacob More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel. I was expecting it to be straight comedy but it was somewhat serious with some comedy mixed in. It was an interesting story.
readtoponder More than 1 year ago
The best book I've read in a long while and I read often. In his writing of 'American on Purpose', Craig Ferguson delves into deeply personal events of his past, both as a young child and as a man growing into his own personality, becomming a man. His road was a fast road, stumbling many times, through rough territory to get to be the person he is today. In this book, Craig Ferguson lives the wild and crazy life some of us dream or wish we could live, but never do. This book gives us a gift of knowing what could happen if we were to abandon our safe, secure, emotionally connected lives for the illusion of the wild and sometimes dangerous life. Through Craig we see that life isn't as the saying goes, "greener on the other side". How does he get through it all? Never a dull moment. I believe that during Craig's rough and difficult road through life, he learned there was a better one somewhere out there. He dusted himself off, picked himself up, and made it to America to finally become "An American on Purpose". He grew into a caring, sensitive, well read, well speaking, 'grown up'. A fantastic choice for "The Late Late Show". I was not surprised at how well, how smooth his writing flowed, nor how it kept you waiting for the next page. When you see Craig Ferguson on his TV show, he is a good speaker, a great story teller, speaks fluidly. Naturally I thought his writing would be the same. This is a wonderful book to read and to share with others. Thank you Craig Ferguson, for showing me a piece of life I've not been a part of. I feel as if I have now been there and returned home safely. I would definitely recommend a Craig Ferguson read anytime. I'm recommending another book, "When Rabbit Howls" by Trudi Chase. Though it's on a completely different subject, however, it keeps your attention and is a fast page turner. Basically about trauma in her life, in large doses, which caused her to have, medically docummented, multiple personalities. At the same time, somewhat similar to "An American on Purpose" because both of these people had to climb out of a mind-altering life that keeps pulling you back. They both were able to get themselves out, to get to their higher and better place.
Dessie41 More than 1 year ago
I've found Craig Ferguson so very funny, and recently through youtube insightful and just down right entertaining. So when his biography came into my store, I did what I rarely do, I checked it out. What a great read. A story that at times made me laugh out loud in the breakroom when everyone else was trying to read. When I was asked why I thought it was so funny? The only way to reply was that it was funny the way that life is funny. Not stand up, though that's in there too. It feels like Craig is sitting across from me and we are sharing a cup of coffee, tea, whatever nonalcoholic beverage of your choice, and we are exchanging the stories of our lives. The ones that we hardly dare to think about, let alone speak out loud. But he does it with a clear and honest voice that I could read all day. He's human, but not whinney, he made me cry, but not because he forced me to. But because I always cry when my friends do, and after "American on Purpose" Craig Ferguson feels like a friend.
arnett4388 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, it wasn't a laughing out loud book, it was a more serious tale of Craig's life. I like him alot and I like his show, and I enjoyed reading about his life.
oregonwmn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like Craig Ferguson. I rarely see his show, but when I do, I always enjoy it. I have seen a couple of his movies. I am not sure why I downloaded his book American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot, but I am sure glad I did. Mr. Ferguson is an interesting guy. He wrote from the heart and told the good and bad of his life's journey. The book was candid and flowed well. I would recommend this book if you like Craig Ferguson or even if you don't. It is a very interesting read about a boy with a dream and how he made that dream come true. Sure he screwed up along the way, but determination and hard work (and a "bit of luck") got him to where he is today.
thediaryofabookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An off the cuff birthday present from the hubby, American on Purpose landed in my lap without my even knowing it existed. I'm a big Craig Ferguson fan, and I love the Late Late show but am generally far to old, responsible and sleepy to stay up for it these days (I mean it doesn't start until midnight local time out here). So I missed any mention of him writing a biography.Well lucky me! Because what a terrific, surprising read it was.Obviously I've been on a huge YA bender lately, barely mixing it up with the occasional Middle school book and the even more occasional historical book. But I tossed everything to the side for Craig and jumped right in to it. Refreshing, hysterical, completely honest without being awful to those he's hurt in his life, Craig tells the story of his childhood in Scotland, his alcholism, his struggles with employment etc. right up until nowish in his life. It was oddly uplifting, I mean he's come out pretty good, and gosh, if he can clear through 250,000$ + of debt then the rest of us should be able to deal with whatever paltry sums we have owing on homes, student loans, credit cards etc. right?! More than anything though he made me laugh out loud, a lot. And that's an accomplishment with a book, few are funny enough to get passed the grin stages and into the embarrassing guffaws in public. But if I wasn't laughing I was almost always smiling, even his bad times are filled with stories of the great people who cared enough to help him and the positive funny things that happened.So if your stuck in a rut with your reading, or if you love Craig Ferguson, or even if you just want to laugh out loud, I highly recommend you pick up American on Purpose today.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Book Report: Scottish prole grows up in emotionally chilly, physically cold as hell Glasgow, turns to drugs and alcohol to fill gaping emotional void, screws over a variety of people as all alkies do, and one day wakes up to learn he doesn't like himself, his life, or his future. Rehab, restitution, success, and true love follow.My Review: I herewith confess: If Craig Ferguson was even a teensy hint queer, I'd be on a plane to Cali and camped on his doorstep with flowers, candy, and a leg iron. He amuses and impresses me even more after reading his pretty darned candid memoir.I'm a complete pushover for a man in a kilt anyway, but when he can act and tell jokes the way this man can...! Ferguson, the host of "The Late Late Show," made me laugh so hard I cried when he said of his son's mother: "No, really, she's a lovely woman. For legal purposes." I heard nothing of his show for the next five minutes because I was shouting with laughter, and Mr. Man was a little put out that I kept referring to that line (okay, I shamelessly stole it, and I still use it, and unless I get a cease-and-desist letter I'm gonna keep right on) to the point of having a jealous fit. (Thanks, Craig!)I am also a sucker for men who come to the USA with dreams of success and end up in love with our amazing, incredible, flawed, imperfect, conservatism-ridden paradise. Ferguson fell in love with the USA in its warty glory, and he rightly credits this astonishingly open society with a goodly measure of his own success. His talent plays an acknowledged role, but he makes sure to tell his readers that his life wouldn't be possible anywhere else. It's very heartening to me, and it's an instructive reminder that, problems and blemishes be damned, the rest of the world rightly and justly thinks we're on to something here.Lastly, but far from least, I'm a complete sucker for a good story told by a good storyteller, and this book most certainly is that. Ferguson can't resist telling tales, no doubt polishing them up a wee bit, but not always in his own favor. He can't resist making light of things that sink many an alkie person's life, and sank his own, and thus takes the ponderousness out of the idea of recovery. I've read a fair bit of recovery literature but I'm always fatally put off by the earnest, well-meaning "Amazing Grace"-ness of it all. A person's personal spiritual awakening is, and should remain, just that: Personal. In other words, BELT UP ABOUT JESUS. Ferguson not only does, he makes it clear that he has a BIG problem with religion. *swoon* My lands, just when I thought he couldn't get more magnetically, hypnotically gorgeously attractive!So should others read this? Yes. It's fun, funny, and touching; it's honest and it's gritty; and in the end, it's a pleasure to get to know Craig Ferguson as well as if he were the bloke on the barstool next over.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alright, I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a man in a kilt. The cover of this one grabbed my interest; several of my LT friends recommended it highly, and the scottish accent was a big draw.Craig Fersugon, currently the host of the LateLate Show on CBS, was born in Scotland. Listening to him read his delightful memoir, one has no doubt about his origins. He speaks easily, eloquently, poignantly of his childhood and adolescence - his less than stellar record in the educational system, and his early start at drinking alcohol. Needing some type of employment, he joined on with a punk band as a drummer. The drummer skill set stays with him to this day.In the story, he takes us through years of drinking, drugging, bouncing from job to job, woman to woman, sleeping on friend's floors to buying a house in the country with a very wealthy woman. We accompany him through 3 unsuccessful marriages and several other romantic relationships.He drops many names, not in a name-dropping fashion, but more to establish opportunities received and often blown. He drifts back and forth from Scotland to London to the US and back again. Finally, he lands in a very expensive re-hab unit outside of London. Unlike many other "I found religion when I gave up the bottle" memoirs, he tells this part of the story very matter-of-factly, and without the excruciating detail many such stories subject the reader to. While he is brutally honest about his failures, he is deeply apologetic about the havoc wreaked and the lives injured over the years. He is justly proud of his now 17+ years of sobriety--it took him over 7 years to pay off debts he owed to a long line of friends.His career since coming to the US in 1993 has steadily improved. He is now a writer, an actor, a producer and director. He is very proud of becoming an American citizen and speaks powerfully of why he is. He recognizes that the U.S. is not a perfect place to live, but still wouldn't be anyplace else. He is even more proud of his life- having his own show on CBS, living a sober life, and being ---finally-- a loving husband and father. He still remembers with great affection the giant color poster he received from NASA when he was a child and wrote to say he wanted to be an astronaut. It was this first touch with American in fact, that put the idea into his head that he wanted to go to America.In short, this is a story worth reading. The language can be a tad raw, but it is true to who the author is. If you really want the full flavor, I'd recommend the audio format. Listening to him read the story truly brings it alive. It is laugh out loud funny, inspiring, and memorable. He explains in the ending paragraphs exactly what being an American means to him. America truly is the best idea for a country that anyone has ever come up with so far, not only because we value democracy and the rights of the individual, but because we are always our own most effective voice of dissent...we must never mistake disagreement between Americans on political or moral issues to be an indication of their level of patriotism. If you don't like what I say or don't agree with where I stand, then good....I'm glad we're in America and don't have to oppress each other over it. We're not just a nation, we're not an ethnicity, we are a dream of justice that people have had for thousands of years. Americans taught me failure was only something you went through on your way to success. For me becoming an American was not a geographical or even political decision. It was a philosophical and emotional one based on a belief in the reason and fairness of opportunity.