My Late Late Show segment is now online

By Phil Plait | March 2, 2012 2:19 pm

I have no idea how legal this is, but a guy who has lots of videos up from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson has posted my segment from February 29 as well:

CBS has a copy of it on their site too, but apparently that’s only viewable inside the US.

If you want to see those pictures Craig and I were looking at and find out more about them, I’ve written about all three: Picture 1 (Rudolph), Picture 2 (the star spewing jets of gas that Craig made fun of), and Picture 3 (the cluster of galaxies with the swoosh of gas). I’ve heard from a few folks with the Chandra Observatory – the one that took the last picture — and they were thrilled it got press. I’m wondering if they had their volume turned all the way down when they watched…

And just in case anyone wonders if I really can play the harmonica, the answer is "kinda". I have further evidence of this being the case. And I have to admit, I’m generally in pretty good company there, too.

Related Posts:

I’ll be on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Wednesday night!
On winning the Golden Mouth Organ
Late Late Cocktail Party Physics

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Cool stuff, TV/Movies

Comments (59)

  1. Merry

    You really held your own against him! Congrats on being a nerd and a comedian!

  2. Gravee


    I actually do want to someday go on the show and win that damn golden harmonica.

  3. Patrick

    Congrats on winning the coveted Golden Harmonica! You did a great job holding your own in a sea of crazy. I just wish you would have had the opportunity to correct Tom Lennon’s mistaken belief that there’s no way to measure the length of a year.

  4. Cindy


    Too bad you weren’t on Monday’s episode with Eric Idle. Then he would have lost two in one episode.

  5. Steve D

    Wow, three consecutive days of harmonica winners. For what it’s worth, I immediately recognized the tune as Ode To Joy. Not sure how Craig missed that.

  6. Hal B


    outstanding job, very nicely done!

  7. Don F

    Mouth organ? No. It is an HARMONICA.

  8. chief

    Thanks Phil. It’s on too late for me to tune in. Knew you would eventually do a post to it.

  9. Peter Eldergill

    I’m guessing that “Harmonica” is a trade name and “mouth organ” is a generic name?

    Good to see this. Thanks for posting it. The video quality was fantastic.

    Speaking of Dr Who fans…has BBC announced a release date for the second half of the season yet?


  10. Nicely done! You got the biggest laughter with your joke towards the end! Even cooler was that you got to do the elevator pitch on skepticism. So is Craig a sceptic?

  11. Todd Y.

    Congrats! Putting it as nerdly as possible, I hope that Jon:Neil :: Craig:Phil, meaning that I hope you appear on Craig’s show as often as Neil Tyson appears on Jon Stewart’s show.

  12. Marc JX8P

    Brilliant interview! You had him a couple of times! 😀

  13. Don F

    No, I believe both are generic. Much like “fiddle” vs “violin” — I doubt one would play Ode To Joy on a “fiddle”.

    And as a fan of the TV series M*A*S*H, it behooved me to type “an HARMONICA”.

  14. artbot

    Great segment, Phil. Only thing that could have made it better:

    What’s this photo?
    That’s the Horsehead Nebula.
    You know, we have our own horse here?
    Ding dong!

  15. Very fun! You are a natural. You need to get on Colbert and Stewart now! :)

  16. He mentions your book, but then doesn’t let you even describe what it’s about? Sheesh. Craig was kinda all over the place on that interview.

  17. LiisaM

    Terrific! I hope you can be a regular guest. Thanks for posting one that’s viewable here in Canada.

  18. I haven’t seen this show before (I only know Craig Ferguson from his minor appearance in Red Dwarf), but wasn’t Phil hilarious?

  19. “So… astronomy!”
    “I’ve heard of it.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Classic. Fine job :)

  20. Christine P.

    That was just FULL of awesome! Good work!

  21. zak

    great job phil you were great i would have fizzeled 5 seconds in.

  22. Paula Helm Murray

    you rock as always. Great showing. Great harmonic play too.

  23. “I am a plate!” is the cleverist thing ever.

  24. Brenda

    I love my Star Trek plates!
    Rock on Phil!

  25. Daniel J. Andrews

    Nice! Thanks for posting.

  26. tacitus

    Craig was kinda all over the place on that interview.

    That tends to be fairly typical, I’m afraid. I like CF (he and I grew up in Central Scotland around the same time) but every time I try to watch his interviews I get frustrated by his schtick. I like the fact that he has people on who wouldn’t normally be seen on a late night talk show (like Phil) but I wish he would let them talk without throwing in random stuff about vaginas (for example) that tends to derail the conversation before it really gets going.

    I think part of the problem must be writers/research team. Phil’s book is a gold mine of comedic opportunities for someone like CF, while still getting people interested in what the book is about. But they completely passed up the opportunity and went for cheap jokes instead. That’s a shame.

    Stephen Colbert also plays up the laughs in his interviews, but the jokes and questions the writers give him often help to draw out the interviewees too, so at least at the end of the segment, you feel you have learned something as well as having been entertained.

    I’m happy for Phil that he got some exposure on national television — hopefully others (i.e. TDS and TCR) will see it and realize that he would be an excellent guest to have on their shows.

  27. I really like Craig, but I think he was having problems thinking of interesting questions to ask you. How does this work before you go on the show? Do you talk to Craig or one of his staff to decide on topics to discuss? I would think you would do that just so you could both be prepared.

    By the way, you’re comment, “You need to be on the internet more” was classic. I actually did laugh out loud. My cat thinks there’s something wrong with me. That’s nothing different though.

  28. weaver

    Excellent work, Mr Plait. And keeping up with CF’s surreal meandering is no walk in the park.

  29. James B

    Craig Ferguson? Really? Is this a case of “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”? This is how it should have gone:
    “Hello, Phil Plait speaking”
    Hello, my name is A_______ from CBS, I’m a researcher on the Craig Ferguson show. Mr Ferguson is a real fan of yours and he’d like to invite you onto the show”
    “No thanks”
    *stunned pause* “………I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that”
    “I said no”
    “But this is Craig Ferguson I’m talking about”
    “I know who he is. He’s that reject from Scotland who thinks he’s funny”
    “There no need to…”
    “Let me stop you there. He’s a talentless arse who panders to a low-mentality audience that sound like they shop at Walmart. He’d probably liken any of the astronomical images I bring on to vaginas. So no thanks.”
    “But we’re willing to pay”
    “Listen. The riches of Croesus himself would not persuade me to share a stage with that buffoon. So I’ll bid you good day” . *click*

    You might want to cut that out and keep it by the phone, just in case Conan O’Brien calls. But if Jon Stewart or the Simpsons call, do it in a heartbeat.

  30. Chris

    Well that was very ADD. Didn’t even talk about the book or talk about any serious Astronomy.

  31. Magdalena

    I really enjoyed the interview. ‘was really impressed with your replies! Congratulations.

  32. Fantastic spot, Phil! And it really is hard to comprehend the scale of that Space Vagina on the X-ray image.

  33. Beau

    They bring an astronomer on their show on Leap Day and all they can talk about is whistling allen bears and space vaginas? I guess I don’t watch late night talk shows enough, but is that standard fare? Oh well. Congrats on winning a golden harmonica I guess.

  34. Eric W.

    Craig rubs me the wrong way in all directions; guy’s a schizo “interviewer,” bouncing all over the place, not allowing the guest to get a word in. You held your own though Plait.

  35. Thanks to everyone who liked this segment and sent your compliments! That means a lot to me. :)

  36. But…

    James B (30): I’m fascinated by your comment. After I say, several times, that I really like Craig Ferguson and his show — which is also quite clear in the segment — you come here and make a very big point of crapping all over that.

    What would possess you to do that? Perhaps you really don’t like the show or Craig, but do you not see how grossly insulting what you’ve written is to me?

    I’m honestly curious about what would motivate you to do something so rude. And in the meantime, you might want to read my commenting policy.

  37. Mike

    Hilarious! Great job Phil! I do find the term golden mouth organ inspiring, but in a different way more similar to how Craig views astronomy pictures.

  38. bbmcrae

    I have no idea what kind of alien madness would convince James to have written that. It’s a strange, off-putting kind of snobbery that impresses no one but the person who wrote it.

    Great job, Phil. Yeah, Craig is all over the place a bit. He’s also a comedian, incredibly funny, and keeps a lighthearted chaotic energy to his show. Which is why I love watching him.

  39. André Author

    Dear Phil Plait,

    great show, great segment. You are a brave man! And about the mouth organ: Well plait! (mhua)
    Your Bacon number has been shifted to 1 now, is that right? 😉

  40. Okay, now we know how to market you. Carl Sagan with laughs! and you gotta bring that to TAM.

  41. Joel

    Well done, Phil!! You held your own with Craig Ferguson and then some. Great banter between you two. Congrats.

  42. Steve Metzler

    Nicely done, Phil. As tacitus said, Ferguson is like an alpha male when it comes to interviews. He is a funny guy, though it’s difficult to get past his (sometimes puerile) efforts to generate LOLS. But you did well there, and contributed a few of your own.

    I would have really liked it if he allowed you to expound more on the topic of skepticism (but realise that this couldn’t realistically happen within 10 mins of what amounts to only sound bites). This is an area that the U.S. public in general is pretty much unaware of. FFS, why don’t we teach critical thinking in the classroom?

  43. ND

    James B,

    The man has a Scottish accent. Your argument is invalid.

  44. Roger

    Loved it! Really fun!

  45. Wzrd1

    Phil, I DO have to agree with #28 Cafeen Man’s question. Does the show actually ask you questions or have any discussion with you before an appearance or do you go in “cold”?
    As for handling Ferguson, very well done.
    Though, for a PERSONAL preference, I far prefer a minimum standard of culture in humor to be at LEAST on par with the late Benny Hill. 😉

    @43 Steve Metzler, actually, I’m on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s educator’s mailing list, “Teaching Tolerance”, where the suggested and experiential shared teaching method IS critical thinking, to overcome prejudice. Of course, once a student begins thinking in such a manner in personal interaction with fellow humans, it can only spread to the rest of their lives. At the very LEAST, they may become Deists. 😉

  46. MoMan

    I love Ferguson. Strikes me as a guy who would be unforgettable to smoke weed with (not that I would do that at 70!). And Phil, you did a great job. If I had known you played a little harp, I would have given you a blues harp lesson the last time I saw you. But, fair warning: it’s addicting and can lead to abandoning a career that pays better

  47. Wzrd1

    @46, MoMan, I think Phil already abandoned a career that pays better, he’s an astronomer, rather than a comedian. 😉

  48. Phil, that was great! I’m a big fan of both you and Craig, so this was a real treat. Looked like it was a lot of fun to boot!

  49. Mike H

    Thanks for posting this, my DVR screwed up my attempt at recording the show. Well done on the interview, keep practicing that mouth organ. :)

  50. Kinnell

    Good going, you gave as good as you got there. Out of all the talk show hosts I probably prefer Craig Ferguson the most. When it got on to the subject of sci-fi nerds, shame you didn’t mention his appearance on “Red Dwarf” as Lister’s Confidence – he’s probably never had someone do that before…

  51. Musical Lottie

    I enjoyed that 😀 particularly your quick wit – I’ve only really seen Craig Ferguson when Jim Parsons has been on his show, so with a sample size of 1 I don’t know how he is generally with guests, but I can imagine he occasionally needs to be kept in his comedic place 😉

    Incidentally, since I’ve been reading your blog I have accumulated many lovely awesome hi-res astrophotographs for my desktop background, and Picture 2 is one of my absolute favourites – every time I see it I’m awestruck once again.

  52. BobW

    I appreciate the way you were able to joust with Ferguson. However, “I am a Plait” deserved more laughs.

  53. Joe R

    Great spot, Phil! And I think we all know who the reject who thinks he’s funny is here…

  54. Andrew F

    Great interview!

  55. Dan

    Very good Phil, I appreciate (as evidently a few others here can’t) that it is sometimes OK to joke and have fun, and not everything has to be a deep philosophical or scientific conversation to be meaningful. Ferguson’s show is silly and very entertaining, and you did a great job of fitting in and keeping up with him. I’m sure new people will check out your books, read this blog, or just Google skepticism because of your appearance. Great job and keep spreading the science!

  56. Greg


    Realizing that shows like the Late Late show, the Daily Show, Colbert and so on will not give you a chance to talk at length about anything I think that you should have a good 5 second sound bite to describe your book. Something like :

    “It’s a great book describing all the ways the universe can kill you with things like black holes, gamma ray burst and so on. And while the odds of any of those things happening in our lifetime is incredibly small, I use those fantastic disaster scenarios to show you some really cool stuff about the universe we live in. It’s a surprisingly fun book.”

    Have 3 or 4 of those on hand at any moment and as soon as you have a chance to plug the book fire one off. That may be the only part of the conversation you can control in the whole segment.

    The question about you being a skeptic threw me off as well. I didn’t think that’s where he would start. But it’s a perfect place to have another one sentence description ready to fire off. I think your answer about a skeptic simply being somebody who ask for proof was a great start. But boy, it’s got to be tough to steer the conversation to anything more concrete than that with Craig bouncing all over the place. I think you held your own in that section.

    But boy, the line about how he needs to get on the internet more was brilliant. That was thinking on your feet for sure.

  57. Johnny

    You were awesome Phil. I didn’t know you were that good at improv.

  58. Absolutely enjoyable! Kudos, Phil! Giggled the entire way through, I did…


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