How Craig Ferguson Became a Flirting God on YouTube
The former host of 'The Late Late Show' is an icon of flirting to many, who supercut his interviews with women to teach themselves how it's done.
Screengrabs via YouTube
Is Craig Ferguson the swaggiest man on Earth? That's the conclusion drawn by the cumulative videos on the 121,000 subscriber-strong Jayleno Fly YouTube channel. Every couple of weeks, its owner uploads compilations in tribute of Ferguson's beloved, underdog nine year run on CBS's The Late Late Show franchise. Some of these document the many delirious jeers and character breaks that defined the program's obscure sense of comedy. Others are more archival in nature, like a supercut of every appearance Mila Kunis made on the show. But by far, the most popular videos in the catalog are the ones that showcase Craig's pervasive, mildly horny flirtations—or more specifically, the many, many times he charmed the Hollywood starlets who passed through his set.
For instance, a video he posted last August, called "The Ladies Complimenting & Flattering Craig Ferguson” (which features doe-eyed hot seat chats with the likes of Amy Sedaris and Lindsay Sloane), has been watched over a million and a half times. Another, cached as more of an instructional walkthrough, is called "How To Make People Feel Beautiful, Attractive, and Wanted," and has over a million views. Ferguson's flirty interview with a pre-Royalty Meghan Markle has nearly 10 million views, and though the popularity of that appearance was no doubt aided by Markle's becoming Duchess, other comps featuring Ferg and female guests on the channel are similarly high. The Jayleno Fly, who takes his moniker from a recurring bit on the Late Late Show, is the most prominent historian of Ferguson's coquetry, but that should not discount the dozens of other collections from other anonymous YouTubers who've made vids titled "How To Flirt With Women," and "10 Best Craig Ferguson Moments Flirting With Hot Ladies." Somehow, despite the fact that his show has been off the air for nearly four years, Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show interviews have become a primary text of seduction doctrine—a set of ideals to recreate in the field.
I reached out to The Jayleno Fly through his Patreon campaign, where he drums up $118 a month from fans happy to fund the continued reclamation of old Ferguson highlights. He agreed to answer some questions over email, with the guarantee of full anonymity. Fly told me he initially fell in love with The Late Late Show after watching Ferguson's particularly saucy repartee with actress Alice Eve (a video compilation of her Late Late Show appearances on Fly's channel has racked up over 3 million views), and resolved to create his own YouTube hub for Craig content last January after a different channel with a similar brand, "Craig Ferguson and The Ladies," disappeared from the internet. "I didn't enter thinking I'm going to fill this void," he explains. "But I realized later that this was what had happened."
The Jayleno Fly, like most people who were fans of The Late Late Show, didn't strictly watch the program for Ferguson's cheekish interaction with women. (His channel also celebrates other LLS staples like Geoff the Robot, Seabiscuit, and the decade-long friendship that developed between Ferguson and Kristen Bell.) But the primary draw on YouTube seems to be the flirting supercuts. He mentions the many, many comments people leave on his videos, trying to suss out exactly how Ferguson remains calm, charming, and very much himself, even as he stares down A-listers on network television.
"He is seen as an icon for flirting," says Fly of Ferguson. "You could say that's because he has interviewed lots of beautiful women, but so have other late night talk show hosts, but they are not labeled the same." The Jayleno Fly doesn't consider himself a flirtation expert, or even a pickup artist like the many who comment on his videos, but does find massive appeal in Ferguson's confidence when talking with guests regardless of gender. Ferguson's flirting was, Fly says, "for sport, most of his interviews are the manifestation of 'flirting in the wild,' almost like he made a 'flirting cocktail' and let his audience taste it. And that was super entertaining and harmless…It is always mesmerizing to see someone do something the best level it can be done, and that I feel like that was Craig and flirting."
"Harmless" may be in the eye of the beholder, and comfort with the idea of these vids likely varies wildly among individuals. The pickup artist community they can appeal to, after all, is misogynist and foul, using techniques like negging to manipulate women it also objectifies. That these videos dip a toe in those waters, even innocently, can be off-putting. Ferguson was never a true lech, but he was occasionally mildly creepy in a way that certainly reads differently, in retrospect, in the era of the #MeToo movement.
The Coquette, who runs the endlessly addictive advice column Dear Coquette, sees things both ways. "If it seems politically complicated that these YouTubers are studying Ferguson’s interviews for his secret flirtation sauce, it’s because we can never really know what’s in their hearts," she explains. "Are they sexual predators looking to sharpen their teeth or are they just socially anxious boys with good intentions who want to find their footing during early-stage courtship rituals? I suppose it’s a mix of both with every guy."
The Jayleno Fly is, of course, quick to defend Ferguson's honor, stating that whenever the host went over the line, he always paved it over quickly and contritely. "He would be an adult, a responsible considerate adult and apologize for or neutralize the mistake by whatever means," he says. "That's what the best do, they tread where nobody else can, he knew his way around a conversation." Attempts to reach Ferguson by VICE for this story went unreturned.
Still, breaking down someone's ability to talk to women as a science feels a little counterintuitive. That was the conclusion reached by Lex Perez, a proud member of the seduction scene who recorded a video essay analyzing the finer points of Ferguson's cocksuredness. Over the phone, he told me about the risk factors when you frame your entire social persona in the mold of, say, a professional comedian.
"It's like being a five foot basketball player trying to emulate the game of a seven footer. Some people are just not funny, and you gotta find your own strengths," says Perez. "If you try to be a carbon copy of [Ferguson] people will sense the inauthenticity. People are only drawn to authentic people. If you're too eager to be that, you'll lose yourself in the process."
Perhaps that is the best conclusion to reach for anyone looking to imitate Ferguson's infamously smoldering chats with Kate Mara or Miranda Kerr while out on the town. Admire his gift of gab. Hell, envy him, if you must. But never try to be him. Just be your natural self, whatever that may be. That is, after all, the thread these videos of a Scotsman being fully, completely himself all share. It's so rare when it happens, people are naturally drawn to it.
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