Book Club: Riding the Elephant


Riding the Elephant by Craig Ferguson

In Jen’s last book review, she asked you guys which book you all would like to see a review on next. A few people picked this book and I was glad for it! I really like Craig Ferguson and I’ve found him to be very witty, charming, and funny! I hope you guys like this review of his memoir.

goodreads Synopsis

From the comedian, actor, and former host of The Late Late Showcomes an irreverent, lyrical memoir in essays featuring his signature wit.

Craig Ferguson has defied the odds his entire life. He has failed when he should have succeeded and succeeded when he should have failed. The fact that he is neither dead nor in a locked facility (at the time of printing) is something of a miracle in itself. In Craig's candid and revealing memoir, readers will get a look into the mind and recollections of the unique and twisted Scottish American who became a national hero for pioneering the world's first TV robot skeleton sidekick and reviving two dudes in a horse suit dancing as a form of entertainment.

In Riding the Elephant, there are some stories that are too graphic for television, too politically incorrect for social media, or too meditative for a stand-up comedy performance. Craig discusses his deep love for his native Scotland, examines his profound psychic change brought on by fatherhood, and looks at aging and mortality with a perspective that he was incapable of as a younger man. Each story is strung together in a colorful tapestry that ultimately reveals a complicated man who has learned to process--and even enjoy--the unusual trajectory of his life.

Jen’s Review

Usually when I write a review for this blog I try to analyze the various literary devices an author uses to emphasize the way they tell their story, or I’ll try to look at the way a narrator of an audiobook might add further dimension to story. In the case of Craig Ferguson’s Riding the Elephant, I am only left with the distinct impression that this book is more conversational. Since there are fewer layers to dissect with this book, this review will likely be a bit shorter. I will try to be brief so as to not spoil the anecdotes he tells or be too repetitive.


I stumbled upon Craig Ferguson’s comedy while I was doing the stage lights for show he did at my college about 10 years ago. A few months later I stumbled upon his late night show on YouTube and was hooked. The show brought in Shakespearean jokes, bathroom humor, political commentary, an odd pun or two, fourth wall breaks, and just generally the nerdiest jokes I’ve heard on late night TV. Since then I’ve followed his specials, books, and career so I was really interested when I heard he was releasing a new book.

Ferguson makes the point early on in this book that he’s already written a biography before and this book will much more stream-of-consciousness. It’s very enjoyable and as an audiobook - the whole thing comes off like a long form podcast in which Ferguson discusses some cornerstone moments of his life that have shaped into the person he’s become.

The stories he tell are fantastic, funny, and very insightful. Even the title of the book was amazingly insightful with its dual meaning - life is a bit like riding an elephant, you might be riding the elephant, but at the end of the day the elephant is going to take you where it wants to go; the phrase is also slang for being high. This is appropriate for Ferguson’s book as this book is a reflection about about his life as a troubled kid turned alcoholic. Throughout this book he discusses his life being high/drunk and “riding the elephant” and his journey to discover that the metaphor that riding the elephant is to being in the moment.

With the highs often come the lows and throughout this book Ferguson tells stories that are outrageously funny and had me laughing on public transit on my way into work. There were also stories that made me tear up on my way home. So while I would recommend it to anyone who loves Craig Ferguson or just a good chuckle at smart jokes. I’ll include an interview below so people can get a good sense of some of the sensitive topics that discusses. If these topics make you sensitive I would recommend any of Ferguson’s comedy special or even just searching on YouTube “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.“

In my opinion, Ferguson is a great comedian who treats comedy as a craft and it is something I’ve seen him hone over the last few years. During his late-night show, he was fond of breaking the fourth wall and he would often do this by letting the audience in on the craft of comedy or the production of the show. Craig Ferguson’s style of comedy, in my opinion, is witty, a little dirty, insightful and isn’t afraid of the humor in awkward silence.

Next Month

Last month we tried something new: we posed some questions to you all and asked you to choose which a book we’d review/discuss next month.

In Ferguson’s book he is incredibly honest about the key moments of his life that have shaped him as a person, so this month we’d like to ask you:

  1. What is a key moment that has shaped you or stands out to you as a cornerstone moment in your life?

  2. Do you like when books are more conversational or do you prefer traditional structure to books?

  3. Do you have a favorite comedian?

Which of the following books would you rather review next month

  1. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

  2. Recursion by Blake Crouch

JenBook, Review, Reading