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Craig Ferguson, Digesting His Correspondents' Dinner

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The president of the United States smells like a daisy, the vice president is "funny for an evil guy," and the audience is kinda rude, CBS late-night host Craig Ferguson told his TV audience two days after performing at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington.

"Everyone's asking me the same questions -- What's the president like in person? What did he say to you? Does he smell president-y?" Ferguson said last night at the opening of his show, which is taped in Los Angeles.

"You know what he smells like? This is kind of weird -- daisies. I know! I was like, 'How lovely, what a surprise!' " During his performance Saturday, Ferguson noted that eight years ago, when George W. Bush first took office, he had promised to return dignity to the White House. "By the way, I thought you were fantastic on 'Deal or No Deal,' " Ferguson said to the president, referring to Bush's appearance just days earlier on NBC's babe-a-licious screaming-at-briefcases-for-cash reality series.

As in years past, the entertainer was the black-tie clambake's last bit of business, coming after the traditional POTUS performance. And as usual, the audience -- all apparently raised by wolves -- ignored and talked through the sit-down dinner's early parts, including politicians speechifying, correspondents receiving trophies for this and that, impressionable young journalists in training getting their picture taken with the president, etc.

For the uninitiated, it's a shocking scene. Ferguson was no exception. Seated on the dais, awaiting his turn at the microphone, watching the room ignore what was happening onstage, he took on a sort of greenish, stricken look, like an 18th-century Frenchman seated in a tumbril stuck in traffic. Sadly, no one had thought to tell him the correspondents and their Hollywood C-list guests traditionally shut up and pay attention when the president goes into his routine, and they stay shut up for the entertainer.

Ferguson was clearly scarred by the event and said so last night:

"It was very noisy in that room. . . . When congressman Charlie Wilson came out -- you know, the one that isn't Tom Hanks . . . the people were just talking to each other. I'm like, 'Knock it off! I know it is not Tom Hanks but it is Charlie Wilson!' "

Once he got up to the podium to do his shtick, Ferguson said, he thought things went well but, naturally, some people might have been ticked off at some of his jokes.

Vice President Cheney, for instance, was on the receiving end of some of Ferguson's most pointed barbs:

Tonight we mark the end of an era. George W. Bush leaves in eight months. The vice president is already moving out of his residence. It takes longer than you think to pack up an entire dungeon.

Ferguson told his studio audience that after the dinner wrapped, "Dick Cheney came up to me backstage. He patted me on the back and said, 'Enjoy your audit.' He is funny for an evil guy, I tell you. You can say what you like, but he knows funny."

* * *

Britney Spears has returned to work on the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" for a May ratings sweeps episode. The invitation to return was a foregone conclusion after "How I Met Your Mother" hopped on the Britney Spears Crazy Train in March and wound up with its biggest crowd ever among younger viewers and its season best among viewers of all ages -- nearly 11 million viewers.

The newest episode of Britney scenery-chewing will air May 12 with Spears reprising her role of crazed stalker-receptionist Abby, who will now pretend to date Barney while Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Barney on the comedy series, pretends he's thrilled to have her back after having noted Britbrit's lack of comedy chops on some celebrity suck-up show after her first appearance.

"We're all so thrilled to have Britney joining us once again," one of the series co-creators said in a canned comment.

* * *

CBS, the bravest network on television, has cast show killer Paula Marshall in a comedy pilot for next season.

She will play the recently ex'd wife of Jay Mohr, who has a new girlfriend, played by Jamie King.

Mohr has been a regular on Jennifer "Love to Her Friends" Hewitt's Friday drama on CBS, "Ghost Whisperer," so the network owes him, big time.

Marshall, who's pretty enough and talented enough, is known as a show killer, because series in which she's cast tend to get canceled quickly. That list includes most recently "Out of Practice," as well as "Snoops," "Cursed" and "Cupid."

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