He played in a punk band with Peter Capaldi when both were complete unknowns, found fame at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe using the stage name “Bing Hitler” and became one of America’s most high-profile TV presenters.
Now Craig Ferguson is to make a return to the festival for the first time in more than 20 years to host his own star-studded chat show in a brand new venue on Rose Street.
He has been lured back to appear at the Fringe for a 10-day run by promoter Karen Koren under a major expansion for her Gilded Balloon operation into the New Town.
She worked with Ferguson in 1985, before setting up Gilded Balloon, when she staged Edinburgh’s first comedy nights at McNally’s, on Palmerston Place, in the west end.
Cumbernauld-born Ferguson, who played drums in punk band The Dreamboys with Capaldi, scored a Fringe hit in 1986 with spoof folk singer act Bing Hitler, which helped win roles in the comedies Red Dwarf and One Foot in the Grave and eventually his own BBC TV series. After moving to the US in 1995 he appeared in the sitcom The Drew Carey Show and went on to host The Late Late Show.
Karen Koren said: “I worked with Craig when he first started doing stand-up. He two gigs with me at McNally’s and was heckled off during the first. I paid him £25. He phoned me up and told me he was coming back but had decided to change his name to Bing Hitler and wanted £40. I said: ‘Don’t be so stupid.’ And I only paid him £25 for the next gig.
I’ve kept in touch with Craig over the years and have always asked his management that when he comes back to do stand-up could he do it with me. He’s obviously going to be performing with us here, but we shall see if we does any stand-up sets.”
Ferguson, whose show will run from 10.30pm-1am, said: “I finally made enough money in America so I can afford to work for Karen again. As long it’s only two weeks and she lets me sell snacks at intermission.”
Koren and her daughter Katy, who are now running Gilded Balloon together, are joined forces with Danish ballet star Peter Schaufuss to stage more than 40 shows in the new venue, which boasts a 300-seater main auditorium, along with three other spaces.
They could also work together in future on a second venue Schaufuss has bought, the former St Stephen’s Church, in Stockbridge.
Schaufuss, who is spending £1.8 million revamping the former Charlotte Baptist Chapel at the west end of Rose Street, snapped it up last year after councillors rejected a rival bid to turn the building into a bar-restaurant complex.
Productions of Les Misérables, Oliver! and Sweeney Todd will be in the venue. It is being run by Gilded Balloon a year after it took over part of the National Museum of Scotland, where it will return to stage shows in August.
Katy Koren said: “When we were approached by Peter to come in and see the building we didn’t really know what to expect. But we met him, got on great and when he started to show us around we just got really excited about it. It’s such an incredible place.”
Schaufuss said: “I like to work with people who have a passion. I could see them fall in love as I showed them around the building.
“My intention is to open the building as a year-round venue after this year’s Fringe. There will be festival in there every day.”
Karen Koren added: “We’re not leaving Teviot Row, where we’ve been since 2001 and run nine venues, but it’s a very old building and will be redeveloped at some point. We only have a rolling annual deal to use it, so it feels very unstable.
“It’s obviously a challenge taking on this venue, but the book festival is already in the west end, which is right in the centre of Edinburgh.
"It’s amazing how the whole Fringe auduiece has moved up the university since we took over the Teviot Row building, but the festival needs to be all across Edinburgh and widen its offering, especially during its 70th anniversary this year.”