|The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson character|
at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con
|First appearance||April 5, 2010|
|Voiced by||Josh Robert Thompson|
|Species||Animatronic human skeleton|
|Occupation||Talk show sidekick|
Geoff Peterson is an animatronic human skeleton that serves as the sidekick on the late-night talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He is voiced and operated by Josh Robert Thompson and first appeared on The Late Late Show on April 5, 2010. Often referred to as a "robot skeleton", Peterson is a radio-controlled animatronic robot puppet designed and built by Grant Imahara of MythBusters. He has glowing blue eyes, a metal mohawk, and wears an oversized suit with his name scrawled on a contestant's name tag from The Price is Right on his jacket, as well as Mardi Gras beads and a Super Bowl XLVII press pass around his neck. He serves as a co-host of sorts and Ferguson refers to him as "my gay robot pal." He is most visible during the first half of the show (the cold openings, monologues, and Tweets and Emails segments), and the final segment, "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?".
The idea came from Craig Ferguson's repeated complaints that his show suffered due to its lack of a house band or sidekick and his expressed desire to have his own "Robot Skeleton Army". Robot Skeleton Army is Ferguson's name for his Twitter followers, a reference to the cybernetic creatures from the Terminator series of movies. MythBusters' Grant Imahara volunteered to create the robot if Ferguson could get him 100,000 Twitter followers, which he achieved within 24 hours. On the idea and development of Geoff:
"Initially, I wanted something which represented some kind of deconstructionist contempt for the late-night genre and the idea of a sidekick, but [Josh Thompson] became so good at it, he just became a sidekick."—Craig Ferguson, April 2012
According to Imahara, he worked on it weekends and in his spare time, creating a "plastic skeleton with aluminum bones and torso" that "shares a lot with R2-D2 and the Energizer Bunny" (both of which Imahara had previously worked on). Ferguson was directly involved and "very into the design of it"; he and the show's writers "think they may want to send Geoff out into the world, interview people — things like that." Imahara says the name "Geoff Peterson" was chosen by Ferguson:
"There was sort of a Twitter online poll as to what the name for the robot would be. And some people were saying 'Roboskelly,' some people were 'Fergbot,' there was probably about half a dozen names that people were talking about. And Craig just said, 'No, the name is Geoff Peterson.'"—Grant Imahara, April 2010
Initially, the robot was able to say seven pre-recorded phrases, triggered by buttons under Craig's desk. This was later upgraded to wireless control by one of the show's writers offstage using an iPad. Peterson was upgraded again in July 2010, allowing him to shake his head, keep his mouth open, and move his right hand up and down. Ferguson noted that this is because his "wise ass" chip was activated. On September 2, 2013 new upgrades were debuted as the right arm now has an elbow and the previously motionless left arm now has full movement as well, although his left hand fell off during that night's episode. He can also now turn his eye lights off and on to simulate closing and opening his eyes.
Peterson makes occasional comments throughout the show and helps with the email/Twitter segment of the show. His comments are broad and often said as a segue to another joke or to make fun of something else, including Peterson himself, or as humorous non sequiturs. He is featured in three of the "Tweets and E-mails" jingles: a parody of a Bollywood Filmi musical performance, a parody of an 80's glam metal performance, and a Rick James parody. Terminator-esque robot skeletons, which pre-date Peterson, appear in jingles that parody the musical performances of artists such as Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Gary Glitter, and Johnny Cash. Peterson doesn't interact with the guests unless "they want to play around with him."
For Peterson's first anniversary, The Late Late Show filmed a sketch in Las Vegas that aired on the April 14, 2011 show. The segment depicted Ferguson, Peterson, and T.J. the leprechaun partaking of "hallucinogenic frozen custard" with comedian Carrot Top and their subsequent gallivanting around Vegas. The sketch also featured appearances by Grant Imahara, Donny Osmond, Secretariat (the show's pantomime horse, voiced by Josh Thompson impersonating Morgan Freeman), Wavy and Sid (Ferguson's alligator and rabbit puppets), and culminated in Ferguson and Peterson marrying one another at a typical Vegas chapel. For the episode, Peterson's voice was performed live for the first time by Thompson.
A running gag on the show involves Craig making fun of how Geoff can only move one arm, and is unable to walk away from his podium. On numerous occasions he taunted Geoff's requests, questions and comments with his various inabilities, (e.g. when Geoff complained about how Craig got to be the host and do most of the talking while he stood at the lectern, Craig retorted by saying Geoff could take his place as host "the day [he] was able to walk over [to his desk]"). Geoff frequently states he died of a methamphetamine overdose. He is also extremely rich and owns houses and laundromats all over the country. Geoff has a mock feud with frequent guest Kristen Bell, who claims that she had wanted to be Craig's sidekick and was upset when Geoff was selected. Geoff typically gives her a lukewarm, sometimes nasty greeting, and she feels very uncomfortable around him. As of August 2011, Geoff and Kristen had supposedly reconciled while in Paris shooting Le Late Late Show avec Craig Ferguson à Paris. Josh Robert Thompson referred to Geoff as a homosexual, skeleton robot during a live stand-up routine, opening for Craig Ferguson in Hershey, PA on October 9, 2012.
Peterson's voice was originally performed by Ferguson in a loud, monotone, English accent; but this was soon changed. Starting on April 20, 2010, Josh Robert Thompson voiced Geoff Peterson using prerecorded clips of a vaguely George Takei sounding voice. From April 14, 2011 on, Thompson began to occasionally voice and perform Geoff live in-studio, and on May 16, 2011, in a possible backdoor audition, Josh performed Geoff in an actual guest spot. Since June 29, 2011, Thompson has been voicing and performing Geoff in-person for every episode, including those filmed in Paris, France and Scotland. In April 2012, shortly after the news that Ferguson would continue his show until at least 2014, Ferguson told one interviewer that as far as he was concerned, Thompson "has a home" portraying Peterson for "as long as he wants to do it."
Thompson describes Peterson's voice as "one part Snagglepuss, one part Vincent Price, two parts George Takei". Thompson says his live segments are "100% unscripted and improvised". Since Thompson began voicing Geoff Peterson live, he has incorporated several of his own impressions into the character's repertoire. He also performed his Morgan Freeman impression for Freeman himself on June 10, 2011, asking the amazed actor "Would you like to hear my Morgan Freeman voice?" and "What would you like to say to yourself?" Freeman called the impression "outstanding."
When Thompson was unavailable for two weeks starting with the November 7, 2011 show, Peterson was voiced by several celebrities: Alfred Molina, Dominic Monaghan, Thomas Lennon, Larry King, Louie Anderson, Lauren Graham, Paula Poundstone, Angela Kinsey, Jason Schwartzman and Shadoe Stevens each for a single episode.  During Thompson's absence in November 2011 and on December 19 for Christmas week, Thomas Lennon again provided the voice of Peterson, in an alternate persona for Peterson known as Khloe Banderas.
Dorsey Shaw of New York magazine's Vulture blog described Peterson as "the de facto animatronic 'King of the One-Liners' for this generation". Jaime Weinman of Maclean's said "I think my favourite part of that is just the decision to give this mohawked skeleton robot a name as prosaically normal as Geoff Peterson." Tom Jicha of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel said "Some nights he's ridiculous, verbally jousting with the robot he [Ferguson] created and named, Geoff Peterson." Linda Holmes of NPR's Monkey See blog listed Peterson on her list of "50 Wonderful Things From 2010", writing "Ferguson continues to be wonderful at what he does, and this was a marvelous marriage of the sensibility of his show with the sensibility of Mythbusters." TV Guide ranked Peterson as one of their favorite robots in film and television.
Guests have often praised the chemistry between Ferguson and Peterson during their interviews on The Late Late Show. Regis Philbin said "Y'know the robot? I've actually fell [sic] in love. I wasn't sure of the robot but he's grown on me. I think it's a great combination. You [Ferguson] say something funny you turn around and look at him and he [Peterson] says something funnier!"
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