urban legend as humorous anecdote

My man Craig!

My man crush for Craig Ferguson aside, I want to point out that occasionally something happens on his show that bothers this humble skeptic. It’s when guests or even the host want to have an interesting story to tell, so they’ll pull out an urban legend and pass it off as though it was a true story. To be fair to Craig, I know his isn’t the only late night talk show on which urban legends can pop up from time to time. I’ve seen it happen on Letterman’s show.

Monday night’s edition of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was a repeat (yes, I watched it anyway) and it featured Craig, himself, relating a humorous anecdote from his teenage years. He told his guest Denis Leary about a friend (usually it’s a friend of a friend) who while a teenager was “caught” masturbating by his mom.

The story went like this… Craig’s friend was in his bedroom, listening to music through his headphones. They were those big clunky 70s style headphones. Craig’s friend felt the urge and decided to relieve himself without removing those headphones. And, apparently, without opening his eyes. He finishes. In the afterglow, he looks over to his nightstand and there placed lovingly by his mother was a sandwich and a glass of milk. No, they weren’t there before he started his self massage session.

Uncomfortable laughter ensued. Denis looked stunned as he cracked up. Later, Craig even played out the scene in the role of the mother quietly placing the meal next to her self-abusing son. Funny story, but not true.

You know me, I’m a skeptic and naturally I thought the story sounded just too good. It had all the elements of an urban legend. So, I did what good skeptics should always do. Research.

Actually, I didn’t have to do a whole lot of digging. A quick visit to snopes.com found the answer. Despite what some of my listeners might say, Snopes is a very good reference. Especially when hunting down urban legends.

The story has its variants, but Craig told an urban legend that Snopes calls “A Tea-Bird In The Hand”. One version on the story has the “friend” putting a pair of panties, stolen from some crush, over his head so he doesn’t see Mom bring his tea.

As I indicated, this wasn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened…

A while back on Craig’s show, guest, Elizabeth Banks told of her girlfriend who left a bag on poop on her one-night stand’s countertop and then locked herself out of the apartment. She passed it off as being something that happened to a “friend” of hers. Funny story, but not true.

Years ago, on David Letterman’s show, a guest told the story of a stranger, completely uninvited, sharing his biscuits (he was British and that is what the Brits call cookies) while waiting to board a plane. Being British, the actor (I forget who It was) refrained from saying anything to the biscuit stealing stranger. Later, he finds that it was he who was stealing the stranger’s cookies. Funny story, but not true.

These and other urban legends can be found on snopes.com.

Knowing that urban legends are being offered as true humorous anecdotes by guests and hosts on the late night talk circuit makes me question the veracity of any of their stories. Oh, well, it’s late night TV show fare, I shouldn’t get too worked up.

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