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Expect intelligently funny stand-up from late-night talk show host

Patrick Beach

Among late-night talkers, Craig Ferguson stands out for what he's not.

He's not a sycophant like Leno. He's not an old crank like Letterman.

And he's not occasionally goofy to excess, like Conan and Kimmel.

What he is, both in his stand-up comedy and on his "Late Late Show" on CBS, is a remarkably approachable and likable guy who quietly upends talk-show orthodoxy. His monologues aren't larded with jokes that are glancing blows; he's likely to come up with a few good ones and just talk ­- from the heart, in a funny way but often with a serious point.

A couple of years ago, when Britney Spears was a full-time resident of Crazy Town, he went on for almost 13 minutes about her problems, his old alcoholism (he was 15 years sober at the time) and how maybe it's not too charitable to be making fun of people who obviously need help.

Then there are his interviews. Whereas the vast majority of celebs who appear on the chat shows do so to thump the tub for their latest projects, Ferguson sometimes doesn't even get around to it.

Publicists might not like that about him, but the conversations he has with guests have substance and are the product of an always-apparent intelligence.

His stand-up comedy is like that, too. His "A Wee Bit o' Revolution" DVD, taken from a 2008 performance in Boston, features a great bit on Ferguson ­- a native of Scotland ­- becoming an American citizen and mere months later making jokes about the president in front of the president.

"I became a citizen in January," Ferguson says in that show. "By April of the same year, I'm hosting the White House Correspondents' Dinner ... Now admittedly it's George W. Bush, but the president of the United States of America! ... He's the most unpopular president in the history of presidents and that's the one I get my photograph taken with."

Even seemingly throwaway lines are golden: "When the flavor goes away in Scottish food, that means it's ready."

Ferguson plays two shows at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre today. Doors open one hour before showtime. Expect enough cursing to convince you you're spending the evening with a really funny guy from Glasgow.

Tickets are $40-$70 at austintheatre.org .