CRAIG Ferguson hasn’t changed too much since the last chat 30 years ago.

The rolled-up sleeves reveal he’s been Beckhaming the upper body rather a lot (hippy suns, sons’ names, Celtic symbols, tributes to his late parents etc).

But the healthy vegan diet looks to be working and his light tan is redolent of Ayrshire summer, time spent cycling with an eight year-old.

It’s all confirmation that the once leathered trousered comedian’s days of getting completely leathered (a friend once described him as ‘The alky’s alky’) are long gone.

Yet, you wonder how much 25 years of Hollywood – and life – has changed the head of the man who became a chat show king, besides adding a few grey hairs.

Has the boy from Cumbernauld become more aloof now that he’s a squillionaire, been besties with the likes of Robin Williams and Carrie Fisher, and, according to Frankie Boyle, “sha**** Sharon Stone?

Is he still blinded by ambition? Does he consider himself a success?

Does he still scowl at Scotland, the way he once did through an upturned whisky glass? And does the Ringo electronic parking system in Glasgow really get him that excited?

Right now, Ferguson’s excited to be performing stand-up in Edinburgh Fringe. It was at the Fringe when he was spotted by an American agent and lured to Hollywood.

“I went over for a couple of weeks to see if there was any work,” he recalls, grinning. “Two weeks turned into 25 years.”

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Before we talk about Tinseltown, does he have his head round being back in Scotland? “Yes, because I started coming back in 2011, when I got the place in Ayrshire. When my oldest boy (Milo, 18) went to college) I put my toe in the water with work here. And then Ford (Kiernan) came up with the Still Game offer.”

Ferguson’s time in Tinseltown produced an array of badges. He wrote and starred in three movies, appeared in sitcoms, he directed, wrote three books and proved his chops as a comedy actor and radio host.

The ten-year stint on The Late Late Show saw him become became a household name across America.

But what did he learn in the process? “When I got to Los Angeles I initially thought I was successful just by being there,” he says, with a knowing smile.

“But fortunately I had blown it early enough in my career to be able to recover. I see young performers, and I was like them once, who think their talent is unique and this talent will dispel all problems you have; that if you’re late, or drunk or an ass**** then it won’t matter. But what I’ve discovered is that talent isn’t that rare. It’s like your driver’s license. You’re going to need it, but you have to ask ‘What else do you have? Will people want to work with you? Are you going to be a d***’.”

He adds; “I don’t think there is any mystery in showbiz. The ones who survive are human beings. The ones who are gone are the ones who believed they were a rare genius.”

He smiles; “Yet, at the same time there are plenty of f****** no-talent sh**bags making a fortune.”

During his twenties, the Glasgow years, Ferguson made a name for himself as his comedy alter ego Bing Hitler. He landed TV pilots. He suffered the false dawns. Talent was never in question. The real worry was his apparent commitment to self-destruction via drink. In Christmas 1991, broke, drunk and in London, with a screaming hopelessness in his head, he decided to end it all.

But an intervention by a bar man, and a glass of sherry, denied his early exit.

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Ferguson got sober in the New Year and worked hard. After being talent spotted at the Fringe, he took off to LA, and set out to conquer. “It was hard. You can’t tell people you once filled the Pavilion as Bing Hitler.”

Yet, Hollywood loved him, the cheeky, handsome Scot was fresh and inventive. But what about the effect of being paid $12m a year? (He’s said to be worth north of £30m) Did that change your attitude to others, to the job?

“That was a challenge,” he admits. “My answer to that is ‘Sometimes’. There was a point when I was in danger of believing that the amount of money I got paid for a job was commensurate to how valuable it was to me artistically. I was caught up in financial indulgence.”

Houses? Cars? “Yeh, yeh. All of that. “But now that’s not the case; I’ve got a house in Glasgow and a but n’ben in Ayrshire.” And a home in Hollywood? “I do, but it’s on the market.” He adds; “No. I think conspicuous wealth is vulgar. It’s Trump and his gold taps. And I admit I went through a bit of that.”

Did money blunt the edge? “I suppose money changes the way you think about the work you want to do. I don’t want to not work. And my wife gives the impression I’m better not hanging around the house.”

But if you’ve got the money, Craig, will you get out of bed for £500 a week plus travelling for a theatre tour? “I would work in theatre. If I felt I could contribute to a play.”

Ferguson’s success on the Late Late Show was predicated upon funning, flirting. How seductive was it to have the likes of Meghan Markle ask him to pinch her skin, or actresses saying if they weren’t married they’d be taking him home there and then? “I flirted with actresses in the same way I flirted with Hugh Lawrie,” he says in a not entirely convincing voice. “It was all pretend. It would be foolish to think that was real.

Disillusionment increased the more Craig Ferguson played with fake reality. But when did he come to feel like an ageing footballer, realising the career couldn’t last?

“I felt that after the first week,” he says, smiling. “I was amazed to get past the first month, six months, a year.” He thinks for a moment; “Let’s drop the footballer analogy. Let’s go to boxing. In the last few years my thinking became ‘If I keep doing this I’m going to get hurt. It will do my head in because it takes so much time and physical energy.’

“You see, I’d go home pretty much shattered every day. I was happy I’d got the job, but seven years in I’d had enough. It makes you crazy. It elevates levels of selfishness and self-importance. “If you are in a work environment where 120 people are focused on me being in a good mood, well, I can’t be in a good mood all the time. Some days you just can’t cut it. So I spoke to my wife about it and she said ‘After this contract we’re done.”

But the Hollywood experience was invaluable. “The great thing about The Late Late Show was it demystified Hollywood for me. I met everybody. You get to see it’s a workplace. It’s sometimes glamourous but I used to say to Scottish people when they’d come to visit ‘Look, when the sun isn’t shining, this place is Airdrie.” He adds, quickly; “No disrespect to Airdrie.”

Ferguson worked hard at being funny. You can see on YouTube how he grasps for the comedy, makes it happen in the moment. But doing that every day hurts. And he already been beset by mental health issues.

“I can’t deny the darkness swirls around,” he says in soft voice. “But, and maybe this is naïve of me, I think everybody feels it.” He pauses; “Well, maybe not everybody, but most of us feel despair at some time.”

And those who are intelligent, creative, looking for challenges, are prone to seeing cliff edges when they run out of ground? “Yes. When I was a young man, and I probably had this conversation with you back then, I wanted to tell you how f****** great I was, how awesome I was, how much I was going to do. But all that was coming from insecurity. And I’m different now in the sense that I don’t mind telling you how terrible I feel at times. At times, the dark thoughts role in like the f****** weather and you can’t work out why.”

He’s right to be honest. The alternative is horrific. “Yes, there’s the isolation that creates. You feel you’re the only person who’s going through this.”

He grins; “Yet, Hollywood took away the debate I had with myself about whether I was successful. I know now I have been successful in a couple of different things. But for a long time I couldn’t admit that to myself. It didn’t feel Glaswegian to say that. What I’ve come to realise is if I don’t admit I’ve succeeded then I didnae. I have to admit it - or it’s not real. This doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me a lucky man.”

Craig Ferguson’s Hobo Fabulous is at the Edinburgh Playhouse, August11 Tickets: