An Evening With James Corden

A few years back there was a show called Pushing Daisies and I absolutely loved it. Imagine my delight when I discovered I could see the cast and crew in person at an event called the PaleyFest. Presented annually by the Paley Center for Media it celebrates television by offering intimate interviews with the people behind beloved shows. The Pushing Daisies event was fantastic (I even got to meet Ned!) and it became the first of many PaleyFest events I would attend. In recent years, the lineup hasn’t really skewed to my taste and it had been some time since I attended. This year, when I heard one evening would be devoted to the Late Late Show with James Corden I was back on board and, luckily, scored a press ticket to attend. So, last night I headed to Hollywood to spend An Evening of Laughs with James Corden & The Late, Late Show.

Currently, PaleyFest is held at The Dolby Theatre, home to the Oscars. I had actually never visited it before and it’s a pretty impressive venue. Much bigger than any prior PaleyFest venue I’d visited but luckily I had a good seat with a clear view of the events onstage. After a bit of a delay the evening began and we started with a montage of highlights from the first two years of Corden’s reign on The Late Late Show and it was a reminder of how truly funny it is. When I had initially heard Corden would be hosting the show I was skeptical. The guy from Into the Woods? Really? But after watching such inspired bits as Roll Call, Carpool Karaoke and, my favorite, Crosswalk the Musical, I was completely on board.

Man, I think Beauty and the Beast is the best one yet.

The evening was moderated by Bradley Whitford, who spoke to James and Late Late Show executive producers Ben Winston and Rob Crabbe.

© Imeh Bryant for the Paley Center

The very first question Whitford had was how on earth did Corden land the gig? Around the same time Craig Ferguson announced he was leaving the show Corden was starring in the Broadway hit, One Man, Two Guvnors. Les Moonves, the head of CBS, attended a performance and was instantly smitten with the star and decided he wanted to work with him. Soon Corden was tapped to develop a scripted series and during a meeting he just happened to offer some suggestions for the new incarnation of The Late Late Show. CBS liked the suggestions so much they offered the hosting job to him. Never intending to be a talk show host he declined but as the network offers increased he began to change his mind and eventually decided to take the gig. Ben Winston (already a production partner of Corden’s) signed on with him and Rob Crabbe joined the team shortly after.

When developing the show the trio were very aware it needed a strong internet presence to be truly successful and developed some of their most popular segments, like Carpool Karaoke and the Drop the Mic, with this in mind. Clearly they were on the right track because a lot of the segments have become viral sensations and the two mentioned have spun off into their own shows.

Carpool Karaoke especially has become a phenomenon and the audience was eager to hear all about it. Long before The Late Late Show Corden and George Michael starred in a skit for British Comic Relief where they drove through London singing along to Wham! tunes. It was such a success that the Late Late Show team knew they wanted to develop a version for the show. They began to brainstorm and decided to tie it in with LA’s #1 pet peeve – traffic. Corden came up with the title Carpool Karaoke (saying it was his “mic drop” moment) and they were eager to get a popular singer on board. The only problem was that nobody wanted to do it. Corden was little known in America, the show hadn’t aired and the concept was unconventional. Finally, Mariah Carey agreed and, as they say, the rest is history. Whitford pressed Corden to name his favorite companion and after much hemming and hawing he admitted it was Bruno Mars. That happens to be my favorite, too (with Adele a close second).

James Corden is such a fun late night presence and his enthusiastic personality extended to the Dolby stage. It was evening filled with a lot of laughs and some behind the scenes insight. It was a nice return to the PaleyFest and I’m looking forward to what future festivals bring.

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