A Joy Ride with James Corden
The Award-Winning Enter tainer’s Hilarious Career
BY Brett Wilbur • PHOTOGRAPHY BY Art Streiber
As the Emmy-award-winning host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS, his extremely popular segment “Carpool Karaoke” has become an enormous hit on YouTube with approximately 2 billion views. The infectiously silly and gregarious Corden has picked up such guests as First Lady Michelle Obama, Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, Adele, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mariah Carey, Madonna and Lady Gaga for a spin in his black Range Rover. Corden ferries his celebrity passengers around Los Angeles and other locations while belting out popular tunes and often swapping clothes with them while picking up fast food and waving to excited passerby.
“Late Late Show” guests have included Bryan Cranston and Jessica Biel performing a mock soap opera using Kanye West song lyrics, a Broadway Musical “Riff-Off!” with a fiery Neil Patrick Harris and a “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts” segment with Khloe Kardashian choosing to eat a fish head instead of answering a sticky question about O.J. Simpson. Corden hosted the 2016 Tony Awards to much acclaim (and has won a Tony himself) and is set to host the 59th Annual Grammy Awards this February 12.
On March 18th, Corden comes to the Carmel area for the first time to host the 2017 Comics for Kids event that benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County. The affable actor and comedian recently spoke with Carmel Magazine in the middle of a typically jam-packed day.
Carmel Magazine: I’m a gushing fan of your “Carpool Karaoke” videos. I keep watching you online—like the one you just did with Bruno Mars—and thinking you’re genuinely having the best time of your life.
James Corden: Oh yeah, I mean that one with Bruno was incredible. Just amazing. I never thought I would get to meet Bruno Mars—let alone hang out with him and sing songs with him in the car. It’s crazy.
CM: Right, but you seem so comfortable and natural. Do you ever get nervous when you’re with those people?
JC: Not really…I probably used to. But now I just sort of think, ‘Well, this is only a waste of time if I don’t enjoy it.’ If I don’t enjoy it, then it’s pointless.
CM: You have a really great singing voice…and you’re very cheeky. That’s why it’s so much fun…
JC: You’re very kind. I’m just constantly amazed how much people like it. It’s thrilling for me.
CM: How do you manage to drive, and dance with your hands, and sing and hit your notes…
JC: Well, we are driving in a convoy of a few cars. We are in the middle. The biggest rule for the show really is to drive in a straight line away from the sun…and it’s Los Angeles so you can never go very fast anyways. You’re traveling at like 10 or 15 miles an hour. It’s pretty easy really to do those things.
CM: What about when you were with Michelle Obama? Were you shocked that she agreed to do the show?
JC: Well it was her idea. They came to us and asked if it was something we would do because they had this wonderful song [“This Song Is for My Girls,” benefitting the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund] to try to help with girls’ education. And they felt like our segment was a good place for it to jump out. But look, just going to the White House and driving around that circle [with Michelle Obama and hip-hop artist Missy Elliott] was incredible. It really was.
CM: So regarding your rivalry with nine-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt…can you tell us if it is ever difficult to pull off those stunts? (Corden has a mock rivalry with the world’s fastest runner and often challenges him to compete in various ways…from racing to rapping.)
JC: No, not really. Well, I was disappointed with my race against Usain. But that’s the life of being a professional athlete. Sometimes you’re not ready for the gun, you know? And I asked Usain, ‘Do you want a rematch?” and he said, ‘No.’ I think we all know the reason for that one. He knows that if I got the start that I wanted, I would destroy him.
CM: I know. I was just wondering if this was affecting your street cred.
JC: No, I think people know just from looking at me how fast I am. That’s not a problem.
CM: Yeah that’s true. So what about when you are doing your “Take A Break” segment? How awful was it giving pedicures to people? Or did you enjoy it?
JC: I rather enjoy all of it really. You’re never really doing a full job and actually working. The whole point of it is just to make it as fun and funny as possible. I love all of it. I really do.
CM: What about having to go completely naked in a property? No problem with that?
JC: Uh, you know I’ll do anything to make you laugh. I’ll really stop at nothing.
CM: Nice. I was going to ask you if you’ve ever visited our area before?
JC: No, never.
CM: So why did you agree to host the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County Comics for Kids event?
JC: It’s an incredible thing to benefit young people and I just felt very honored to be asked, if I’m honest. I felt very proud that someone had asked me to do such a thing.
CM: Are you interested in the Boys & Girls Clubs because you are a parent, or do you have any personal knowledge of the organization?
JC: I grew up in a very small town outside London called High Wycombe. I didn’t grow up in the poorest household and I didn’t grow up in the richest household. I know organizations that existed in High Wycombe that reached out to kids at my school—and that it’s a really important role to play in people’s lives. The great thing about an organization like this is you’ll never really see where the influence stops. You’ll never really see the impact that you’re making on these people and what they are going to make on their children and their children’s children. That’s why it’s an incredible thing to be part of and I just hope I don’t let anybody down.
CM: Oh I don’t think that will happen.
JC: We’ll see.
CM: So who are some of your favorite passengers you’ve had for “Carpool Karaoke?”
JC: Oh man, I’ve really loved them all. Bruno I loved, Adele was just terrific, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, I really loved being in their orbit for a little while. I mean all of them, if I’m honest; I’ve really enjoyed them all.
CM: Who do you listen to in your free time, if you have any?
JC: I’ve been listening to this kid Gallant, he’s really good. And I’ve been listening to the “Dear Evan Hansen” soundtrack, which is a musical that’s opened on Broadway that I really like.
CM: And also congratulations on being named the host for the Grammy Awards; that’s amazing. What direction are you thinking of going for the show?
JC: I’m sort of trying to think right now about what it should be, because it’s really not a traditional hosting gig. The artists are the stars; they’re the thing, they’re the event. So I’m sort of trying to think what I can do to put my stamp on it. But mostly I just really want to bring a sense of joy and enthusiasm to it if I can.
CM: I wanted to know a little bit about your background and your Tony Award and how you transitioned from that into what you do now.
JC: I don’t know really. It just sort of all came along in a bit of a blur. I was asked to host [“The Late Late Show”] and I was incredibly touched and honored that I was asked to do so and it just sort of happened. I didn’t really know that I would be any good at it. I was sort of sure that I wouldn’t. But thankfully, people seem to like what we’ve done.
CM: Well, you’re very genuine and I think that resonates with people. I think people can sense if someone is being artificial or not.
JC: I really feel very lucky to do such a show and I really try to make it the best it can be everyday. I just always hope it’s good enough.
CM: How hard is it to learn all the lyrics for all of those songs?
JC: Some are easier than others. Sometimes I have to listen to them a lot and sometimes I’ve got them straight away. I have a weird sort of thing where I tend to remember lines fairly easily.
CM: Are you ever surprised when you get to know your guests? Are they different than you expected them to be?
JC: Mark Wahlberg was on the show, and I was completely blown away by how open and kind he was. Mostly I’m here thinking, ‘I’m sitting here with [these celebrities.’]…If you’re going to go to work and sing Broadway songs with Neil Patrick Harris and then interview Sienna Miller and Tom Ford…that’s a dinner party I’d love to go to.
CM: So are you like this at home with your family? Are you fun or do you turn off and become a grouchy…
JC: No, I can be in a mood as much of the next guy. But that’s where you want to have all your energy: with your wife and your kids. It can be hard sometimes because the show can be quite all encompassing. I just sort of consider it a privilege to be tired. I have a job I feel so incredibly lucky to do and I’m rewarded very well for it.
Comics For Kids featuring James Corden and benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County takes place March 18 from 5:30-10:30 pm at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach and includes a silent auction, benefit drawing and live auction. For tickets, go to www.bgcmc.org/events/comics-for-kids/.