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James Corden shakes it up with ‘Carpool Karaoke,’ hosting the Tonys and, soon, ‘Cats’

James Corden shakes it up with ‘Carpool Karaoke,’ hosting the Tonys and, soon, ‘Cats’
"I didn't think it would move people in the manner that it did," James Corden says of his "Carpool Karaoke" segment with Paul McCartney. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In a year when James Corden landed the reunited Jonas Brothers for a week of shows, jumped out of an airplane with Tom Cruise and pranked David Beckham with a fake statue of himself, there is one moment the “Late Late Show” host is most proud of. It was a “Carpool Karaoke” segment with Paul McCartney in Liverpool, England. A moment that saw the music icon not only sing “Penny Lane” on the actual Penny Lane but also visit his childhood home, which he hadn't set foot in since he was 21.

“Fifty years ago, he walked out of the door of that house,” Corden says. “And to walk back in with a camera is … I don't know, I feel like it's the perfect example of that segment in a way. You could say, ‘Well, it's just people singing songs in a car’ and the other half you could say, I think it presents an interview which people, perhaps, don't see very often.”

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Despite the “Late Late Show’s” 12:35 a.m. airtime, Corden has managed to tape “Carpool Karaoke” with every major pop star in the world and persuade some of the biggest movie and TV stars to stop by the program’s CBS Television City studio. That McCartney segment, in particular, is a textbook reason why talent flocks to him.

“Like, what makes a good interview? Seeing a side of someone that you hadn't perhaps seen before. Finding something out that you didn't know,” Corden says. “And I feel like that whole experience with Paul was so uplifting. It was joyous. It was moving. I thought it could be good. I didn't think it would move people in the manner that it did. Like, we did it, nine, 10 months ago. There genuinely hasn't been a day where somebody hasn't mentioned it to me.”

When the now 40-year-old Brit relaunched the “Late Late Show” in 2015 following Craig Ferguson’s 10-year run, he knew how he wanted to transform it into a different beast. It didn’t take long to see that his creativity would fly with American audiences and the secret power players — the talent reps.

Like, it's constantly trying to think of new ways that will mean that people will find this show and share it throughout the day.


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“Our fifth show we just went in someone's house down the street,” Corden says. “We just always wanted to be a show that was the same but different. Just in the notion of bringing out the guests at the same time? That took a lot of persuading for publicists to get on board with. That was something nobody really had done in this sort of space, and it didn't feel revolutionary to us, it just felt like, ‘This makes complete sense.’”

Corden adds, “Now you're in a place where you've got to offer something else, so, whether that's jumping out of an airplane with Tom Cruise or a big sketch with Rebel Wilson or doing a whole week with the Jonas Brothers when they re-formed. Like, it's constantly trying to think of new ways that will mean that people will find this show and share it throughout the day.”

And that’s a big key to “The Late Late Show’s” success, its reach beyond its traditional broadcast time slot. The stars who have appeared with Corden on his “Carpool Karaoke” segments have had their drives turned into widely circulated memes (Céline Dion, most recently), and the show’s YouTube channel has exploded since Corden came on board.

Corden also happens to be one of the hardest-working people in show business. While shooting around 160 episodes a year, he’s also found time to host the Grammy Awards twice and is now returning to host the Tony Awards for another go-round. He admits that sometimes his busy schedule can feel “overwhelming.”

“Now, as we sit here, [we’re] trying to figure out the opening of the Tonys, and then there's something that I'm writing which had to be finished two weeks ago, and we're taking the show to London and all these things like this,” Corden says. “There's a lot to do, but, my feeling is that I find that those things outside of the show keep me energized in the show. We have an incredible team of people that make the show and it becomes an outlet. I feel like the more creative you are, the more creative you will be. And that's all I ever really want to do.”

But Corden wants to make it clear: He thinks it’s a privilege to have all these opportunities on his doorstep and, more important, a privilege to be tired.

“My cousin's tired and he's a kitchen fitter, and he's exhausted. I know he is,” Corden says. “He's just, like, ripping out kitchens and putting new ones in every day, and if I can't find it in me to get up and do this where I am — my life is a picnic — then what's the point? And I guess I want to keep all my muscles. Well, I'm not saying I've got great core strength, but I'm saying my metaphorical muscles. I want to keep them all ready for what's next.”

Outside of the Tony Awards and bringing “The Late Late Show” to London for the third time almost immediately after, Corden’s next big moment will be portraying Bustopher Jones in Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats.”

“It's singing and dancing and then it is using a sort of technology which no one's ever really used or seen before, and I just loved it,” Corden says. “I loved every second of it. And it was worth the tiredness, it was worth the jet lag, coming back here, doing this show. It was worth it all.”

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