When CBS announced longtime “The Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson’s successor was James Corden, many TV critics and late night fans were confused. The comedian is far more well-known in his native U.K., and viewers wondered why the network couldn’t find a talented replacement with bigger name recognition here.
But there is a method to their madness. Corden has more comedy and talk show experience than American audience might expect. He also has some ambitious plans for his new hosting gig, and it could be crazy enough to work.
The new late night host’s debut is perfectly timed, coming on the heels of his starring role in the fairytale musical “Into the Woods.” Sharing substantial screen time with Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, and Chris Pine has to grant him some street cred with American audiences. Sci-fi fans may also remember Corden fondly from his cheerfully amusing guest spots on “Doctor Who,” the first of which had him taking in Matt Smith’s time traveler as the most bizarre roomie ever.
Corden’s full resume is substantial and amazingly varied. He’s done sitcoms, game shows, live theater, and cartoon voiceovers. He’s appeared in both serious and funny roles on the small and big screen. Corden’s extensive work with so many people in the entertainment business makes it easy for him to interact with celebrity guests in his new role. He’s experienced in so many different forms of comedy, he has a wealth of skills to draw on for the goofy, improvisational vibe late shows are known for.
The trick of keeping your job in the uber late night spot is to be wild and entertaining enough to keep bored college students and channel-flipping insomniacs awake and tuned in. On Corden’s U.K. comedy panel show, “A League of Their Own,” the host proved he can get actors, comedians, and macho sports guys to do all sorts of crazy things. He’s also not afraid to take one for the team, though he might have to tone down the resulting F-bombs for American TV. One of the highlights from his series involved U.S. Open tennis champion Andy Murray taking dangerous aim at Corden’s head.
Corden also got soccer star David Beckham into some compromising positions for a Comic Relief project. The comedian strategically approached his sports idol’s agent with a list of over-the-top ideas that included the two performers sharing a bath.
“There was no way on earth he and his agent would say yes to them,” Corden said in an interview about the sketch, “so the next few ideas would be much easier to sell.”
Turns out Beckham was up for it all, and the resulting video was a huge, hilarious hit.
Late Night Party
Corden’s wealth of talents has the CBS executives excited because they hope he’ll turn the traditional monologue-interviews-music format on its head. The new host wants to bring something new to each episode, so viewers will never know what to expect. Rather than running an orderly ship, Corden will work best as “host of a great party at 12:30,” producer Rob Crabbe said at a recent press tour.
Corden’s talent on programs like “A League of Their Own” was his ability to banter with, tease, and embarrass his guests in a non-hostile way. So many late night hosts dress down their big-name stars in a way that points to their own insecurities. Corden hopes to continue his funny, “not spiky” trend on “The Late Late Show” when he kicks it off this month.
“In this [negative world] climate, I want to make a warm show,”Corden said at a Television Critics Association event. “We can make a show that reaches out to people and reminds them there are still wonderful things.”
Ferguson was pretty much known as “the guy from ‘The Drew Carey Show'” when he first began his late night stint. He turned out to be an intelligent, charming, quirky, and funny host. Corden should surprise his new audience in the same way. Most agree that the late night format has gotten pretty stale. If this British comedian can shake things up with a good-natured, unpredictable, crazy celebrity party, it’ll be well worth tuning in for. The impressive guest list he’s already got going should help, too.
— Late Late Show CBS (@latelateshow) February 20, 2015
What do you think, late night fans? Are you ready to join the Corden party, or are you still skeptical?
Photo Credit: CBS