James Corden’s announcement of his resignation as host of The Late Late Show created waves in the United States, where talk shows are big business.
For eight years, the Buckinghamshire-born entertainer withstood shrewd American competition and “really reinvented many elements of the late-night format,” as the CBS network boss put it.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert may have ruled the ratings for the past five years, but entertainment website Deadline said “Corden’s show was built for a viral era”.
The Late Late Show YouTube page has been viewed nearly 10 billion times, Deadline addedand has over 27 million subscribers – just behind Jimmy Fallon on 29 million.
When Corden took over hosting duties from Craig Ferguson in 2015, he was an award-winning actor and writer.
He co-wrote and starred in the Bafta-winning BBC sitcom Gavin and Stacey and led the cast in the West End One Man play, Two Guvnors. When that show moved to Broadway in 2012, it won Corden a Tony Award and made a name for himself in the United States.
Along with offering laughs and talk, Corden brought shareable sketches for the late-night ride — including Carpool Karaoke, in which he drove with hugely famous celebrities while singing their greatest hits.
It may sound simple, but Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay called it a “cultural phenomenon” and a “seismic breakthrough” for Corden’s show.
The idea started when Corden was taking part in the BBC’s Comic Relief fundraiser in 2011, with George Michael in the passenger seat.
Corden later told the Mail on Sunday: “It wouldn’t exist without him and his ability to laugh at himself. No way.”
A year after launching his talk show, Corden’s YouTube channel was already reaping the rewards. Carpool karaoke outings with Adele, Justin Bieber, One Direction and Michelle Obama helped him exceed one billion total views,
The former first lady of the United States sang on hits by Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Missy Elliot, who also made surprise appearances. “It’s official: We the people have the most viral First Lady ever.” writes Vanity Fair.
The First Lady may have gone viral, but it was Corden’s vehicle all along.
In 2016, The Wall Street Journal said that Carpool Karaoke had become “one of the most successful YouTube franchises of all time”, and that its views were “approaching Super Bowl numbers”.
Corden also toured Liverpool with Sir Paul McCartney for a Carpool Karaoke special.
David Taylor, group managing partner of The Brandgym, said Corden used social media to “ignite” content for his late-night TV show.
“What James Corden has done incredibly well is take that TV content and amplify it with social media to create fame,” he said.
Corden’s departure from his television juggernaut isn’t a complete surprise — he hinted a few years ago that he and his family were homesick.
“Ending the show will always be a bigger family decision than a professional decision,” he said. told The Sun in 2020adding, “I have an overwhelming feeling that our family has been marching to the beat of my drum for a very long time.”
“A good run”
On Friday, Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter Anousha Sakoui told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s a very competitive space for late-night talk show hosts. So, you know, he’s had a good run.”
But Corden’s “good run” hasn’t been without its problems – which have also shown up on social media.
Corden “has reinvigorated the show since taking over,” Sakoui said, adding, “He managed to have Prince Harry and Megan at a time when people were desperate to find out more about them.”
However, Sakoui said he faced controversy on his own show while appearances in films like the 2019 live-action remake of Cats “divided opinion in a pretty vicious way”.
She explained, “I think he divided Americans to some degree. He was popular with some, but not with others.”
In 2019, there was what the Hollywood Reporter described as an “embarrassing reminder of his unpopularity” when Corden and the Carpool Karaoke crew agreed to do an Ask Me Anything Q&A on Reddit. The session only lasted three questions after Corden was inundated with over 700 negative comments.
Last year, the host came under fire for a section of his show called Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Gut, which was accused of making fun of traditional Asian cuisine.
Another of Corden’s show segments, Crosswalk the Musical, reportedly annoyed commuters and social media users when he and other stars of last year’s Cinderella live-action movie performed numbers in the street.
“Corden, dressed as a rat, can be seen pushing his groin towards the car while singing the chorus to Jennifer Lopez’s Let’s Get Loud,” the Hollywood Reporter saidadding: “The reaction on Twitter has been overwhelmingly negative and has reignited a debate about the popularity of multi-hyphenation.”
Beyond his own show, casting and performance as a gay Broadway actor in Netflix’s 2020 musical The Prom has been criticized for being stereotypical and homophobic.
Corden managed to have the last laugh on Cats. He and his co-star Rebel Wilson poked fun at the film’s special effects at the 2020 Oscarsand he said afterwards that he was “happy to make fun of himself”.
Richard Bean, the author of One Man Two Guvnors, admitted his former leading man could divide opinion, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today program that he’s ‘a bit of a pot these days’, referring to the food that people love or hate.
But Bean described Corden as “incredibly hard-working, ambitious, incredibly professional, with comedic stage timing to absolutely kill”.
So what next for the star? It looks like he will be returning to the UK, or at least spending a lot more time there.
Sakoui said it could be a “difficult transition”.
“These presenters are getting big money, big contracts, and it’s a huge audience, compared to what you could get in the UK,” she said.
She wondered if Carpool Karaoke “might end up being something standalone” starring Corden because “there are really popular segments of the show that I think people would miss”.
Bean was thrilled that Corden could go home. “It’s great. If we could work together again, that would be fantastic. It’s really great news for Britain,” he said.
Chat host rival Stephen Colbert has even suggested that Corden could be the next star in the long-running BBC series Doctor Who.
Naturally, Twitter had a mini-crisis joking Colbert – but a more realistic prospect might be a return to one of his previous success stories, Gavin and Stacey, after a Christmas 2019 reunion became the most-watched television comedy for 17 years.
“It ends so open that I think it would be a shame to leave it there,” Corden told BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball last year.
He will no doubt be short of offers – but has not yet been fired on his plans.
Announcing his departure from his show, he said: “I never saw it as my final destination, and I never want this show to overstay its welcome.
“I love doing it and I really think a year from now will be a good time to move on and see what happens.”