After a mercifully short opening talk in which he joked that viewers at home were thinking Ooh look, Andy Richter’s got his own show!, gave a “massive thank you” to former show host Craig Ferguson, got choked up introducing his parents in the audience, promised viewers he would “do my best not to let any of you down,” unveiled show band leader Reggie Watts and gave a “massive” shout-out to Bud Light for sponsoring the show’s on-set bar – yes, “Massive” drinking game has been born – James Corden officially kicked off his tenure as host of CBS’ The Late Late Show with a video explaining how he got the gig. It went like this:
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves inserted a golden ticket into one of many candy bars, which were then strewn among the many candidates, real or imagined, whose names the press had bandied about after previous host Ferguson announced his exit: Joel McHale, Chris Rock, Simon Cowell, Lena Dunham, George Lopez, Billy Crystal, Katie Couric, Chelsea Handler, etc. Corden picks up the candy bar dropped by Handler, finds the ticket and heads to Late Night Host School of Training, where he’s waterboarded by Jay Leno, slimmed down by Arnold Schwarzenegger, schooled in the art of laughing at not-funny gags from the mouths of self-absorbed Hollywood guests by Allison Janney, and lent moral support by Meryl Streep, until he’s finally ready to make his debut. “In three months, this show will be mine!” cackles Leno.
How Corden would kick off his show became a topic of conversation months ago, when he appeared before a couple hundred journalists at TCA Winter Press Tour to to talk about his The Late Late Show plans. He and EPs Robb Crabbe and Ben Winston floated the idea of not using one because there was “no blueprint” for a Late Late Show that starred Corden. At that Q&A, Crabbe acknowledged that the press in the room no doubt had heard other new late-night hosts on this same stage vow their new show would not open with a traditional monologue (they had), followed by two guests plugging new movies – only to have those shows doing just that six months in (they did). But, Crabbe insisted back then, Corden is not your “traditional stand-up comedian.”
Corden’s path to a different sort of show start was paved by Ferguson, who was credited with re-imagining the late-night opening monologue. Ferguson tossed out the traditional stringing together of topical gags still favored by many late-night hosts, in favor of a story told conversationally, while standing up close to the camera. And, sometimes, news was made, like the time Ferguson used his monologue to explain why he, unlike some comics, would not make fun of Britney Spears’ odd behavior of that time,