The Brit kicked off his run on the CBS show on March 23, 2015 and it’s been a wild ride, from jumping out of planes with Tom Cruise through to the success of Carpool Karaoke and newer segments such as Crosswalk Musical.
Corden tells Deadline that he’s feeling great about hitting the four-figure mark. “We grew up in a country where talkshows are on once a week with two blocks of maybe 20 episodes in the spring and autumn. I can’t remember a time when Graham Norton wasn’t on on a Friday night. That entire show is so incredible, it’s a hallmark of British television and they’ve done slightly less than 500 shows. It’s mad to think we’ve made 1,000 hours of television. It’s a lot to think about,” he says.
Showrunners and exec producers Ben Winston and Rob Crabbe are also aware of the significance of the moment. “The shows we grew up with and loved haven’t got half way, it’s funny to think we’re at a 1,000,” says Winston. “Sometimes it feels like we’ve just started and others it feels like we’ve done nothing else. I feel like we’re still a hungry, scrappy show that’s ambitious and trying to get people to do crazy things. We still have that newcomer’s feeling but on the other hand I genuinely can’t remember producing anything else.”
Crabbe adds, “It’s the crazy thing about American late-night television that anything short of 25 years, you’re still the new kid on the block.”
But the Gavin and Stacey co-creator is also aware that he can’t get too carried away with the landmark as he’s got more shows to make. “The 1000th show is great but there’s a show before and a show after so you can’t ever allow yourself to look back, you just have to ask ‘What’s part two tomorrow’. There’s a classic Lorne Michaels line, the show doesn’t start because it’s ready, the show starts because it’s 11:30pm on Saturday night. You do start to roll with the punches when you do these jobs,” he adds.
Wednesday’s show will feature Mariah Carey and a musical performance from K-pop superstars BTS, who have an affinity with Corden.
It was, in fact, the Fantasy star that helped pave the way for the success of The Late Late Show’s most famous segment – Carpool Karaoke – debuting in March 2015 with the popstar driving around LA singing All I Want For Christmas Is You.
“I’m excited to see her. I’ve told her privately, I’ll never be able to thank her enough for doing the thing that so many artists wouldn’t do, which was to take a risk on this segment. When you look at it on paper, it’s lunacy, to be in a car with a host you don’t know and you’re going to drive round and sing her songs. We owe her a lot. I’m so thrilled she’s coming back for this,” he adds.
Corden and the duo credit his staff, many of whom have been with the show since the start, with keeping the lights on and creating a new type of fun during Covid, which forced him to initially shoot the show in his garage.
“I’m very proud of the way that as a team we navigated that because our show is really about trying to add as much scale and event as we can, whether that’s jumping out of a plane with Tom Cruise or running out into the middle of a crosswalk to perform a musical or driving around with big singers in cars,” he says. “When the pandemic hit, more than most other late-night shows, all of our tentpoles were taken away. We were never a show that’s done a deep dive for 20 minutes so it was a real challenge as to how we keep the energy and the spirit of the show without those things.”
By bringing the crew and the band closer, The Late Late Show has created a parlor room environment and the team are having more fun than ever, as evidenced by moments such as calling up Oprah Winfrey during taping to pitch her on a new group of hotels.
“What I love about the show that we’re doing now is that it happened so organically. When we moved back to the studio but didn’t have an audience, we made a conscious decision to make the studio smaller, bring everything a bit closer. People couldn’t go to the pub, or a bar or a restaurant, they couldn’t meet up with their friends, everyone’s doing Zoom in some sense of solitary existence so maybe we can be a place where they check in with a group of friends every night,” he says.
Corden points to British entertainment shows such as The Big Breakfast or TFI Friday, which both had a chaotic energy and also peaked through the curtain so audiences knew who the camera people were or the producers.
“In truth, pre-Covid, the monologue was the thing that we just wanted to get through and get to the fun,” says Winston. “We’d do five minutes of jokes and then we’d get to whatever are comedy, sketch or stunt was. What’s interesting now is that part one is the joy.”
Crabbe adds that logistically it’s easier as it’s all unplanned. “Our job has gotten easier, we’re just along for the ride. It’s also testament to 1,000 shows because we’ve got a staff and a crew that have been together almost from the start, everyone is the original hires so there’s an affection between everyone that comes off on air. That bit of joyfulness comes across.”
“I never thought it’d be as fulfilling as it’s been, that we’d get fans sending bespoke shirts to members of the crew or Nick Bernstein would open a race at his favorite racetrack and be a guest on every Malaysian podcast,” jokes Corden.
Bernstein, who is SVP, late-night programming, West Coast, has often become the butt of the joke, being asked to dress up as a jockey and ride a fake horse or sit on a chair that hits the ceiling of the studio. The trio joke that they’ve created a monster, one whose picture now adorns the wall of the studio entrance as well as that of the CBS chairman, and who has played up to bits such as refusing to eat lobster that doesn’t come from Maine during the Thanksgiving week of shows.
“Credit to Nick,” says Corden. “There’s not many execs that would go along with this ride at this level of messing around.”
The team still, however, doesn’t know who originally replaced the photo. “I have a suspicion. I think it’s the head of photographs at CBS. It definitely wasn’t the chairman of the network, it wasn’t Nick, it wasn’t anybody on the show and it wasn’t Lou Trabbie, who I would have assumed it was, who does our set design,” says Winston.
The show was able to return to Carpool Karaoke in September with Camila Cabello, Billy Porter and Idina Menzel as well as a Cinderella-themed Crosswalk Musical. They hope that next year they’ll be able to get out in the field even more. “We’re hopeful [that we can do more] and that some of those bits will come back and be new but different. That’s the hope for sure,” says Corden.
He says that they also have some “big stuff coming” that was shot pre-pandemic around movies that have had their release delayed. Given that Cruise and Corden have already jumped out of a plane together, could that involve a bit of Top Gun: Maverick?
September also saw the return of the studio audience. The team was aware that they didn’t want to ruin the energy or camaraderie of the show but they are pleased with the energy that the crowd brings. “The biggest worry was whether it was going to upset the thing we just talked about. Is having an audience going to take away this chemistry that we could see people were really enjoying. We found a way to do it. We’ve got just under 50% of our audience back and they sit in the bleachers and the crew are closer to the desk. It’s wonderful, they bring an energy, so you feel you’re doing a show every night and we still manage to keep that feeling that we happened on so naturally within the studio and with all those characters,” says Corden.
Deadline revealed earlier this year that Corden was in talks to extend his contract, which currently runs through August 2022. Deadline posited that the 1,000th show might be a good time to announce such an extension. Is that likely? “I don’t know, man. We’ll see. I don’t know the answer but I’m sure we’ll find out at some point,” Corden says with a smile.
But it’s evident that he’s still enjoying making late-night television. “How can you not? It’s not the putting on of the show, it’s the environment that we all go to work in. It’s such a lovely place to go to work every day. It’s fantastic.”