Want to understand why James Corden is an Emmy-winner? Then attend a taping of “The Late Late Show” at CBS Television City. That’s what Chris Beachum, Marcus James Dixon and I did on Tuesday, September 20, less than two weeks after the Creative Arts Emmys where Corden and his team claimed two Emmys: Best Interactive Program and Best Variety Special for a primetime edition of “Carpool Karaoke.” (He was also up for Best Variety Talk Series, but was bested there by “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”) Watching Corden work it’s clear that he’s very serious about being very funny.
This wasn’t the first time I had an opportunity to see Corden live. I got to see his Tony-winning performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” on Broadway in 2011; as soon as I saw his skill at working the room I predicted him to win Best Actor in a Play. That same skill was on display on Tuesday night when he welcomed guests Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Alan Cumming and Nick Jonas to “The Late Late Show.”
When it airs the show is an hour long with commercials, but this taping lasted two hours. That’s because this episode included several production numbers and half a dozen costume changes among its ambitious bells and whistles. Among those was an “Inappropriate Musicals” segment (watch above) in which Corden, Cumming and Ferguson performed show tunes inspired by “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad” and “Stranger Things” — that was the second segment of the episode but the first and most demanding part of the taping, requiring a couple of takes to smooth out the kinks — in the broadcast, you can’t see any of the seams, a credit to the show’s post-production crew.
Then, after Corden portrayed a King’s Landing executioner, drug dealer Tuco Salamanca and the faceless monster from the Upside Down, he dressed as a fried egg in a comedy bit in which he mistook Jonas’s hit song “Bacon” for “Eggs.” This man works hard for the money.
I’ve been to a few TV tapings before: two episodes of “The Colbert Report” and one of “Mom.” While those experiences were common — TV sets always look expansive on screen and surprisingly cozy in person — “The Late Late Show” seems to have the most moving parts. And it probably doesn’t need to; Corden could rest on his “Carpool Karaoke” laurels and coast from time to time, but he gives the impression of being an ambitious entertainer upping his own ante. It was impressive to watch him, but then you need to imagine all the extra time spent writing and rehearsing, and remember that he does that four days a week.
Oh, and Corden also hosted the Tony Awards this year — how did you spend your summer?
The legendary comedian Carol Burnett shot “The Carol Burnett Show” at CBS Television City, and on our way into “The Late Late Show” we passed through Artist Entrance, which was dedicated to Burnett in 2015. It looks like her comic legacy is alive and well in that studio.
Watch Corden’s “Inappropriate Musicals” segment above, and make sure to click here to watch Beachum’s interview with Corden from earlier this year to discuss his breakthrough awards year.