Digital Transformation

James Corden on how Carpool Karaoke became a YouTube sensation


By The Drum Team | Editorial

August 23, 2017 | 4 min read

James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke, where he's joined by a celebrity in a car for a singsong and a chat, is a YouTube sensation that has rejuvenated the late-night talk show genre. In the latest issue of The Drum magazine, we find out how he convinced CBS to come along for the ride.

Mariah Carey on the inaugural episode on Carpool Karaoke

Mariah Carey singing with James Corden in Carpool Karaoke

Carpool Karaoke has traveled beyond the confines of the show to become an internet sensation, with the installment featuring Adele now the most viewed viral video of all time on YouTube with over 163m views.

At Soho House’s recent House Festival in Richmond, London, Corden explained that he landed his role in it after a conversation with CBS president Les Moonves, in which he told him late-night chat shows had all “sort of been the same show for the past 20 years”.

He co-credited Gabe Turner, the British director who has made videos for the likes of One Direction and Olly Murs, for the Carpool Karaoke idea, saying the two sat in the corner of a room for three days discussing ideas for a segment that would engage a wider audience online as well as being popular on TV.

The conversation soon moved on to a discussion about Los Angeles where, according to Corden, people are obsessed with the traffic. “It’s all anyone talks to you about: ’How did you get to work? Do you take Fountain, I take Fairfax...’ So Gabe said: ’What if we could get the biggest stars in the world to drive to work with you so that you can use the carpool lane?’ And I said: ’Carpool Karaoke,’ and we both just stood up, said: ’That’s it, we’ve done it’ and left.”

Not everyone shared their enthusiasm. “We didn’t realize no one would want to do it. We just assumed people would understand it.” He claimed everyone turned it down until, with less than a week until the first show was due to go live, fortune came their way and connected them with Mariah Carey.

To read the full feature in the latest issue of The Drum's monthly magazine, subscribe to The Drum+.

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