James Corden on the History of Carpool Karaoke — and Why George Michael Is the Original Passenger
George Michael was the one who gave James Corden and the Late Late Show the inspiration for the now viral sketch series Carpool Karaoke
“We want to make a show which outperforms its time slot in a way. We want to make a show that has the widest reach and the biggest grasp,” Corden tells PEOPLE’s editor-in-chief Jess Cagle.
But before Corden was driving around Los Angeles with stars like Pink, Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera, he had the life-changing ride of his life with George Michael in 2011.
“We did a sketch for Comic Relief that Paul McCartney was in actually. A character in a sitcom that I wrote was driving George Michael to a meeting for Comic Relief, and we were singing Wham! songs in the car, and amazingly it just really resonated with people. People just really responded to it,” Corden said of the original concept.
In fact, Michael was the one who gave the Late Late Show host the inspiration for the now viral sketch series.
“When you’re putting together a show like this, you’re searching for the tentpoles that might prop up your show. So we came up with this thing, we’re in L.A., people are talking about the traffic and how they get to work,” Corden recalls of coming up with concepts for the CBS late-night show, which first aired in March 2015.
“I remember that conversation with myself and Ben, the executive producer of the show. He was saying, ‘Maybe there’s a way in which someone could help get to work,’ and Ian Carmel said, ‘In the carpool lane.’ I said, ‘Carpool Karaoke.’ And we all just went, ‘Okay, that’s it!’ ” Corden remembers.
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Days after the Late Late Show premiere, Corden aired the first Carpool Karaoke episode starring Mariah Carey.
“I’ve never been as sure of an idea in my life. I’ve never felt as sure that if we get people to do it, it could work,” Corden says of his confidence in Carpool Karaoke from day one. “I was certain of that. I felt completely certain. I’m almost always uncertain of everything. This was an idea I could see it, I could see what it is.”
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The recurring success of the Carpool Karaoke sketches on CBS made way for Corden to create a spinoff series on Apple Music in August 2017. The spinoff was renewed for a second season in February.
The Late Late Show returns to London to broadcast from Central Hall Westminster June 18-21 at 12:37 a.m. ET/PT on CBS.