Karaoke used to be something you did in a club, impersonating famous singers with a few shots under your belt. Now, thanks to Late Late Show host James Corden, it involves a car and an actual famous singer who may or may not be under the influence, and it’s hilarious either way. Corden’s Carpool Karaoke rides with the likes of Adele, Stevie Wonder, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, Madonna and Bruno Mars have all gone viral, racking up a combined two billion views on YouTube. So it comes as no surprise that the über-popular segments are being spun off into a half-hour show for Apple Music.
Set to debut later this year, its 16 episodes will feature as many hosts and out-of-the-box pairings including Michael Strahan and Jeff Gordon, Ariana Grande and Seth McFarlane, and Billy Eichner and Metallica interviewing each other on the road.
Last year, Corden’s Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special, and the second edition, featuring Katy Perry and Jennifer Lopez, will air tonight at 10/9c on CBS. So we asked him a whole bunch of questions about it, of course…
“Now it’s a thing where people call us and it’s become a part of record company strategy for launching an album or a single or an artist. So in many ways it’s become a lot easier.”
Why do you think Carpool Karaoke has been such a phenomenon?
There are so many different variables as to why it works and how it works and why it’s worked to the volume of numbers that people that have seen it. Mostly, I feel like it comes down to an intimacy between people. You’re seeing people in an environment that you’ve never, ever seen them in on television before. We’re as blown away by its success as anybody else, really.
Of all the Carpool Karaokes you’ve done, do you have a favorite? Who has been the biggest surprise?
Oh, it’s all surprising. It’s full of great moments. But in terms of the enjoyment of it, I loved doing it with Bruno Mars. I never even thought I’d get to meet Will Smith, let alone have maybe one of the most fun days I’ve ever had. But I take something from all of them that I’ll never, ever forget.
What makes a good Carpool Karaoke guest?
Well, you want someone who is very comfortable and relaxed being themselves. Someone who will with joyous abandon throw themselves into the ridiculousness of singing at the top of their voice in a car. That’s what you want. You want someone who just goes for it.
Are any of the singers apprehensive about getting in the car and singing?
Not any more. I think they used to be apprehensive. A lot of people used to turn up going, ‘What am I doing and what is this?’ And now it’s a thing where people call us and it’s become part of record company strategy for launching an album or a single or an artist. So in many ways it’s become a lot easier.
Who were you most nervous to sing with?
I felt nervous with the Red Hot Chili Peppers because we’d never done it with a band before. I just hoped that it would work. We’d never ever done it with four people. I got out of that car thinking, ‘If I could do all of that again now, in fact, if I could do that once a week I would do it,’ because I’d never had more fun than with those guys. They were just unreal. I felt like I was in the band. It was really great.
You did your first Carpool Karaoke with George Michael for a benefit in 2011. What are your memories?
I loved him. It feels like not enough of an answer to say it was such great fun. But that was really it. We spent an hour and a half and we loved it.. I feel incredibly lucky to have just spent but a moment in his orbit.
Why do a spinoff?
We can only do it so many times on our show. And there’s so many wonderful people that I would love to see in that environment. I’m incredibly proud that it will be Apple Music’s first show.
How do you pick the pairings for the Apple Music version?
A lot of it comes down to diary and schedule and time. Mostly you go, ‘Well, these people are interested in doing it, that’s a good pairing.’ Or in the case of Chelsea Handler and Blake Shelton, they both came and said, ‘We’d love to do it together.’
You have so much going on, but do you miss acting at all? Would you like to get back into movies and theater?
I would love to, but right now my job is quite restrictive. I love the things I’ve done so at some point for sure, but it’s not like I’m sitting pining to do it. I’m really very, very happy and enjoying what I’m doing right now. All I’ve ever wanted is a sort of different and varied career. So to have one as varied as it has been I mostly just feel very, very lucky.
But in the future? Where do you see yourself?
I don’t know. I hope I’m happy and the people I love are healthy. Happiness is all I really care about.
Photos: Cliff Lipson/CBS, CBS, Darren Michaels/CBS