Brow Beat

An Assessment of James Corden’s Driving on Carpool Karaoke

OK, that was a pretty smooth turn for a man in the process of belting a showtune.

CBS

This past Sunday, the Tony Awards showcased, well, mostly Hamilton. But there was something else more subtly on display, too: host James Corden’s driving skills. In a special Tonys segment, a version of which was pre-released online last week, Broadway stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Jane Krakowski rode around with Corden singing show tunes at the top of their lungs. We’re used to seeing Corden behind the wheel because of “Carpool Karaoke,” a recurring segment on the Late Late Show, which he has hosted since March of 2015. But we tend to take the actual driving for granted.

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When you think about it, it’s a ton of pressure to sing at the top of your lungs with megastars while you have their lives in your hands. Sia, Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John have all trusted Corden to deliver them safely. Corden even drives on both sides of the road, as he proved in the classic Adele “Carpool Karaoke,” which was shot in London.

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In January, Vulture published some details of how the segments get made in an interview with Late Late Show executive producer Ben Winston:

First of all, we don’t take routes that are difficult. He’s also got two of our cars ahead of him, and three cars behind him — essentially, a convoy. So he’s moving at under 20 miles an hour, and we don’t let any other cars around him. The second thing is, the cameras are tiny. They’re about the size of your knuckle, and they’re [stuck on] the windshield. So it doesn’t really distract his view. That’s how we do it.

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But the fact that he’s legitimately driving at all—rather than, say, being towed along by another vehicle—is impressive, even if it’s at pretty slow speeds. In the segments you can see that he’s driving on real roads and that the segments are happening at a pretty natural pace instead of being cued to the driving. In the Justin Bieber Volume 2 segment, Corden takes a smooth left turn during the chorus of “Sorry.”

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In the Gwen Stefani Carpool, which also packs George Clooney and Julia Roberts into the car, “Hollaback Girl” comes on. Corden takes a right, clearly giving a quick look both ways to make sure the turn is safe, while rapping intensely and interjecting an “all my people say!” in perfect rhythm. Not to put a price on human life or anything, but this is hundreds of millions of dollars worth of humans he’s shuttling around.

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There are cuts in the videos at various times that mostly seem to eliminate excess footage, but it’s possible that some cover times when Corden had to pause or lost his train of thought or, say, careened off the road into a stop sign. And at least in the Tonys segment, his car was stopped for the hilariously climactic finale of “One Day More.” It’s unclear whether he was double-parked on a packed theater district street or just waiting for a red light. Still, it seems time to acknowledge the one trait more impressive than Corden’s full-throated belting or his A-lister-wrangling-abilities: He is surely the best driver on late-night TV.

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