Since its debut in March, James Corden’s “The Late Late Show” has scored an impressive audience in the digital realm, racking up 200 million views and nearly a million subscribers.
So the host says it was only natural that they would celebrate YouTube’s 10th anniversary with a themed episode featuring the stars of the digital provider — moving out of “Late Late Show’s” usual studio to stage the show in Playa Vista’s YouTube Space L.A.
“We were so overwhelmed by the manner in which people were consuming the show on YouTube,” says Corden. “We thought, ‘Has anyone ever done a show from YouTube, celebrating all the stars they’ve created?’ When we realized no one had, we thought, ‘Right. Let’s do it!'”
The mechanics of putting the show together proved a bit of a logistical challenge — from booking the talent (YouTube stars don’t necessarily have publicists and agents) to figuring out how to configure the YouTube space to match the feel of the studio (where should Reggie and the band sit?).
Executive producer Ben Winston had a bit of experience in the location: Back in 2013 he’d staged One Direction’s “1D Day” — an eight-hour live broadcast to launch their album — there. That was, he says, “the single most difficult thing I’ve ever produced in my life.”
But six weeks of feverish planning resulted in a jam-packed episode, which airs Aug. 21 (the first time the show has aired an original show on a Friday). Featured are YouTube legends Jenna Marbles, Tyler Oakley, makeup artist Kandee Johnson and the Slow Mo guys, along with performances by Epic Rap Battles of History and Boyce Avenue.
“Jenna Marbles and Tyler Oakley have amassed this huge following. Ten or 15 years ago, it’s not inconceivable they would have been the hosts of ‘TRL’ on MTV,” says Corden. “These people would have found a way to break through as avenues have been closed to them on television. TV in general has been dismissive of these people, and that’s a little bit naive.”
It was important to the team that the show preserve the vibe of “The Late Late Show” while giving it a YouTube flair — from the opening number (an admittedly “silly” song written by David “An Act of God” Javerbaum and featuring a cameo by Rebecca “Friday” Black) to the guest check-in to the monologue, which charts the history of YouTube, showing the first, rather underwhelming YouTube video and letting Corden rant about life before YouTube. “Before YouTube, going viral was a bad thing,” he jokes. “Before YouTube, we had no way of knowing what the fox said.” Even the show’s bumpers pay tribute to YouTube’s infinite animal videos: Corden gets to dine with dogs.
“If you like when James plays ‘Nuzzle Wha’ on the show, you’ll like when he plays ‘Nuzzle Wha’ on the show with Jenna Marbles and Tyler Oakley,” says executive producer Rob Crabbe, of the game where contestants have to identify an object while blindfolded, by nuzzling up against it. (Warning: Beware the twerker.)
Adds Winston, “We kept the core of our show. It felt like our show, just a YouTube version of it.”
The creative team’s only concern was whether the audience would also embrace the idea — but that was quickly allayed when more than 2,000 people applied for tickets for just over 100 available seats at the show. “There’s a worry when you do these things that the YouTube community would think it’s disingenuous, that we’re trying to placate them,” says Winston. “To see all these YouTube characters in the same room — for them even to meet each other — that was quite exciting to be a part of.”
In the end, Corden and team say they’re glad they took the risk by taking the show on the road. “I’m just proud of the ambition of it,” says Corden.
The exec producers are quick to credit YouTube with helping the show find an audience. “It’s a leveler,” says Winston. “It’s not about what time you’re on and what your lead-in is. If your clip is funny, it will survive and it will do well.”
“We always knew we weren’t going to be able to measure our show by ratings,” adds Crabbe. “What I hoped was you were going to be able to measure our show by relevance. I don’t think you can look at our ratings following ‘The Mentalist’ and get a good gauge of what our show is. But you can look at all of our videos going over a million views on YouTube and recognize there’s some relevance there.”
The episode is the last before the “Late Late Show” takes a break for the rest of the summer; it’ll return with new shows after the debut of Stephen Colbert’s new “Late Show” on September 8.
“It’s a privilege to follow him,” says Corden. “As much as we don’t know what the show is, what we do know about him is to know how great he is at tackling news and politics. He’s going to make a brilliant, fun and funny show.”
Expect a crossover — or two. Corden reveals they shot a teaser last week, and that he’ll be a guest on Colbert’s show in a few weeks. Adds Crabbe, “We’re going to try to figure out a clever way to do a crossover between the coasts.”