When James Corden was on the Stern Show last year, he revealed he was just days away from shooting a Carpool Karaoke segment with perhaps the most famous entertainer to ever agree to go for a sing-along ride with him. And though he wouldn’t say who the person was, in case plans fell through, Howard guessed it must be Paul McCartney.
He was right.
“You guessed it,” James told Howard with a smile on Wednesday morning. “We were about to fly to Liverpool and you were like ‘It’s Paul McCartney.’”
“I felt like maybe I have some kind of psychic connection,” Howard joked.
Out of all the Carpool Karaoke segments James has ever done, he points to Sir Paul’s as his favorite. “I remember when I was doing it thinking, ‘I don't know what I've done to deserve such memories,’” he told Howard.
Spending the day with the former Beatle even brought Corden to tears at one point as he thought about how much it would mean to his grandfather, who introduced him to the Beatles’ music, to just be able to meet McCartney.
“If he had the opportunity to shake the man’s hand, it would have made his week, his month, his year and here am I singing these very songs … I couldn’t help it. It overwhelmed me,” James said.
Iconic musicians drop by “The Late Late Show” all the time these days, often to participate in James’s popular bits that then usually turn into viral online videos. In 2018, Cher was scheduled to join James in a Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts segment where each of them would either answer an embarrassing question or eat something disgusting from the plate in front of them. When she arrived, however, Cher discreetly passed James a small note while shaking his hand.
“I opened it and it said, ‘James I don’t want to do this,’” Corden recalled.
Since he didn’t want to cancel the segment, James tried his hardest to persuade Cher off camera that the items she’d have to eat were actually delicacies in other parts of the world – all she had to do was change her mindset.
“I was like, ‘I promise you, I promise you, all of these things are all fine and you don’t have to worry about anything, you just have to have good time,’” James remembered telling the pop legend. She was convinced and even wound up eating dried caterpillar and cow tongue.
Later that year, it was James who had reservations about one of his show’s onscreen stunts when actor Tom Cruise forced Corden to go skydiving with him. James told Howard he not only jumped out of the plane, he jumped out twice so that they had enough footage to use.
Cruise has come on “The Late Late Show” a number of times and James considers Tom to be one of his best guests. So when Corden was asked to speak at an award ceremony honoring Cruise, he gladly agreed. Afterward as James was leaving, Tom told him to give him a call sometime. James told the A-lister he would except he didn’t have his phone number.
“He went, ‘I’ll get it to you,’” James recalled for Howard.
Two days later, a bunch of balloons, a box, and an envelope were delivered to James at his office. “I opened the box and there was a cake in the shape of a telephone with all of these symbols – odd symbols on the dial,” James explained. And when he opened the envelope, James found a tape recorder.
“I press play and it says, ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to work out the code and call the number on your cell phone,” James continued.
It took James a few tries but eventually he came up with the number, dialed it, and someone answered.
“This voice went ‘Hello?’ I went, ‘Is that Tom Cruise?’ And he went, ‘Is that James Corden?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he went, ‘Well now you’ve got my number,’” James said with a laugh.
With four seasons of “The Late Late Show” now under his belt, James is in the midst of renegotiating his contract with CBS, where his series airs weeknights following “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Corden told Howard he’s still weighing his options, though he doubts he’d walk away just yet.
“I do feel like there’s still some life in our show to be explored,” James said. “I think it would be silly to stop now.”
Money is important and Corden is due for a big bump in salary, but according to him he cares more about finding a life-work balance than he does about finding more zeroes at the end of his paycheck.
“I value time more than money,” James told Howard. “Time’s the key. Can I carve out time to perhaps do other stuff and still have, you know, vacations with my children which I consider to be unbelievably important.”
As he said during his last Stern Show interview, James originally had no interest in taking a job on American TV. But after then-CBS boss Les Moonves saw Corden on Broadway in “One Man, Two Guvnors,” he knew he’d found the next great late-night television host and made James a job offer he eventually accepted.
Someone else who saw James in “One Man, Two Guvnors” was Donald Trump, years before he would become the president. Part of the show involved James pulling someone from the audience up on stage with him and on that night he selected Trump, much to his fellow theatergoers’ delight. Trump seemed to enjoy the spotlight, too, according to James.
“But here’s the thing I remember most about it,” he told Howard, explaining those who came up on stage were then taken into the wings by a stage manager until they needed them to enter the scene again. After that night’s show, James asked his stage manager what Trump was like backstage.
“I shit you not, I promise you this was the response. He went, ‘It was like he thought he was the president of the United States.’ He went ‘round shaking everybody’s hand in the wings,” James revealed. “You can’t argue with the charisma of the man.”
“One Man, Two Guvnors” was also the show that earned James a 2012 Tony for Best Actor in a Play. He returns this Sunday to host the annual award show honoring the best of Broadway and told Howard he’ll be hard at work all week rehearsing its opening number.
Before leaving the Stern Show studio, James let Howard know how much he’s been enjoying his new book, “Howard Stern Comes Again,” and would love it if he could sign his copy.
“Should I put my phone number like Tom Cruise? I’m gonna tell you a secret: I want you to have my phone number and … you’re gonna climb to the Empire State Building. I’ve arranged this,” Howard joked.
James Corden hosts the Tony Awards, Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS and watch him weeknights at 12:37 a.m. on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”