From Smithy to US superstar- How James Corden has hit the big time


James Corden has undoubtedly ‘cracked’ the U.S. in the past couple of years, but it is hardly surprising with his range of talent. From his humble beginnings in theatre at the age of eighteen, to his prominent rise to UK fame in BBC’S Gavin and Stacey as actor and producer, what has enabled Corden to break free and become both a television and internet sensation?

His popularity has exploded in recent years, and he has unquestionably confirmed himself to be an international superstar. It was recently revealed that Corden will be joining the cast of Oceans Eight as an insurance investigator, alongside Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Sandra Bullock. He has managed to secure a role alongside some of the biggest names in US show business, and though he has proven himself to be a talented actor, it is uncertain to what extent his popularity has been exemplified by the luck of his Internet fame. Is it a partnership that happened purely by chance?

The watershed move for Corden came in 2007, when co-wrote the unknowingly soon-to-be smash hit Gavin and Stacey with fellow friend Ruth Jones. Gavin and Stacey was a situational-comedy embraced by many, bringing Corden, Jones and co- stars, as well as BBC Three into prominence. The show played upon both a good-feeling family atmosphere and stereotypical ties to both Welsh and British culture, and ended up drawing over ten million viewers in its final episodes. Its popularity was undoubtedly based on its ability to associate with its UK audience, and a theory proved so when a US adaptation of the show was pulled by network Fox before it had even finished filming. Corden and his co-stars were considered gems of British television, and it was clear that their approach to keeping comedy close to home was a big hit.

Having been known as the stereotypical English pub-crawling ‘Smithy’ for three years, how did James break free from his typecast and make it big in the US? Corden has admitted himself that his success in the States had taken him by surprise, but unsurprisingly, the most amazed of all were the British public. Much of his success lays claim to his ‘Carpool Karaoke’ in which, somehow, Corden has managed to get some of the biggest names in music, film and entertainment to join him in a car for a sing-a-long. His ride through London with Adele has amassed a whopping 145 million views since its release a year ago on YouTube.

Image credit: BBC/Baby Cow Productions

The ‘Carpool Karaoke’ was initiated from Corden’s Gavin and Stacey character in a Red Nose Day special in 2011. In a 2016 interview, Corden stated: ‘We did a sketch for Comic Relief in 2011, with my Gavin & Stacey character in a car with George Michael singing Wham! songs. And it never really left us just how joyful that was.’

Undoubtedly, its inclusion into The Late Late Show was risky, but it is now arguably the most prominent feature of the show. But how has this all contributed to his success? It is agreeable that the ‘Carpool Karaoke’s’ viral success contributed to the popularity of James himself. With such prominence on YouTube, it goes without saying that its online popularity would influence the total viewing figures for The Late Late Show.

Specifically on Carpool Karaoke, the videos are quick to go viral, and it is clear that Corden’s approach to combining celebrities with sing-a-longs has revealed a niche hit for American audiences – a blur between the real world and the celebrity world. On a show that airs at 12.30am and tops over one million viewers per episode, its difficult to consider what other factors would influence such high numbers. Although he has somewhat filled the gap for a British star in the American market, would James really have been this successful without his undeniable internet support?

You can catch James’ mockery of his own CBS appointment here:



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