Last Call: Having a Round on the ‘Late Late Show’
LOS ANGELES—The lineup on this particular September evening included a guy from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who can remove his underpants without first taking off his track pants, an Idaho man who placed suction cup darts on his eyes and “George the Giant” from California, who used a long length of clear tubing to drink milk through his nose. Think “Stupid Human Tricks,” but you must be 21 to enter.
They were guests on CBS’ “Late Late Show with James Corden,” and this skit was born from the thought that, in the host’s words, some of the best things he has ever seen happened in a bar over a bet for a pint of lager. It was in that spirit that Corden invited these folks with the, uh, extraordinary talents to perform stunts in front of a bar installed on the stage.
“What the bar does is it gives you a sense of atmosphere on the set. It’s not that we wanted to look cool or have drinks or anything like that. When you walk into a theater, you behave one way, and when you walk into a bar, you behave another,” says Ben Winston, the show’s co-executive producer. “A lot of our show is represented in the atmosphere that James gives off.”
The nature of late-night television has changed, with hosts now shooting clips designed to be watched later on smartphones and computers rather than on the screen at home in full. Once the last thing you’d watch before welcoming the sandman, late-night shows were best watched at home, on the couch or in bed. Now, they can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere, and that’s one reason that Winston had the idea of incorporating a bar into the set.
Drinking is not new to late-night television. Guests on the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” on NBC were known to openly consume alcohol, no doubt helping create some of the more memorable moments in the show’s 30-year run. Carson’s successor, Jay Leno, had a bar cart behind the curtain to help guests take the edge off. When he began his run on ABC in 2003, Jimmy Kimmel opened a bar in his Los Angeles theater to audience members until a few got out of hand and the license was (voluntarily) pulled.
Stage 56 at CBS Television City, where Corden and crew took over in March 2015, is the only network late-night show with an on-set tavern. Winston says that when walking through the studio for the first time, envisioning a set, a bar was an important part of what the show wanted to accomplish each night at 12:35 a.m.
“James is good with ordinary people; we don’t need a major movie stars to make [the show] entertaining,” says Winston. He adds that it would make more sense to have ordinary people in a more natural setting than on the couch where Bradley Cooper just gave an interview.
Only after the set was planned did Anheuser-Busch come knocking, looking for sponsorship deals, and soon locked up advertising at the bar, which is adorned with two Budweiser handles and a variety of bottles—from Stella Artois to Shock Top.
Regular viewers have come to know the bar quite well, as it’s often used for a variety of bits, or it serves as audience seating for a select few. One thing viewers likely won’t see is the affable and musically inclined host hoisting a pint.
Corden, says Winston, is “not a very big drinker at all.”
John is the editor of All About Beer Magazine and the author of three books, including The American Craft Beer Cookbook. Find him on Twitter @John_Holl.