Jena Friedman’s ‘Late Late Show’ Set Was Axed Because Her Jokes About Motherhood Would Be a ‘F--- You’ to the Audience
Jena Friedman is on a press tour for her book Not Funny: Essays on Life, Comedy, Culture, Et Cetera, a circuit that was supposed to include a stop on The Late Late Show with James Corden during the British host and New York’s least-wanted restaurant guest’s swan song. Friedman, fresh off the birth of her first son, had a plan to balance the demands of a baby who could only fall asleep while strapped to her chest with the responsibility of a comedian hired to hit an in-studio audience with five minutes of her finest bits — she would do a short set centered around motherhood with her sleeping son strapped to her body in a sling.
After a month of fine-tuning the act and clearing jokes with Corden’s censors, Friedman was finally ready to rock her fourth-trimester tight-five on The Late Late Show when Corden’s booker emailed to reject the postnatal plus-one, writing, “You know, the show’s ending and this just feels like a big ‘F— You’ to the audience.” As if having Corden host the show for eight years was a smaller one.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mom, but I’ve always wanted to be a prop comic,” Friedman joked of the would-be stunt on the most recent episode of the podcast The Last Laugh. Friedman recalled how Corden’s representatives approached her to do a set promoting her book during the last few months of his tenure when the new mother suggested doing the set with her baby in hand. Friedman recounted her time as a writer on Late Night with David Letterman when she couldn’t so much as slip a period reference past the censors, and she had hoped that times had changed enough that a comic making jokes about motherhood with a baby in tow would fly.
With that unfortunately misguided optimism, Friedman worked on her set with Corden’s reps, explaining, “For a little over a month we were working on it back and forth. The booker would say, ‘Cut this cop joke, we don’t want to make any cops in the audience upset.’ That’s how you typically work out a late-night set.” Friedman noted that, while her viral appearances on Conan were more-or-less uncensored, Corden’s show was much more traditionally strict.
Friedman kept working on the baby-assisted set about motherhood that would both satiate the studio sticklers and kill in front of a late-night audience, but, right before she was supposed to film, she received the “feedback” from Corden’s booker that shot down the idea entirely. “It really bummed me out because it was a funny set, it was working, and to think that a new mom making jokes that work, with her baby attached to her, would bum people out too much kind of made me angry,” Friedman lamented.
“Someone, to cheer me up, sent me an article about how there was a situation on a flight,” Friedman recalled. “This woman had a screaming baby and James Corden was sitting next to her. He put his headphones on and turned away, and he was praised for normalizing not making a big deal out of a screaming infant and just ignoring it instead of complaining about it. And then, plot twist, it was actually his wife and kid, which is such a good story.”
“It’s a perfect joke,” Friedman said of the viral story. Apparently, Corden only has enough room for one baby in his personal and professional life — himself.