Make Late Night at War Again
With Thursday’s farewell episode of The Late, Late Show finally in the books, the endless James Corden Admiration Month is officially over. No more behind-the-scenes tales of Carpool Karaoke. No more parade of celebrities stopping by to wish Corden well while promoting their six-part Amazon series. No more debates about whether Corden is an entitled obnoxious friend of Prince Harry’s or a pompous blowhard who abuses restaurant staff.
But while we’re getting rid of Corden, there’s something else we’d like to do away with as well.
What the hell? Why are Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers — Corden’s freaking competitors, for Johnny Carson’s sake — showing up to kiss him goodbye? The departing James (thank god he didn’t go by “Jimmy”) tells us exactly what’s wrong: “You know, when I first moved here to America to take over this show, all I would hear was talk of the late-night wars. But then I came to realize we’re not at war. We’re a family.”
No! A thousand times no! This “family” business has got to go. Late night is a lot more entertaining when everyone is trading haymakers. Back in the day, anyone who dared challenge Carson’s Tonight Show was burnt toast — as was any guest who appeared on a competitor’s show. Joan Rivers dedicated her book to Carson for making everything in her career possible. Then when she was offered her own show on Fox? Ol’ pal Johnny never spoke to Joan again.
The war between Dave Letterman and Jay Leno was so bloody that they made entire (bad) movies about it. (Letterman was the only celebrity in Corden’s farewell sketch that had the right attitude: “God spoke to me and told me I didn’t need to be in this bit.” EXACTLY. And from the camera angles, it’s pretty clear Letterman was never in the same room as the rest of these “pals.”)
No one was more vicious than Leno. When he was done carving up Letterman and burning down the Ed Sullivan Theater, he ran over Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show in a custom rebuilt 1924 Bentley Twin Turbo. You can still see the tire treads on O’Brien’s pale face.
Corden’s whole idea that “we’re just funny boys who like to spread some joy” is extremely recent — and extremely unwelcome. Competing hosts should be talking shit about one another in the tabloids. Fallon “tripped on a braided rug”? Tell ‘em the truth, Colbert! Why isn’t anyone digging up videos of charcoal-faced Kimmel pretending to be Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone? Yeah, Meyers seems nice, but that just means he’s weak! Somebody take him down!
Much has been written lately about the coming end of late night as we know it, supposedly a victim of changing viewer habits and new streaming sensibilities. But I think it can still be saved. A little talk-show bloodshed right about now would be hilarious.