The British comedian has his fair share of haters, but he deserves some credit for what he’s achieved.
James Corden’s latest project is, not surprisingly, another voice role. According to Variety, the actor and talk show host is joining Melissa McCarthy in New Line’s upcoming sci-fi comedy Super Intelligence, providing the voice of the title character. The story is about a woman who finds herself under the observation of an artificial intelligence program that may have world domination on its mind. Sounds promising.
For Corden, this follows recent voice outings in Peter Rabbit, The Emoji Movie, Trolls, and Norm of the North. Additionally, he’ll be lending his in-demand British accent to characters in the upcoming Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Smallfoot, and Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.
For a guy whose work mostly comprises family-friendly fare, you would think his reputation would be more wholesome than it is. But people really hate James Corden for a laundry list of reasons, some of which are warranted. What exactly is it about this cheeky chap that rubs some folks the wrong way? Where do we start?
How about his questionable humor? When the comedian made jokes about Harvey Weinstein at a Los Angeles charity event in 2017, he came across as insensitive and unsympathetic toward victims of systematic sexual abuse. Not only were his attempts at humor poorly timed, they also failed to paint Weinstein as the abhorrent monster that he is. Corden wasn’t the first comedian to make light of hot-button issues, and he won’t be the last, but his jokes at that event were a prime example of how shock humor is mostly tasteless and gross.
Prior to the Weinstein debacle, Corden had also received widespread flak for kissing Sean Spicer at the Emmy Awards. Much like he was criticized for normalizing sexual assault after his Weinstein jokes, the Spicer situation saw him vilified for normalizing right-wing politics. But Spicer was invited to speak at the ceremony, and he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show around the same time, so Corden wasn’t the only celebrity who was guilty of showing good grace towards Donald Trump’s former press secretary.
There’s a perception of Corden that he doesn’t really care about the big issues. Or maybe he just doesn’t think about how his actions will affect people until he’s made his mistakes. That said, if hanging out with Spicer was perceived as dismissive towards the negative effects of the Trump administration, then his skit with Hillary Clinton at the Grammy’s proved he was willing to poke fun at the president as well. In that sense, he can be viewed as an equal opportunity offender.
When you add all of this up, it’s hard to tell if he ideologically stands for anything. It’s not uncommon for people to have friends who align with opposing viewpoints, but Corden sometimes comes across as an opportunist who’s willing to capitalize on whatever’s current without having anything sincere to say about the issues at hand. Case in point: poor-taste jokes about rapists and latching onto polarizing politicians while they’re topical.
First and foremost, though, Corden is an entertainer and it’s his job to appeal to the widest audience possible. The downside: as an entertainer, some people just don’t find him very entertaining. He’s prone to misreading a room or ignoring it completely, and while it’s fair to call him occasionally misguided and wrongheaded, his worst behaviour does stem from a desire to make people laugh.
But how effective is he when it comes to entertaining people in the grand scheme of things? He’s often been accused of riding the coattails of more talented people to further his own career and disguise his shortcomings. The success of Carpool Karaoke and his Late Late Show have relied on attracting quality guests whom people want to see after all, but he’s still a vital part of each show and their success is dependent on his chemistry with those guests. His recent turn in Ocean’s 8, meanwhile, saw him appear alongside a strong female-centric cast that was loaded with star power. Personally, I thought he was quite good in that movie.
The one constant criticism that’s followed Corden throughout his career is that he’s been overexposed. After he shot to fame in the UK following the success of Gavin and Stacey — a very charming and popular sitcom which he co-created and starred in — he was everywhere. Subsequent projects like Lesbian Vampire Killers and Horne and Corden didn’t capture the hearts of the public quite the same, but somehow Corden’s profile kept growing, even though it felt as if his work didn’t justify the mass amounts of exposure he was receiving. If he wasn’t acting or appearing on talk shows, he was rapping. When he eventually took off for America, his homeland seemed quite content to see him go.
Since arriving on the other side of the Atlantic, his fame has skyrocketed, and he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in the near future. He’s occupying a sweet niche oscillating between lending his voice talents to family movies and hosting popular TV shows and awards ceremonies. Maybe you’re sick of him, but he’s far from the only entertainer to keep busy and make his presence felt. The only difference between Corden and someone like Dwayne Johnson is that we prefer the latter as a performer and as a person.
But Corden’s widespread appeal is understandable. He oozes charm and positive energy, and if you let his enthusiasm overtake you it can be infectious. Watching him ride around in a car with famous people as they belt out random pop songs is a silly concept, but it’s genius in its simplicity. Those videos always go viral, and seeing him effortlessly goof off with his guests makes us feel like we’re cruising with them, which removes the veil of celebrity and makes them seem like regular, approachable people. Who hasn’t sat in a car with friends singing their favorite songs at the top of their lungs after all?
Furthermore, he’s also a multi-faceted performer and a proven success across a variety of mediums. Gavin and Stacey showed that he was a talented creator and actor. His Hollywood career in family-friendly fare and comedies has played to his strengths as a charismatic performer, and while he rarely challenges himself with varied roles these days, he has found a comfortable spot starring in crowdpleasers that make people laugh. Since coming to America he’s found a calling as a popular host, but unlike most of his contemporaries in that department, he’s succeeded as more than a talk show personality. Even his rap song with Dizzee Rascal was a major hit.
Corden is like the class clown you either love or hate. He’s very eager to please and sometimes that can be annoying, but he continues to karaoke his way through life without a visible care in the world or a noticeable cynical bone in his body. People gravitate towards that, and while it’s easy to focus on his mishaps, maybe we should appreciate the overall positive impact he’s had on the entertainment instead.