Turning one late-night segment into its own show is impressive enough, as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon did with Spike’s Lip Sync Battle. But The Late Late Show with James Corden has doubled down on spinoffs this year, launching not one but two new series based on its most popular bits. Carpool Karaoke just wrapped its first season on Apple Music, and Drop the Mic debuts Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. on TBS.
Hosted by Method Man and Hailey Baldwin, Drop the Mic includes celebrity rap battles between the likes of Veep co-stars Tony Hale and Timothy Simons, The Big Bang Theory castmates Mayim Bialik and Kunal Nayyar, musicians Rascal Flatts and Boyz II Men, and random pairings like Gina Rodriguez and Rob Gronkowski. Corden, who will face off against stars like Nicole Richie and Halle Berry, executive produces the show alongside Jensen Karp and Ben Winston, the executive producer of The Late Late Late Show who was named one of Adweek’s Young Influentials earlier this month.
Winston and Karp spoke with Adweek about the art of turning a talk-show segment into its own series—twice—why Drop the Mic works better as a half-hour show than a Late Late Show bit and Apple Music’s decision to delay Carpool Karaoke several months.
Adweek: What was your approach to turning Drop the Mic into a series, and was it similar to what you had done with Carpool Karaoke?
Ben Winston: We knew instantly when we did this the first time that this was too good just to be a segment on a late-night television show. It was electric the first time we did this on Late Late and immediately, Jensen, myself and James looked at each other and were like, “This is a series.” It took very little time to work out how you would make that into a half hour, because actually it’s better as a half hour than it is a seven-minute [segment] squeezed into Act 1 of The Late Late Show.
Will we still see Drop the Mic on The Late Late Show?
Winston: It will still continue, but truthfully, we’ve only done it like eight or nine times on The Late Late Show, maybe even less. So it’s not like, how is The Late Late Show going to cope now that Drop the Mic is continuing? This is a very, very different thing in that it’s not James battling. We’ll have 64 people minimum battling across this series. And of course, every battle you do is individual. If I was battling you, we’d be saying very different things to each other if you were battling [someone else]. So it’s about seeing people out of their comfort zone, rapping when maybe that wasn’t what they were known for in a really funny, musical way.
This is probably also something you deal with on Carpool Karaoke, but how do you determine which celebs are better for the series version versus doing it on The Late Late Show?
Karp: It’s easy for me, because someone like [Fresh Off the Boat’s] Randall Park doesn’t necessarily fit the roster that we have on The Late Late Show’s Drop the Mic, but it’s a dream guest for me on the Drop the Mic show. Rascal Flatts is never going to get that opportunity to do it on The Late Late Show and not because of anything against Rascal Flatts. It’s just the way his show is set.
Winston: Also, the fundamental difference is, when you’re on The Late Late Show, you’re on to promote something that you’ve got that week. … This is a show where it’s not necessarily about plugging things. We’re not showing their movie clips. They don’t necessarily have an album out. It’s about people wanting to do it because it’s a great, fun thing to do, and they’re excited to fight their co-star on The Big Bang Theory or Veep, or they’re excited to fight their rival who they’ve never really liked, or they’re excited because they’re a big fan of Rob Gronkowski and they want to tear him apart.
Karp: And we like the challenge—having [This Is Us’s] Chrissy Metz be like, “I always rap in the car. I’d like to try this.”
How do you determine which Late Late Show segments are worthy of their own series and which aren’t?
Winston: What we’ve had to do as producers is go, “Yeah, we have these bits that do come off The Late Late Show, but how do you make them their own? What is it?” And we’ve had a lot of offers from networks and broadcasters for other bits on our shows. A lot of people come forward now that we’ve sold these two, and they go, “This bit that you do on your show, we’d love you to make a show for that.” We don’t do it, and we genuinely turn it down unless we think it’s going to be brilliant or unless we think that it can hold a half-an-hour episode on its own. We don’t want to make something unless it’s great, and that’s what this show is.
You’ve had a couple integrations on The Late Late Show’s Carpool Karaoke segments and elsewhere on the show. Will we see any on these spinoffs?
Winston: There isn’t an integration within the show yet, but I do agree that come a second season, with the band playing or the microphones or the rap battle square, I think there’s always opportunities for brand partners. As I’ve always said to you, if the brand partner is right and it fits the show, then we’re always open for that sort of thing, as we’ve shown on The Late Late Show with Apple Music and Heineken and as we’ve shown on Carpool, whether it be water or a restaurant. If it feels right and it doesn’t ever go against what the feeling and the brand of the show is, then I’m always open to it.
You and James had set up the Carpool series at Apple before you spun off Drop the Mic. Was it easier the second time around?
Winston: It came to us quicker how this could be its own show. With Carpool, we had to really work out how does Carpool work without James Corden? That was a tough nut to crack, and … we had to really work out making fantastic pairings that would work so that you wouldn’t be watching John Legend, Taraji P. Henson and Alicia Keys and going, “Where’s James Corden?” We had to find people that would work for. Actually, James in Drop the Mic is the most difficult thing now because on our show, we’ve said everything that you could have ever have said that’s bad about James.
Jensen: We’ve said he’s bad in about 300 ways.
Winston: We’ve said everything about “you’re English” or “you’re on in the middle of the night” or “no one knows who you are” or “anyone watching your show is dead.” We’ve said everything there is to say about James Corden on Drop the Mic. So actually doing the Drop the Mic without James in it was liberating, whereas doing Carpool without James had to be handled with real care, because I’m very aware that people have fallen in love with that segment because James is at the helm. So we had to always make sure that there was enough in it that would make it OK that he wasn’t there. The creative approaches were different. As for the start of making a show, one is a huge comedy entertainment show based in a studio with two hosts; the other is nine cameras locked up in a car. So productionwise, this is a very different show.
Carpool Karaoke was initially supposed to come out last spring on Apple Music and got delayed until August. What happened?
Winston: Apple decided when they wanted to release their first big series, and it was about to making sure that we had enough lead in time to really make sure that all of those shows were available on Apple Music around the world, which they are. So it was a joint decision that felt like if we did this show—at the same time when they delayed it, they also extended the season [to 20 episodes]—so I got, “You’re being delayed, but we want more episodes.”
But I’m excited about both series—very different shows but both hopefully as good as each other.