British comedian and new “Late Late Show” host James Corden has been following David Letterman since his talk show premiered earlier this year. He spoke earlier this week at the CBS Summer Soiree about what sort of impact the retiring TV titan has had on his career.
I didn’t grow up here, and David Letterman wasn’t on in Britain. The first time I ever came to America was in 2006 for “The History Boys” on Broadway. I was staying in what can only be described as an awful apartment in Manhattan, and about a month in I got incredibly homesick. I’d never been away that long before, and I would go home after every show while a lot of the cast would go out. I just wasn’t in the mood for it.
I didn’t know about this phenomenon of late-night television that airs at, you know, midnight and 11:30 every night. I would get into bed feeling very homesick, not being able to call home or speak to my parents or sisters, and I would put the TV on and there was this guy. I found a connection with him in the way that so many others have — and in a much deeper sense, over the last 30 years — where it suddenly became clear to me what the power of a late-night host is. It is that you’re checking in with a friend. And suddenly, that last hour of my day stopped being a time where I wished I could ring my parents but became a time where I would really look forward to seeing what this guy was going to do tonight or what he was going to say. And he was talking to me, directly to me in bed. And then I realized that the theater was right around the corner. I didn’t even know that! And so I would go and I would walk past it every day.
If someone told me in 2006 that I would be the person following that show and have something to say, I would never have believed them. And now I’m here saying I still sort of can’t. It’s not lost on me that it’s an absolute honor to be in my position. I don’t know how long our show will last, but to think there might be somebody somewhere in one place who finds that connection with our show that I found with his those lonely nights would be thrilling for us.
I sent him an email at the start of the show asking him if we could do an interview with him in his theater, and he sent me the loveliest email and he said, “I hope you don’t mind, I’m not going to do the interview. I think people are sick of hearing from me.” And I remember thinking at the time he couldn’t be been more wrong, and I still think that now.
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