With James Cor­den, Gram­mys hope to draw in view­ers

Un­like other big awards shows, this host­ing gig gives just min­utes to mas­ter of cer­e­monies

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The host of the Grammy Awards is al­most a nonen­tity, usu­ally present for only about 15 min­utes of a 3 ½-hour broad­cast. Un­like the Os­cars or the Golden Globes, where the mas­ter of cer­e­monies sets the tone for the evening, the per­for­mance-dom­i­nated Gram­mys can seem to do just fine with­out one; in f act, the show had no host at all from 2006-11.

This year, though, the Gram­mys are bet­ting on a new face to draw in view­ers. James Cor­den, the star of “The Late Late Show” on CBS and, per­haps just as im­por­tant, the pro­pri­etor of that show’s vi­ral hit “Car­pool Karaoke,” will take over as the Gram­mys’ host from LL Cool J, who had the gig for five years.

Thanks largely to “Car­pool Karaoke” — in which he is joined on mu­si­cal drives by the likes of Adele, Justin Bieber and even Michelle Obama — Cor­den, 38, has carved out a valu­able niche as a well-liked co­me­dian with mu­si­cal bona fides. But be­cause he is Bri­tish, he has no long his­tory with the Gram­mys.

“When I was grow­ing up, there was no real way to see the Gram­mys,” Cor­den said in an in­ter­view. “It’s only been on YouTube and the In­ter­net that you can find th­ese in­cred­i­ble Grammy per­for­mances.”

In a tele­phone in­ter­view this week from CBS’ stu­dios in Los An­ge­les, Cor­den dis­cussed his hopes for the Gram­mys, the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate sur­round­ing the show and the ad­vice that LL Cool J gave him. Here are edited ex­cerpts from that con­ver­sa­tion.

Q: How did you come to be the host of the Grammy Awards this year?

A: I got a call from Les Moonves [chief ex­ec­u­tive of CBS]. In f act it wasn’t a call; I was at a din­ner and he was there. And he just came over to me and said, “Do you want to host Gram­mys this year?” And I said, “OK.” And that was kind of it.

Q: The Gram­mys show has mostly been about per­for­mances, with rel­a­tively lit­tle screen time for the host. Is that go­ing to change with you on board?

A: Not re­ally. It’s not what you would call a con­ven­tional host­ing gig. Most awards shows need a host be­cause es­sen­tially they’re a group of mil­lion­aires giv­ing each other gold stat­ues. Whereas this is one where the show is pre­dom­i­nantly about cel­e­brat­ing the last 12 months in mu­sic, and has th­ese un­be­liev­able per­for­mances in it.

I’m in the show for like 16 or 17 min­utes. There re­ally isn’t much time.

I think what we’re go­ing to try to do as best we can is just try to in­ject as much fun into the evening, as op­posed to be­ing funny. It’s not re­ally a room where you can come out and do a mono­logue.

Q: When you hosted the Tony Awards last year, you made it clear that it had a lot of per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance for you. Do you feel the same way about the Gram­mys?

A: The Tonys had a par­tic­u­lar place in my heart, be­cause that’s a show I’ve been to. The first time, with “The His­tory Boys,” we won six awards. Go­ing back in 2012 and win­ning that award my­self was in­cred­i­ble. The Tonys are also this in­cred­i­ble thing where th­ese are per­form­ers who don’t al­ways get the chance to per­form on tele­vi­sion.

The Grammy Awards is the ab­so­lute high point for so many artists, in a world where there are so many other mu­sic shows — which I think are in­fe­rior — just be­cause of what the Gram­mys mean to artists. You’ve only got to see that artists who are no longer with us are al­ways re­ferred to as a seven-time Grammy win­ner, or a four-time Grammy win­ner. It just has that his­tory to it. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be part of it.

Q: Have you been do­ing your home­work on pre­vi­ous years?

A: Not re­ally. I’ve watched loads of per­for­mances. I asked LL Cool J if he had any ad­vice, and he said you just have to be your­self. Which I’m hop­ing is good ad­vice, be­cause that’s cer­tainly what we’re in­tend­ing to do.

Q: This year there’s been a height­ened po­lit­i­cal tone at awards shows. Do you ex­pect that at the Gram­mys, and what role, if any, will you play in that?

A: I’ve only lived in Amer­ica for 18 months, and I feel like it would be strange for me to start talk­ing about fed­eral leg­is­la­tion. I just feel like I haven’t earned the right. I’m a 38- year-old guy from High Wy­combe in Buck­ing­hamshire, and I don’t know that any­one is tun­ing in to the Gram­mys to hear a big po­lit­i­cal state­ment from my­self.

But of course I do feel as pas­sion­ate and aware of what’s go­ing on as ev­ery­body else does. We cer­tainly try on our show to walk that line as best we can. We made a video of me trav­el­ling through LAX, and that felt like a way in which we could make a dig­ni­fied state­ment on how we feel at the mo­ment.

If you’re watch­ing the news right now, if you’re on so­cial me­dia right now, you can re­ally feel like the world is an in­cred­i­bly dark place.


James Cor­den, star of the “The Late Late Show” and “Car­pool Karaoke,” will host the Gram­mys on Sun­day.

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