The Friends Carpool Karaoke is even more mortifying than the reunion

The stars of Friends initially seem more relaxed in James Corden’s golf cart than on stage at the recent reunion. But if you look closely, it’s utter horror you see

Like everyone, I had two main criticisms of last month’s Friends reunion special. The first is that, after almost 30 years of watching the cast suspended in the throes of perfect youth, the sight of their weird, cosmetically altered faces in HD came as such a shock that I would have preferred it to be called something like All Things Decay: A Harrowing Reminder That Everything We Love Will One Day Be Dead. The second is that James Corden didn’t make it enough about him.

Oh, sure, he made it plenty about him. He hosted the thing, despite having no tangible connection to Friends. And, yes, when the cast came on, he spoke for more than two minutes before bothering to ask them a question. But did he make it about himself, in a truly Cordenesque way? No, he did not.

This is because, it turns out, he was saving that for his own show. Inevitably, a Friends Carpool Karaoke has just dropped. On last night’s Late Late Show, Corden unveiled an 11-minute segment where he goofed around on the set of the Friends reunion. In fairness, a lot of it was an improvement on the actual reunion. The cast seemed more relaxed and less bewildered without the rigmarole of having to endure a parade of semi-forgotten guest stars. Corden had a much smaller crowd to play to, as well, which tends to suit him.

But let’s discuss the Carpool Karaoke itself. In it, Corden drove around the Warner Bros studio in a golf cart, picking up the cast of Friends. In a typical Carpool Karaoke, the guests would sing their hits. But the stars of Friends are not singers. True, Phoebe had that song about the cat, and in 2004 Warner Music Group released a double album entitled Friends: The Ultimate Soundtrack, containing songs such as Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton, Good Intentions by Toad the Wet Sprocket and Smooth by Carlos Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. But would you want to see Matthew Perry sing an Eric Clapton song in 2021? Of course you wouldn’t.

So instead they just sang the Friends theme tune all the way through once, and that was it. Was it a good Carpool Karaoke? No. Was it filmed from such an angle that Corden’s head was by far the biggest thing onscreen, roughly five times larger than Lisa Kudrow’s head, 12 times bigger than Jennifer Aniston’s head and 25 times bigger than Perry’s head? Yes. But did it offer an insight into how the cast of Friends felt about being subjected to Carpool Karaoke? Oh, good God, yes.

In retrospect, it seems as if the cast had been deliberately seated in order of perceived enthusiasm. Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow, upfront, were by far the most game; not only singing every word but actually seeming to enjoy the experience. Matt LeBlanc, seated behind Kudrow, continued his newfound Lovely Uncle renaissance by acting as the de facto leader; hugging Aniston and constantly looking around to make sure everyone was just as happy to be there as he was. Aniston herself was far less comfortable. She looked genuinely mortified as the song began, and refused to sing some of it. Still, she gave it a shot. To a lesser extent, so did David Schwimmer.

Perry, though? Not a word. I’ve watched the segment a few times now, and for the life of me I cannot find a single frame where Perry attempts to sing even a sliver of the Rembrandts. Sometimes he smiles, sometimes he chats with Schwimmer, sometimes he just stares out of the golf cart with a look of mystified sadness, like he couldn’t believe he had agreed to demean himself like this. But he doesn’t sing.

Still, who cares? The main thing is that Corden had a nice time. He drove the cart. He harmonised. His head was perpetually 25 times larger than Perry’s. He was having a whale of a time, even if nobody else was. And isn’t that the James Corden experience?


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
From Lady Gaga to Malala: the bizarre Friends reunion guestlist in full
Alongside the pop star and the activist, David Beckham, James Corden and Justin Bieber will feature in an upcoming HBO special. Could it be any more random?

Stuart Heritage

14, May, 2021 @10:30 AM

Article image
Friends: the Reunion review – The One That Is a Nostalgia Fest and No More
The magic between the six Friends as they return to the apartment is undeniably cheering. But no one needs to see James Corden – or Justin Bieber dressed as a potato

Lucy Mangan

26, May, 2021 @6:38 PM

Article image
A banal, excruciating mess – you review Friends: the Reunion
The show you’ve waited 17 years for aired at last – and could you BE any more emotional? But what did you rate and what did you hate? And why did Matt LeBlanc come out on top?

Guardian readers and Rachel Obordo

01, Jun, 2021 @2:40 PM

Article image
More than Friends? Are David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston really dating?
The Friends reunion seemed pointless – until now. If it paved the way for Ross and Rachel to get together in real life, the world might explode with joy. So why do I have a sinking feeling?

Stuart Heritage

11, Aug, 2021 @9:36 AM

Article image
James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther in Friends, dies aged 59
Tributes pour in for ‘seventh friend’ who revealed he had stage 4 prostate cancer in 2021

Kate Abbott and Samantha Lock

24, Oct, 2021 @9:58 PM

Article image
'The worst lie since Santa': why Carpool Karaoke is TV's biggest con
James Corden may be at the wheel, but it turns out the car in his all-singing, all-driving show is actually towed by a truck. Where’s the danger now? And will we ever get over the shock?

Stuart Heritage

24, Jan, 2020 @2:17 PM

Article image
What did the Friends reunion teach me? That global fame is the opposite of happiness | Deborah Frances-White
For some of the Friends cast, the answer to Joey’s favourite question ‘How you doin’?’ seems to be ‘just about hanging in there’

Deborah Frances-White

02, Jun, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
An unscripted Friends reunion would be a diabolical mess
The beloved gang are in talks for an HBO special likely to be so bad it could ruin your day, your week, your month or even your year

Stuart Heritage

13, Nov, 2019 @10:47 AM

Article image
James Corden hints at bringing Carpool Karaoke to UK
British star of US TV chatshow says he is surprised at its level of success and that his team is working on possible UK plans

Jamie Grierson

14, Mar, 2017 @12:01 AM

Article image advert: looking to cash in the carpool karaoke success
Having achieved stardom stateside with his Late late Show, James Corden is now shifting car insurance. He’s having a good time but he’s no Ryan Gosling

Grace Rahman

27, Aug, 2016 @7:59 AM