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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

Has James Corden’s hour of reckoning come? 


By Sarah Finnan
18th Oct 2022

Monty Brinton / CBS

Has James Corden’s hour of reckoning come? 

Last year the ‘Late Late Show’ host was called out for perpetuating anti-Asian sentiment; this year a well-known New York restaurateur dubbed him ‘abusive’ to staff. 

Quite a divisive figure, James Corden is not unlike Marmite in that he tends to create quite a distinct divide amongst the public; those who love him and those who don’t. 

Last June, the internet collectively turned against him after a now-viral TikTok accused him – and his ‘Spill Your Guts’ segment – of perpetuating anti-Asian sentiment. 

A part of Corden’s Late Late talk show in which he asks guests to answer probing questions or forfeit and eat something “disgusting” instead, the entire premise hinges on shock factor. Celebrities are seated in front of a rotating table with an array of different edible items (ranging from cow tongue to bird saliva) on top it, with the idea being for Corden to convince his opponent to divulge personal secrets rather than eat one of the “weird foods”. 

As one onlooker pointed out, the bit – framed as an entertaining interlude with guests – is actually nothing more than thinly veiled racism. Especially considering that many of the food items used are considered delicacies in different cultures. 

In the below clip, Corden and Jimmy Kimmel find themselves seated before a tasting menu of a 1,000-year-old egg, pig blood curd (both popular in Asian cuisine) and Balut (a fertilised duck embryo common in Filipino food). “Wow, it all looks so terrible,” Kimmel proclaims at one point, doubling down on his point and adding, “I know people can’t smell it, but it doesn’t smell good either.” Yikes. 

@kimssaira

ok but this is actual Asian food & youre going on live tv telling people how gross it is. thats cringe

? original sound – Kim – Asian Movement Healer

Playing devil’s advocate, one could argue that perhaps the duo were unaware of the cultural significance of each dish… but with a team of producers, showrunners and researchers involved in the making of the Late Late Show, it seems highly unlikely that no one on the team was aware of how such a segment might come off. 

After her TikTok went viral, Kim Saira set up an online petition demanding an end to the segment, a public apology for the show’s use of traditional Asian foods as props, and for Corden to donate money to Asian American organisations as a gesture of solidarity. 

“In the wake of the constant Asian hate crimes that have continuously been occurring, not only is this segment incredibly culturally offensive and insensitive, but it also encourages anti-Asian racism,” the petition noted. “So many Asian Americans are consistently bullied and mocked for their native foods, and this segment amplifies and encourages it.” 

Not long after, Corden responded to the backlash The Howard Stern Show, vowing to give the segment a culturally sensitive makeover. “I don’t know when we’re gonna do that bit again, but when we do we absolutely won’t use any of those foods,” he said at the time. “Our show is about joy and light and love, we don’t want to make a show to upset anybody.” 

Saira told CNN Philippines that she found his mea culpa to be lacking. “In my petition, I have specifically asked for James Corden to publicly apologise on his show, and the reason why I was really specific about that was because I think that it is imperative for his hundreds of thousands of viewers to understand the harm that mocking these foods, rooted in Asian cultures, has on Asian people who still eat them.”

No such apology ever came. 

Then, this week, Corden was publicly called out again – this time by New York restaurateur Keith McNally who shared a lengthy post on Instagram, describing Corden as a “tiny cretin of a man” and “the most abusive customer” he’s come across in 25 years of business. 

McNally said that he had since banned Corden from his restaurant, Balthazar, on account of how he had treated his staff, sharing two separate accounts of past interactions between the comedian and his staff to explain his decision.  

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cj013OTPL0g/

McNally’s post quickly gained traction online and hours later, he posted a follow-up, writing that, unlike Kim Saira, he actually had gotten an apology. So, naturally “all is forgiven”. “Anyone magnanimous enough to apologise to a deadbeat layabout like me (and my staff) doesn’t deserve to be banned from anywhere. Especially Balthazar” he continued, before encouraging Corden to “come back to the 5 & Dime” anytime. 

The internet has been much less forgiving. 

Whether or not James Corden’s hour of reckoning has come remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain; it will take much more than one apologetic phone call to win the public back over.