The journey of ‘Carpool Karaoke’ from London to LA to Israel

An interview with the man behind the viral hit, TV producer Ben Winston, about his ties to James Corden, One Direction – and Magen David Adom.

BEN WINSTON (right) on the set of ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ (left) and fellow producer Rob Crabbe. (photo credit: TERENCE PATRICK/CBS)
BEN WINSTON (right) on the set of ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ (left) and fellow producer Rob Crabbe.
(photo credit: TERENCE PATRICK/CBS)
Adele. Justin Bieber. Britney Spears. Madonna. Lady Gaga.
Aside from being international superstars, all these singers have also appeared on the wildly popular segment Carpool Karaoke, part of The Late Late Show with James Corden.
The segments, which have catapulted the show to new levels of virality, have also inspired full-length versions of the show in the US and around the world. And this month, Carpool Karaoke will be coming to Israel, hosted by actor Nicky Goldstein and starring the biggest names on the Israeli music scene.
The full-length feature show is set to premiere on the much-delayed new public broadcaster Kann, which, if there is no further political maneuvering, will finally hit the airwaves May 15. A representative for Kann told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the program is already part of its broadcast schedule, which will be announced closer to the airdate. The show will star everyone from Idan Raichel to Harel Skaat, Miri Meskia, Static and Ben-El, Shlomi Shabat and more.
And while Corden is the face of Carpool Karaoke, there’s been one man in the driver’s seat from the beginning, so to speak.
TV producer Ben Winston currently serves as executive producer for The Late Late Show, but he’s been with Corden – and Carpool Karaoke – since the beginning. And he’s thrilled the show is now premiering in Israel.
“We didn’t dream it would be the success it has been, and we’re delighted that people love it so much,” he told the Post in a recent interview. Winston was on hand when Corden filmed a similar clip for a charity show – Comic Relief – with the late George Michael in 2011.
“It went so well and people loved it and we thought – why don’t we do that with musical guests?” Winston said it worked as both a way to get guests on the show who couldn’t come to the studio for a taping, and “a clever way of fooling them into singing all of their greatest hits.”
And now the concept is heading to Israel, where Winston is eager to see what is in store.
“We’re really excited to see the Israeli version of our show,” he said.
“We think it’s a really good host doing it,” he added, and said he’s been in touch with the Israeli producers who “don’t really need my help, but we’re always here if they do need us.”
“The Israeli TV industry is so prolific,” he added. “It’s amazing really how many hits, both drama and unscripted reality shows, come out of there.”
In 2015, when Winston was appointed executive producer for The Late Late Show at age 33, he became the youngest showrunner in history in US late-night TV. But he was far from inexperienced.
Winston, a UK native like Corden, is one of the founders and partners of the Fulwell 73 production company. The company, founded by four Jewish childhood friends, made a huge name for itself producing hit films, including of one of the most popular bands of the past decade: One Direction. Winston co-produced the smash hit One Direction: This is Us, in addition to directing a slew of the band’s music videos. He also became close to the five boys, and stays in touch with them to this day.
“I’m so proud of all the work they’re doing,” he said. “It’s phenomenal to see how we’ll they’re all doing.”
A recent Rolling Stone profile of Harry Styles, the enigmatic One Directioner now embarking on a solo career, revealed that Styles spent almost two years living in Winston’s attic in London.
“For the next 20 months, one of the most desired stars on the planet slept on a small mattress in an attic,” wrote Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone. “The Winstons’ Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, with a strong family emphasis, helped keep him sane.”
Right now, jokes Winston, there’s nobody – famous or not – living in his attic.
“I don’t think I have an attic anymore, in the new house,” he said.
“It’s just me, my wife, my daughter and dog.”
Fulwell 73 may be in high demand now, but it started out producing charity videos for a range of Jewish communal organizations, something Winston said is important to him to keep up.
“It’s really important to us that we are close to our roots and make films that we think are really important for the community to see,” he said. His credits include Chai Cancer Care, Magen David Adom UK and UJIA – United Jewish Israel Appeal. “We have a whole department that makes those films and we’ll always do those because it’s something that’s very close to our heart.”
Winston’s Jewish roots and observance have always been important to him, and he said it’s harder being in Los Angeles – just because it’s so far from home. “Judaism is so much about family values,” he said. “For me Shabbat is about being with my in-laws or my parents and having a beautiful Friday night dinner with them and seeing my nieces and nephews.” He said they went back for Passover and “hopefully we’ll go back for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.”
“LA does feel very very far away from the ones we love.”