“This is a beautiful room, it’s a beautiful night here in L.A,” Corden said at the top of his remarks. “It’s so beautiful, Harvey Weinstein has already asked tonight up to his hotel to give him a massage.”
That line drew some light laughter and a lot of groans from the audience, according to video and those who were in the room. “I don’t know that that groan was that you liked that joke or you don’t like that joke,” he said. “If you don’t like that joke, you should probably leave now.”
Undeterred, Corden pushed through. “It has been weird this week though, watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water. Ask any of the women who watched him take a bath, it’s weird watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water.” he continued. “Harvey Weinstein wanted to come tonight, but he’ll settle for whatever potted plant is closest.”
For years, the annual amfAR gala, which benefits HIV/AIDS research, was hosted by The Weinstein Company.
The tepid reaction from the room, however, was nothing compared to the outrage that has followed on Twitter. Actress Rose McGowan, who has said this past week that she believes she was “blacklisted” by Hollywood because she was “raped” — and ultimately accepted a legal settlement — by Weinstein, lashed out at Corden for turning the story into a joke, calling him a “motherfucking piglet” and explaining why she found his comments so offensive.
Others on social media expressed similar sentiments.
It’s hard not to imagine that Corden would have received even more blowback had he decided to ignore the Weinstein story that has consumed Hollywood in a room full of industry figures, including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Jeffrey Katzenberg and others.
The challenge for comedians in this moment is finding the right tone. In these early days of the scandal, the most successful late night comedians — notably Samantha Bee and Seth Meyers — have balanced humor with a frank acknowledgement of the story’s seriousness.
Corden knew he needed to address the Weinstein allegations, he apparently just hadn’t figured out how.
UPDATE: Corden responded to the backlash with a pair of tweets Sunday afternoon.