Alumni Spotlight: Ian Karmel
After three Emmy Award nominations, Ian Karmel (‘10) hit the jackpot when he won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special – 2019.
The co-head writer/producer for the “Late Late Show with James Corden” took home the golden statue for producing the show’s “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live from Liverpool.”
“I sometimes spend 60 hours a week on the show and it was amazing to get recognition at that level,” Karmel says. “An Emmy is something everyone around me understands. Even my nieces and nephews know their uncle won an Emmy.”
In addition to his work on the “Late Late Show,” Karmel is a stand-up comedian with a podcast and comedy album, and he co-hosts his own monthly show in Los Angeles.
But a life in comedy is a far cry from Karmel’s boyhood plan to become a lawyer, and he majored in political science at PSU. Simply to meet his degree’s required arts credits, Karmel took an improv class. “It was exhilarating and addictive,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing!’”
Then Karmel forayed into stand-up comedy and he was hooked. “At the time, there were so many crazy-creative people in Portland doing stand-up who pushed each other. I was very lucky to be part of that scene.”
Karmel won several local comedy contests and penned a weekly column for the Portland Mercury, which played perfectly into his future career. “I had to turn in a creative, original piece every week and that level of discipline made me a much better writer.”
A talent booker for the “Chelsea Lately” show saw Karmel perform at the 2013 Montreal “Just for Laughs” festival and invited him to come appear on the show. Karmel picked up and moved to Los Angeles. His appearance on “Chelsea Lately” made such a good impression, he was hired as one of the show’s writers just five days after moving to town.
Several months after “Chelsea Lately” ended in 2015, Karmel met with James Corden, who was becoming the new host of the “Late Late Show.” The two had an instant connection and Karmel was hired as one of Corden’s first writers. “It’s so cool to be on a successful show and know I had a big part in crafting the voice for it,” he says. “I’ve met many great people. I even worked with Mel Brooks and played in a sketch with him.”
Karmel also likes the quick turnaround from concept to completion. “It’s fun to have an idea at 9 a.m., pitch it to Corden, tape it at 5 p.m., and then see it on national TV.”
Still, nothing holds a candle to stand-up comedy. “It’s just you – unfiltered – and when the audience likes it, it’s better than any drug,” Karmel muses. “Stand-up is either the scariest thing in the world for you to do, or it’s the scariest thing for you to not do. I can’t imagine not doing it.”