Back in 2004, when John Mayer was two albums into his music career, VH1 gave him his own special — appropriately titled John Mayer Has a TV Show — in which he memorably dressed in a bear suit and hit the parking lot of one of his shows to chat up unsuspecting fans. More than a decade later, Mayer is getting a chance to show off his comedy chops again with a three-night stint guest-hosting The Late Late Show on CBS.
“The bear suit is not coming back out,” Mayer told Billboard on Wednesday (Feb. 4), just hours before his first taping. But he did promise that his same sense of humor will be injected into the show, even if he doesn’t fancy himself a stand-up comedian. What he really wants for the next three nights is to bring back a vibe of classic TV, with great musicians performing earnest songs for a music-loving audience.
He has those great musicians in spades, with John Legend (Wednesday), the Grateful Dead‘s Bob Weir (Thursday) and Ed Sheeran (Friday) all hitting the Late Late Show stage under his watch. Mayer even plans to jam with all three during the show.
With the Grammys coming up this weekend — where Legend and Sheeran are both set to perform — Mayer asked the artists to come up with songs other than their biggest current hits to play. Expect a “beautiful cover song” from Legend, who appears on tonight’s show alongside Bravo’s Andy Cohen and actress Alison Becker as guests. Other guests include Stephen Merchant and Jillian Bell on Friday, while Thursday’s show will be dedicated solely to a conversation and performance from Weir.
Mayer has become “initiated” as a Grateful Dead fan lately, listening to the band’s SiriusXM station for hours every day in the car and promising to “make the pilgrimage in my RV” to see the Chicago reunion shows in July. He noted the re-emergence of the Dead’s vibe in pop music, especially with the acoustic pluckings of “FourFiveSeconds,” the new single from Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney.
Sheeran and Mayer will be seeing each other again on Sunday night, when they hit the Grammy stage together, along with Questlove and Herbie Hancock, for a performance. Rehearsals haven’t even started yet, but Mayer didn’t hesitate to say yes when Sheeran gave him a call. “There are very few people who can get me to come to the Staples Center for three nights of rehearsal, but Ed is one of them.” Back when Mayer was 24, he said people warned him that someone younger would come up behind him and be just as good, if not better. “Here he is.”
Mayer’s Late Late Show gig is years in the making. The reason CBS called him when they needed guest hosts was because he had worked with the network back in 2009 to try to get his very own late-night show off the ground. What he discovered is that the TV world doesn’t work quite as quickly as the music world. “If I think up a song idea at noon, I can have it cut and released that night. That’s not how TV works,” he said. So while the timing never quite worked then, CBS had the singer-songwriter in mind for just such an opportunity.
Before James Corden takes over The Late Late Show in March, after longtime host Craig Ferguson vacated the spot last year, there are a few more guest hosts lined up, including Wayne Brady, Will Arnett and Drew Carey.
The Late Late Show airs at 12:35 a.m. weeknights on CBS.