Top Gear America returns next week on the MotorTrend+ streaming site, kicking off the hit show’s second season with a double-episode Fourth of July celebration inspired by Evel Knievel’s famous daredevils. In something of a blast for the series — both here in the States and abroad — all three hosts from last season also return for another round of automotive antics. This time on the track, comedians Dax Shepard and Rob Corddry are doubling down on their jokes and continuing to bring out the best humor of a real driver Jethro Bovingdon (which continues to prove that so many other professional racers can stop acting so cranky) as TGA doubles down on the craziest cars, the most brash stunts and laughable antics the trio can come up with.
Ahead of the new season’s debut, I spoke to Corddry about the show’s gentle prodding among friends and the undeniable obsession with cars that come with filming a series like Top Gear America†
Welcome to Season 2
Building on the success of the original British show and a non-stop carousel of previous hosts, MotorTrend seems pleased with their new trio of hilarious car boys in Shepard, Bovingdon and Corddry. The undeniable camaraderie of the crew in the first season continues to shine through in the few advanced screeners I watched while prepping for the interview, so I purposely pushed Corddry into a darker place by starting our conversation with the most obvious change. between seasons 1 and 2: his mustache, which seems like a deliberate attempt to outdo America Shepard’s comedic combination of home heroes Brett Michaels and Kid Rock.
“That’s a great question,” replied Corddry, tongue almost full in cheek, “because I’m sure Dax can’t grow a mustache this full and beautiful. But no, I grew it because it just did.” And when I got it, I realised,’Oh, I don’t have to shave every day for work anymore.†
After interviewing Bovingdon ahead of last year’s season debut, I asked Corddry how the Brit successfully copes with the more seasoned (read: filthy) humor of two old funny men like him and Shepard.
“He’s such a great guy,” Corddry laughed. ‘He’s supposed to be the car expert, he can’t be funnier than me! You can make three jokes per episode – and I need approval.’
A literal blast from the past
We found that somehow we got personal right away, but that’s the way it is TGA works after all. And not just because all the comedians go there (and beyond) all the time, but also because filming a car show has to pick the cars themselves, which is always a personal decision. Corddry’s own motoring past resurfaces in a specific episode of the new season when he regrets getting behind the wheel for a brief snippet about the iconic (some would say infamous) Ford Pinto.
“That was really fun, that was one of the more funny things we did for the show,” Corddry. “It was my first car ever, a ’75 Ford Pinto car. It was a bit nostalgic for me.”
Spoiler alert: the infamous Pinto is not doing well.
“It’s really funny I guess, but no part of me really believed they could explode,” Corddry revealed. “I had a talk with a producer about it, I was like, ‘So what are we doing here? Are we doing a skit? Because I can. Or do you really believe that these things explode as often as they said in the media back then?‘ Because they didn’t, it was much exaggerated.”
Talking about bad phrasing (which came up several times over the course of our chat). But Corddry also aimed just the right amount of shadow on his old lover Pinto.
“That said, I hate being the guy to defend the Pinto. Because it’s one of the worst cars ever made.”
Act like Arnold
As he prepared to put the Pinto out of his misery, Corddry told the producers to mess with the timing of the explosion so he might get caught off guard.
“There’s nothing worse than seeing someone fake reacting to an explosion,” he told me. “It’s great because when Arnold Schwartzenegger explodes, he doesn’t flinch…I had to make sure I wasn’t prepared for the explosion I knew was going to happen.”
Certainly not, in an unscripted reality show like Top Gear America†
“Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but hey, that was planned.”
The outburst of Michael Bay-esque drama in Season 1 has clearly increased MotorTrend’s appreciation for car destruction, it turns out. But Corddry also discussed how to weigh the safety of incendiary cars in addition to his reply with Shepard and Bovingdon.
“I’ve seen so many explosions on this show,” Corddry said. “MotorTrend was there, like, on. They were like, ‘Explosions are great, do more of them!‘ But we’re trying to make an unscripted show that’s actually unscripted, you know? So it’s really funny, there are times when our interaction is real, but you know, sometimes we explode a car.”
A small friendly match
Bovingdon may be quite adept at racing cars – not to mention smooth drifts or even jumping off a stripped and caged Jaguar, as the behind-the-scenes photo above shows – but Corddry told me drag racing is a different story when I asked what kind of a real car race he might win over his British brethren.
“Large installations!” he blurted out. “I don’t know why, that’s not British… I usually beat him at drag racing. It usually depends on what car each of us has at any given time. But I’m pretty good against Jethro in a drag race.”
Of course, anyone can feel like a king at drag racing with modern launch control systems activated, as Corddry well knows. However, I learned earlier this year how hard it really feels behind the wheel of a Dodge Demon – and for his part, Corddry also tends to prefer slightly older cars compared to current Lamborghinis and Ford GTs. You could even say that his taste tends to the weirdest ends of the spectrum.
“I think the episode was future classics and I chose this Saab 900, the angular one, the ugly one,” he recalled, “I tried to get on board with it, but I destroyed that car. I destroyed it. Actually the last challenge we had, we would race them and I started and I made it about four feet and the car just died. A sad, sad death.”
“Now there’s a future classic! Because I know that if I hate something, if I hate the look of something that is fashionable at some point, it will probably become fashionable at some point, or I will like it.”
I’ve brought up the epic Isuzu VehiCROSS that Corddry rides in the new season, arguably the pinnacle of quirky 90s off-road design (not called Pontiac Aztek, anyway).
“Well, VehiCROSS was very progressive, though,” Corddry stopped. “It was way ahead of its time. I don’t think if it came out today, people would think it was weird.”
“I remember when it came out, I loved it. I like a car that takes risks, that makes sense. There’s a reason they made those design choices. That’s one of the most reliable cars I think I drove over the course of that episode. Really, that was a tough episode, man.”
As a true car enthusiast and a father who is no doubt fond of dad jokes, Corddry told me he always points out strange vehicles to his kids when they are driving around town. But about the VehiCROSS: “They’re like, “We do not care. We still don’t care!†
Corddry also brought out another quirky ’90s Japanese icon that he loves: the egg-blob Toyota Previa minivan, in one of which I drove home with my friend’s mom (yes, I remember, remember formulated once). So I asked if he really believes Americans will ever wave to loving station wagons as one of the new episodes focuses on epic German estates of Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes-AMG.
“I appreciate station wagons, I know you appreciate station wagons,” Corddry replied. “People who know what they’re talking about love station wagons. And Europeans love station wagons. I think there’s just too much stigma attached to it. I think maybe it’s our generation that grew up with it, our lay generation has an aversion like they hate minivans. But I think maybe the next generation will appreciate a car.”
Cars guys in real life
Given the strange car taste that Corddry displays TGAI asked what he drives daily in real life – provoking a big moan.
†I’m in the car hell! My car is a Hertz rental car, Chevy Impala,’ he moaned, before explaining why. ‘I can’t buy a car! There are no cars! It is impossible to buy a car that I want. I tried to get the new Blackwing, I even tried to get a 718 Porsche. The markings are insane and my realtor finally came back to me and he said, ‘Found a great car, you will love it. It’s an Audi.‘I was like,’Oh…†
To ditch that Impala, Corddry was beginning to think he should probably buy a three or four year old car. But then Shepard showed up for one of the new season’s episodes in a Ram TRX†
“I kind of fell in love with Dax’ Ram TRX we jumped on,” said Corddry. “I like that. That’s a mean truck.”
Jumping cars and outrageous explosions seem to go hand in hand, and as our time ran out, Corddry and I found that the circle had come full circle.
“On Top gear“I think I’ve been this close to a fire a few times,” he said, holding up his thumb and forefinger. ‘Not planned! I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be driving a car and all three of us are on a windy road and I’ll be standing in front of Dax and he’ll say, ‘Rob, there’s a lot of gas coming out of your exhaust!†
And yet Corddry bravely survived the filming of Season 2 for the enjoyment of all of us (and perhaps more than a little bit for the education of the remaining VehiCROSS and station wagon haters in the US). In the name of journalistic integrity, I am unable to report on the condition of Corddry’s co-stars Shepard and Bovingdon as they wisely avoided participating in our interview. But after watching a few screener episodes, the chances of everyone coming out completely unscathed after so many explosions, rollovers and so much general mayhem seems slim – just one more reason to tune in when Top Gear America starts streaming next week.
Sources: motortrendondemand.com, instagram.com and ramtrucks.com.