“Now we’re about to play the craziest game we’ve ever had on our show. It’s a game I’m already regretting thinking of.” That’s how James Corden introduced The Late Late Show‘s Tattoo Roulette last night (December 3) – a high-stakes Deal Or No Deal-style game of chance, in which the loser would leave the building with ink spelling either ‘1D’ (in the case of Corden) or ‘Late Late’ (in the case of the band) branded on an area of blank, tender flesh. The ritual would happen live on US telly. And the eight-minute video documenting the whole thing, which you can see below, is perhaps the greatest piece of One Direction characterisation on the internet.
The tattooing itself is easily the least interesting part of this clip. Glance over Corden’s shoulder at the start of the clip, to where the Irish one (Niall Horan) is standing next to the unbothered ‘Jaggery’ one (Harry Styles). Horan fidgets like there’s no tomorrow. Styles, by contrast, stands legs crossed, casually flicking his fingers.
For Niall, who can barely stand still, these seven minutes seem to be an extended form of horrific, anticipatory torture. He’s the only member of One Direction with no tattoos at all. When Corden approaches him ahead of the ceremonial box-choosing, he’s got sweaty palms. He’s breathing heavily. He’s shaking.
Niall chooses his box first, but is forced to wait until all the others have gone to open his. The box-opening begins, and Liam, Louis and an ostentatiously nervous Corden each take their turns. As each comes up safe, Niall’s reactions become more and more manic. He swears a lot. He’s ruled by fear. Let’s investigate:
Before Harry takes his turn, Niall looks like he’s about to be sick. Harry gives him a little hug to reassure his frayed nerves, but he still looks like a man awaiting a firing squad.
Styles ends up in the crosshairs, and as he opens the ‘tattoo’ box with a face that says ‘meh’, Horan’s reaction is unashamedly euphoric.
Placing his bandmate’s nerves in sharp relief, Styles later sits placidly through the ‘Late Late’ searing ceremony with a distracted grin on his face, clearly unbothered by the whole procedure. How cruel.
See the whole thing here: