Seth Meyers: Comedian in Command

As his long tenure at SNL ends, Meyers prepares for his Late Night takeover


Seth Meyers

Terry Fator Theatre in The Mirage, 10 p.m. June 15 and Aug. 3, $45 and up, 792-7777.

When we last saw Seth Meyers on the May 18 season finale of Saturday Night Live, he had just won the heart of his beloved, “Weekend Update’s” city correspondent Stefon (Bill Hader). NBC had just announced that Meyers would become the new host of Late Night in 2014, and he’s not stopping there. This summer, between preparing for his new post, the debut of The Awesomes on Hulu in August and plans to finish his 12-year SNL stretch in the fall, the 39-year-old comedian still finds time for stand-up, performing at The Mirage on June 15 and August 3.

Congratulations on the new gig! How are you feeling about it?

I was always so worried about what I would do after SNL because I love it so much. My biggest fear was that my next job would be boring compared to SNL. I feel like I’ve found one of the few jobs that might not be.

You joined SNL in 2001 as a featured player, became the head writer and then the solo anchor for “Weekend Update”? Was that your goal?

It’s a very weird thing. You don’t want to set a goal at SNL. It’s enough to get there and I feel like if you start saying “Well, the thing I really want to do is this,” you’ll just get in your own way. As soon as I got on SNL my only goal was to not get fired. It was nice that I got anything. At that point I think “Weekend Update” was gravy.

You’ve done a great job of not getting fired.

Well, thank you. I reached a point, probably about four years ago where I realized that Lorne [Michaels, executive producer] would never fire me. That made me very happy. Although he probably gave me this Late Night job just to save him from the awkwardness of having to fire me.

What do you enjoy doing in Las Vegas when you’re not performing?

I like to play craps and I like to eat nice meals. Vegas affords both of those opportunities, whereas New York only affords one of those opportunities, so it’s nice to be able to do both.

Why continue with stand-up?

It’s such a different skill set than anything else I do. When you have to write as much content as we do at SNL, you sometimes come up with ideas that aren’t perfect for sketches and they’re not perfect for screenplays and they’re not perfect for “Weekend Update” jokes, but they are something to explore in stand-up. Standing in front of an audience for an hour as myself in a weird way probably prepares me for Late Night as much as sitting behind the desk for 15 minutes a week on “Weekend Update.”

What advice would you give to aspiring comedy writers?

Find people you can write for. There are a lot of great improv theaters that also do sketch shows, and there are always performers who are looking for great writers. Find a community of other creative people and try to make that home for yourself. It’s really good to surround yourself with people who share your passions. The thing I’ve learned the most from Lorne is to always perform to the highest of your intelligence if at all possible. And never go for the easy laugh.

Are you prepping for Late Night now or taking time off?

I’m taking a little bit of time off while doing some shows on the road. The biggest part of prepping for Late Night is the staffing which is something we’re going to start getting into around July. At least for now, between the end of SNL and the start of this new Late Night chapter, I’ll probably take at least a one month break and relax a little bit.

And you’ll be returning to SNL in the fall?

I’m going to at least try to do the first half of the season. I certainly was not very prepared for the season finale to be my last show. Lorne is going to be nice enough to let me stick around for a little bit longer.

Do you have a send-off sketch in mind for your last episode?

I feel like it’s one of those things that you don’t really put that much thought into until it’s a lot closer. In a funny way, I feel like being part of a Bill [Hader] send-off with Stefon will probably be the best send-off I’ll ever be a part of. I probably won’t overthink it too much.

When you were growing up, what influenced your sense of humor?

My parents were both really big comedy fans. They used to go see Second City back in the day. They introduced my brother and I to SNL at an age far younger than most parents should. My dad’s just a really funny person and my mom has laughed at everything he’s ever said. I think that taught [my brother and I] at a very young age that women like to laugh at men. If you can do it, you’ll be a lot happier.

When did you realize that you wanted to pursue comedy as a career?

I went to Northwestern and I was a film major but pretty early on I realized how hard filmmaking was. It requires incredible patience to be a good filmmaker- which I was not possessive of at that time. But Northwestern had this incredible improv troupe, and I remember seeing that and wanting to do that really badly. I auditioned for it every year and then in my senior year I finally made it into the troupe. I just remember starting my senior year thinking “I think I’ll move to Chicago to try to be an improviser and I will do that until the day that people tell me I have to stop.”

Has interviewing characters on “Weekend Update” prepared you for interviewing guests on Late Night?

It’s a lot different when you know the answers when you’re asking questions. But having characters at the desk, at least in some variation, is something I would like to have on the show. As far as interviewing real people, that will be an interesting thing. I feel like the only way you develop it is to keep doing it so I look forward to that. Going to class on that, as it were, because it will happen regularly.

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