Seth Meyers has gone from a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" to "SNL" head writer and anchor for "Weekend Update" to the star of his own show, "Late Night with Seth Meyers," following in the footsteps of David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon.
He takes a break from his TV duties Friday night to hit the Tilles Center stage for an evening of stand-up comedy. Meyers spoke with Newsday just before taping his show on Monday night.
You are such a busy guy these days. How do you have room to add stand-up dates to your plate?
I loved doing it during "SNL" and over the first year of doing "Late Night" I sort of pulled back to focus on the show. But I do enjoy being out in front of an audience for an hour. It's a unique experience that's different from the talk show setting. I limit it to about one weekend a month. But, I don't want to let those muscles atrophy.
Jay Leno used to say it helped keep him sharp. Do you feel the same way?
Yes, it certainly gives you a chance to road-test certain ideas that you might not have the time to otherwise. We don't have dress rehearsal the way we did on "SNL" so it's fun to talk about politics and current events on the road.
What can people expect from your live show?
I talk about what's going on in the world, obviously with politics it's a very fertile time for that, and also stand-up gives me an opportunity to talk about my personal life in a way that the show does to some degree but not in the same way you can over the course of an evening.
Does having the "SNL" pedigree prep you for almost anything?
Yeah, as much as anything can. You leave "SNL" and you are a little bit better at everything than before you started. The part of "SNL" that's so valuable is it forces you to learn how to make decisions quickly. When you have a show like "Late Night," the hardest part is how fast it all moves and how quickly you have to decide what you want to go with.
How was the transition going from a weekly to a daily show?
It was really nice. Getting to do it every day, you get to release the pressure of the preparation. The most fun is doing the show. Unlike "SNL" where you build up this pressure cooker all week long and have one shot to get it right or else you feel like you mishandled the week, here at "Late Night" you have the luxury of so many shows. You are constantly moving forward and there's no time to look back and reflect. Getting to perform every night is the best part.
Was the show's history intimidating to deal with?
Yes, it definitely was. When you sit behind the "Weekend Update" desk it's also a "following-in-the-footsteps" job. Ultimately, I can look back at "Update" and remember that my best work came when I wasn't thinking about the footsteps I was following in but rather when I was focusing on the road ahead. That's what I've kind of tried to remember. But I owe a great debt of gratitude to the people who did this job before me.
When the job was offered to you, was it a surprise?
I didn't know it was coming. It definitely caught me off guard in a good way. I hadn't made any plans for after "SNL" and I was aware that my time there was coming to a close. The timing couldn't have been better.
You have poked fun at celebs over the years. Do you hold back now that you are interviewing some of them?
If they've done something that requires you to poke fun at them, then you go ahead with it. If it's an ad hominem attack that doesn't have any sort of reason then you think I should probably step carefully because at some point I'm going to need these people to pay me the favor of appearing on my talk show.
Because you've dealt with so many guest hosts at "SNL," is it easier doing the interviews with celebrities now?
"SNL" helps you not to be intimidated by who walks through the door. If you are a good listener, the interviews are pretty fun to do. I was lucky enough to be a guest on a talk show so I know what it's like to be on the other side.
People think when "SNL" creator-producer Lorne Michaels retires that you are going to take over. Any truth to that?
I hope I'm so indispensable to "Late Night" that no one will ever discuss it.
You are also a successful producer on shows like "Documentary Now!" and "The Awesomes." What do you get out of doing those shows on the side?
They are projects that I care deeply about. "The Awesomes" is something Mike Shoemaker and I have been kicking around for a decade. It finally found its way onto Hulu a couple of years ago. "Documentary Now!" is a great way for me to continue to work with people like Bill Hader and Fred Armisen who I loved working with for so long. In a weird way, if I had free time I'd want a hobby of doing a TV show with those guys. It's nice that we can still get together like that.
A new twist on the monologue
On Aug. 10, Seth Meyers made a historic move on "Late Night." He ditched the standing monologue portion that traditionally opens the show and instead started from behind the desk.
"It's allowed us more time to do other things on the show," says Meyers. "A sitting monologue seems to go a bit faster than a standing monologue even though it's the same amount of jokes. In a weird way we bought an extra 4-5 minutes to mess around with every night."
The opening now evokes his "SNL" days of anchoring "Weekend Update."
"I think it plays to my strengths," says Meyers. "If someone has missed the news, you can sort of summarize it over the course of 12-13 jokes, which provides some sort of service. Not that you've heard the news if you've seen our monologue but you can fake it better."
WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m., Friday, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, LIU Post, 720 Northern Blvd., Brookville
INFO $45-$75, 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org