Seth Meyers 'as ready as you can be' to take over 'Late Night'
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Framed by corner windows looking out on the skyscrapers of Rockefeller Center, Seth Meyers leans back on his new chair in an empty office, feet on desk, hands clasped behind head.
He plans to move into this space but not until he clears out of his job at "Saturday Night Live."
"I have to move everything down from . I never wanted it to seem like I was only half there," he says of "SNL."
It's the last Monday in January, and Meyers is gearing up for his final show, after a little more than a dozen years. "Late Night With Seth Meyers" premieres tomorrow night at 12:35 a.m. on NBC/4.
In the past year, Meyers turned 40, married and was selected as host of the talk show. Is he ready?
"As ready as you can be," he says, "leaving a place where you were for 12 and a half years."
The "SNL" schedule is grueling, and Meyers says he's been sleeping on his office couch Tuesday nights for years, usually getting a restful three hours between 2 and 5 a.m.
"I drink Red Bulls and eat beef jerky and destroy the inner lining of my stomach," he says. "And yet I will be so emotional tomorrow."
Earlier in the month, at a Television Critics Association news conference, Meyers announced that Amy Poehler would be his first guest.
"It was immediate," he says. "As soon as I said yes, I knew she was the best person I would want out there with me. I got hired on 'SNL' in the same class as Amy, '01."
GROWING UP WITH 'SNL'
Meyers, who studied radio, TV and film at Northwestern University, recalls watching Tina Fey and Poehler do improv in Chicago. He grew up in New Hampshire, adoring "SNL," recording the show and talking about it with his friends.
"I would bring dates home half an hour early for curfew to get home to watch 'SNL,'" Meyers says. "It gives you an idea of what kind of ladies man I was."
Meyers has held court behind the "Weekend Update" desk for eight years -- longer than anyone else -- and was head writer for nine years.
He'll be mining much of the same material for "Late Night," but one advantage of being on weeknights is that he and his 11 writers will get to use more of the jokes they come up with. At "SNL," news that broke early in the week and was ripe for parody was usually other late-night comics' fodder by Saturday.
Now he can use those quips in the show that will tape around 6 p.m. "Late Night" will begin five nights a week but will switch to four nights a week at an unspecified date.
Meyers, who praises Jay Leno's monologues, plans to have a strong one for his show, and he wants people to tune in expecting that.
Then, as if worried he had oversold himself, Meyers adds, "It's a weird thing not wanting to overpromise and underdeliver."
He wants guests beyond actors and reality show stars promoting themselves. He wants politicians, writers and athletes "because I have a lot of interests outside of show business," he says. "I plan to have musicians as guests."
PAGING SARAH PALIN
He would love to have Sarah Palin as a guest. Meyers wrote the skits in which Fey did a dead-on Palin impression. He quickly credits Fey for the success of those skits.
Another ideal guest would be Hillary Clinton.
"I feel like she has a really bright future," Meyers says, deadpan.
One skill Meyers wants to display and has repeatedly demonstrated on "SNL" "is making people look good," he says. "On 'Weekend Update,' if the person next to you is killing it, it looks really good.
"With all things with the show, it is important to spend the first six months figuring out what the show is, to not overthink it," he says.
It's a weird week for Meyers, leaving a job that's been his home for more than a decade to jump into an exclusive club of which he's only the fourth member, after David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon.
"The things staying the same are really exciting to me," he says. "I'm still in New York. I still have the same friends. I am still at 30 Rock."
There's some fear about this change; Meyers is too smart to be without fear.
"It is totally different muscles, it is a totally different job," he says. "I'm reminding myself that I am going into it to learn how to do it."
THEY GOT TO 'LATE' EARLY
Vice President Joe Biden and Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers' former "SNL" colleague, will be his first guests when he takes over "Late Night." Here are the first-night guests from the three prior incarnations of NBC's post-"Tonight" show:
Late Night with David Letterman (Feb. 1, 1982) Bill Murray, Don Herbert (TV's "Mr. Wizard"), comedian Steve Fessler
Late Night with Conan O'Brien (Sept. 13, 1993) John Goodman, Drew Barrymore, Tony Randall
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (March 2, 2009) Robert De Niro, Justin Timberlake, Nick Carter, Van Morrison (with a cameo appearance by O'Brien).