Comedian Seth Meyers on his big move fromSaturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”to his own NBC talk show
s an anchor for Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” Seth Meyers sat behind the same desk at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center for eight years. Now, as the host of Late Night, he sits behind a new desk, in the middle of a new stage, and carries the weight of upholding an old legacy.
An Emmy Award–winning seasoned veteran, Meyers is no stranger to the late-night television game. (In total, he spent 12-and-a-half years at SNL, first as a cast member and then he worked his way up to head writer.) He begins each Late Night show by delivering a witty monologue, his approach not unlike how he dispensed satirical tidbits on “Weekend Update,” and he ends each show by introducing a musical performance, his style, once again, not unlike how it’s done on SNL. He knows those strategies work. But employing them on this platform, plus all that occurs between the monologue and musical act, is what will take Meyers from a predominantly behind-the-scenes player to one of the most recognized faces on television.
With a few familiar and influential SNL comrades beside him, he’s set to tackle the challenge each show presents: to entertain a live audience during taping and keep at-home viewers engaged for a 60-minute stretch during the wee hours. So far, for five nights per week, he has successfully risen to that challenge, endearing viewers while fully made up and dressed in a crisp, dapper suit—extra attention to his looks he once strictly reserved for Saturdays.
But Meyers doesn’t mind. He has embraced his new “beauty routine” like he has embraced his new job. RL Magazine sat down with Meyers to talk about his exciting desk change and so much more.
Meyers charms the audience from behind his desk at the Late Night With Seth Meyers soundstage in Rockefeller Center
RL Magazine: After being on Saturday Night Live for 12 years, how did you prepare yourself for your new role as host of Late Night With Seth Meyers? Seth Meyers: The biggest thing you do is you just hire really funny people for your writing staff. That was the first step. Because of how long I did SNL up to the lead-up for this show, there wasn’t a huge gap of time [in which to prepare]. It was only about three weeks. So really the preparation wasn’t more than just sort of thinking about the kinds of things that we wanted to try to do—knowing that we would have the chance to do two weeks of test shows to road test it all a little bit before we started doing actual shows. But, you know, there’s only so much you can prepare for a show like this. I think you learn so much by doing. I know I’ve learned in the past 12 shows. I have exponentially more knowledge about this kind of show than I did before I did the first one.
Since he regularly wore suits as SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchor, Meyers feels right at home in his new role’s formal wardrobe
Late Night tapes at 6:30 in the evening, five nights a week. In what ways have you had to adjust your daily life to accommodate your new schedule?The old schedule was so much worse. I really haven’t had to adjust. It’s more like [I am] just relaxing after a really long marathon. [Laughs.] I don’t have to wake up wildly earlier. I had reached a time in my SNL career where I was waking up pretty early to begin with. I don’t ever sleep in an office with the new schedule, and I am home before my wife goes to sleep. So it hasn’t really been a crazy adjustment. I mean, the bigger adjustment is just how often I have to sit in the chair for hair and makeup, which was a once-per-week thing and now is a five-times-per-week thing. My skin is really dry. I will tell you, my skin is a lot drier. [Laughs.]
But you’re finally getting that full eight hours of sleep. That’s good for your skin, right?It’s great. It turns out that everybody who is telling you that eight hours is important is right. I thought it was more like you get five hours four nights a week, zero hours one night a week and then 15 hours on Sunday. That’s not the right way to do it.
Do you have any rituals that you do before you go on set to relax and get in the zone?We read our monologue jokes to people. We sort of collect a group of people to come in who are [there ] just to watch the monologue rehearsal. And that’s not really a ritual as much as a way to make sure you’re doing the best version of the monologue. But it’s nice to be able to tell it out loud before we actually do it for the show.
The other thing about a ritual with this show versus SNL is [that on] SNL you have all this time building up to one show, and here, with the five shows, you have less time to worry about anything other than the doing of the show. It’s a far more regimented schedule in a way that I find incredibly refreshing, as opposed to when you’re at SNL, [when] all of a sudden it’s Thursday and you’re like, “Should I just stay at work another four hours and work on this thing that I feel is not quite right yet?” So at SNL, you keep tinkering and keep tinkering, whereas with this show you have to keep plowing forward. It’s nice because you don’t spend a lot of time looking backward. You have to focus your eyes on the next [show].
Your fans were excited when you brought on fellow former SNL cast member Fred Armisen to lead the 8G Band. Had you always planned on asking him to join Late Night?No, I wish I could say it was something I was smart enough to plan. We were very close to the start of the show, [and] we hadn’t quite figured out what we were going to do musically. [SNL executive producer] Lorne [Michaels] had the idea that Fred would be a good fit for us, and I couldn’t have been happier. Not just because he’s a great musician, but on a pure comfort level, having an old friend out there when you go to the center monologue spot has been a real comfort for me.
Fred and I have some pretty similar musical tastes. Fred is far more accomplished and smart when it comes to talking about music, but I really love the way the band sounds. And the fact that he could put together that group of artists and musicians so quickly is a testament to how well connected he is in that world.
Meyers warms up the crowd with a monologue during one of his earliest Late Night tapings
Speaking of Michaels, how has his involvement as executive producer of Late Night affected your transition into the new role?It’s just a very calming influence. The fact that you have Lorne on your side obviously means a great deal here at NBC and at 30 Rock. He’s a very nice presence to have [around] after the show to talk down what we thought worked [and] what we thought didn’t. Mostly, I’m a known quantity to Lorne. So I think when he picked me for the show, the expectation was that I would keep doing what I had already been doing for him. It was nice in that I didn’t have to reinvent myself as much as just continue to be the version of myself that Lorne has known for the last 12-and-a-half years.
Do you find that on Late Night you have more opportunities to perform than you did on SNL?I wouldn’t use the word perform as much as give a more honest version of myself. Not that there was anything dishonest with what I was doing on “Weekend Update,” but you’re just telling jokes. One of the nice things about this show is being able to talk about my life outside of the show, talk about my family, talk about my friends. That is just really refreshing, and [it is a] part of the job that I don’t think I quite understood I could do until I started doing it.
How would you describe your personal style? And has it changed over time?I like to look well dressed without looking like I’m trying too hard, if that makes sense. That’s why a classic suit with a pretty simple shirt-tie combination is, for me, the way to go.
I think I grew into this style. It was certainly nice to have a job where you started wearing suits and ties more. I think if we looked back at photos, we would see that I hadn’t had this locked in, in my 20s. [Laughs.]
What is your dream guest lineup, including musical guest?That’s a good question. I will say that if you had asked [before we started], Kanye West would have been a dream musical performance. The fact that I got him on the second show—I still kind of can’t believe that. But, I would say, musically, I would be happy with Bob Dylan. I’d be happy with Beyoncé or Rihanna. Those are all three people I would be very happy with.
Guest lineup? Vladimir Putin would be an interesting cat to talk to right now. If I couldn’t get him [laughs], I would love to talk to Hillary Clinton. I would love to talk to David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. I’m a Boston Red Sox fan, and I think it would be really fun to interview him. And why don’t we throw Tom Cruise in there? I feel like that’s a really strong show: Clinton, Cruise, Ortiz and then probably Bob Dylan and Beyoncé together.
How does it feel to be the interviewee, not the interviewer?It’s nice now. [Laughs.] I will say that interviewing is—that part of it has been so much more fun than I thought. I just thought it would be nerve-racking. If you really just talk and listen, it’s not that bad.
Madeline Rudin works for Interview and has contributed to Trendland and StyleCaster, among other websites and publications. She lives in New York.