Seth Meyers Gears Up to Host the Emmy Awards
There’s no slowing down Seth Meyers. In February, he took over hosting NBC’s Late Night just weeks after departing Saturday Night Live. He and Late Night producer Mike Shoemaker oversee Hulu’s animated superhero series The Awesomes, which was just renewed for a third season. And on August 25, Meyers hosts the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards (8/7c, NBC). He gives us a status report on Late Night, why Donald Trump still talks about him, and his plans for the Emmycast.
TV Guide Magazine: Six months in, how’s it going on Late Night?
Seth Meyers: It has just flown by. The crazy part is how many shows you do in six months. But that’s also been the lovely part — once you get that understanding that these are shows you can be a little less precious about. SNL always felt like the opening night of a Broadway show. On Late Night, if something doesn’t quite go right, you know you have the luxury of doing another show the next day. For many people on the writing staff, this is their first job. So not only am I on this learning curve of hosting a talk show, but a lot of them are just learning to write for a talk show. It’s been fun to see everyone improve as they go.
TV Guide Magazine: Your signature bit is a slice-of-life story you share at the desk. How did that originate?
Meyers: We did five test shows the two weeks before we started and tried so many things. One night, to have a transition out of the monologue, I told a story that [executive producer] Lorne [Michaels] suggested I tell on the first show, about changing a tire. Lorne’s philosophy was, “You’re very comfortable when you tell it. It’s something you know.” Now, Mike Shoemaker asks me every morning if I have a story. It does put a little pressure on me to lead a more -interesting life. It’s hilarious now when I get pulled over [as he recently did for rolling through a stop sign] and I think, “Well, there’s Monday!” It’s the moment where I feel like it’s my show the most.
TV Guide Magazine: You also regularly do improv with bandleader and fellow SNL alum Fred Armisen.
Meyers: We were very respectful that this would be Fred’s music job. But you can’t have one of the all-time great comedians and not have any sort of interaction with him. We just call it the “Fred Question.” He gets to be creative on the spot.
TV Guide Magazine: You’ve made it a habit to take a nightly leap onto the moving platform that holds your desk.
Meyers: My college friends know I’m a terrible athlete with no coordination. One of them wrote a group email asking, “What’s the over/under on when Seth twists his ankle?”
TV Guide Magazine: Interviewing is such a big part of taking on this gig. How did you begin prepping for it?
Meyers: Six months before the show started, I tried to be a better listener during conversations. I realized my parents were the people I had been tuning out the most. Every time I talked to my parents, I realized, “Wow, you guys are a lot more interesting than I thought!”
TV Guide Magazine: Who has been the most memorable guest so far?
Meyers: Kanye West was on the second show, and I look back now at the level of difficulty. There is no preinterview with Kanye, and part of his appeal is you expect the unexpected. I thought it was an interesting conversation.
TV Guide Magazine: Your love of sports comes through on the show, especially during the monologue.
Meyers: More than ever sports stories become national stories. LeBron James isn’t sports news anymore, he’s news news.
TV Guide Magazine: ESPN famously tried to hire you to do a late night show.
Meyers: My experiences with ESPN have been exceptional. They treated my staff so great both times we did the ESPYs. But at the end of the day, it didn’t make more sense than staying home. This was really the upgraded version of what I was doing [on SNL].
TV Guide Magazine: Meanwhile, there are huge changes going on elsewhere in late night. Is that an opportunity for you?
Meyers: It’s less interesting when you have the job. To be honest, you think no matter what happens, they’re not dominos that affect us much anymore. I look at this show as a piece of real estate, at 12:30, where we can hopefully live for a long time.
TV Guide Magazine: Late Night, The Tonight Show, and SNL are in the same Rockefeller Plaza building. How much interaction has there been?
Meyers: The shocking thing is how little we see The Tonight Show. Other than hearing the bass line of the Roots through the floor, you forget that they’re in the same building. I run into Jimmy Fallon more at NBC events. It will be very strange when SNL‘s season starts up [because we’re on the same floor]. It was crazy to leave midseason and still see [the cast], because a week at SNL feels like a hundred years. The first week I was gone, people would say how much they missed me. By the second week, they had already moved on.
TV Guide Magazine: How hard was it to leave?
Meyers: The best way to leave SNL is to have a new job in three weeks. You don’t have time to mourn. But that last show was heartbreaking. It was such a big, long part of my life.
TV Guide Magazine: SNL seems to be going through a period of growing pains. What do you make of it?
Meyers: I went through a couple of those transition periods. The show -always came out better for it. There’s nothing more fun than SNL when a group of people emerges. Then there’s two or three years where everyone is clicking on all cylinders. I think it’s going to be a really exciting time for the show next year. For the pure thrill of working there I’m a bit jealous that they get to go through that.
TV Guide Magazine: As you prepare to host the Emmys, you must find it amusing that Donald Trump still trashes you for the time you hosted the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.
Meyers: It turned out to be the ultimate reward. He calls me a stutterer, he calls me marble mouth. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s my second Christmas. Every year, the morning after the Correspondents Dinner, he goes on TV and talks about how well the person did in comparison to me.
TV Guide Magazine: How far ahead do you prep for the Emmys?
Meyers: With monologue jokes, you can’t write them more than 10 days out or there’s the danger they’ll go stale. The monologue will be a big part of our success or failure, due to my lack of skill set for anything else. We have some film piece ideas, but we won’t open with one. I think I’m probably best when the first thing you see me do is a joke or two.
TV Guide Magazine: What’s the right amount of screen time for an Emmy host? Meyers: You are a little hamstrung. If you’re doing well, people want to see more of you. But so many other things are going on; it’s not the host’s prerogative to come out whenever they want. I do feel like your job is to deal with the cards you’re dealt. And this was a good year in television. I was happy when the nominations came out and it was almost entirely shows I watch and like.
TV Guide Magazine: What are your picks?
Meyers: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Fargo, and the HBO comedies. Also, I was happy to see Key & Peele and Amy Schumer get nominated. Nice to see sketch get recognized.
TV Guide Magazine: Will you show up on SNL next season?
Meyers: People can see me enough now. No one’s complaining about the ability to see me.