Seth Meyers sounds so cheery you can almost hear his smile across the phone line. As he would say: Really? Really.
And why not? As he comes to town this week to perform standup on Saturday as one of the headliners for JFL42, he just recently celebrated almost five years since he took the reigns as the host of The Late Night with Seth Meyers, and the years honing his skills as deadpan anchor hosting Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live are being put to good use as he skewers the Trump administration nightly from his talk show host pulpit.
Despite how it looks, he says the gig is still about telling good jokes — and there’s more than enough material — than it is about speaking truth to power.
“(Is Trump) good for comedy? You know, I can’t judge if it is good or bad for comedy, but I can tell you that when I first starting doing a late-night talk show, my biggest fear was ‘what are we going to talk about tomorrow?’ I don’t have that fear any more,” says Meyers. “It’s still all about the jokes, but I think what’s changed with the Trump administration is that there is more content coming out every day, than any of us were used to before this Trump moment happened. So many things that would have been the lead story for any other administration often get pushed farther down, and that’s the part that totally different.”
Meyers has admitted that when he started on Late Night, he was concerned with being too political, and also avoided performing his monologue from behind the desk because he was fearful that it would compared to closely to his last gig.
“Well, I will say, at the beginning, we didn’t start behind the desk because I wanted to prove to everybody that I wasn’t just the Weekend Update guy. And about a year and a half into it, I was like, ‘You know, I put a lot of years getting good at being the Weekend Update guy, I don’t know why I want to be Michael Jordan the baseball guy.’ ”
While his comedic background started more in the sketch and improv world, he still enjoys the excitement of a gig like Saturday’s two shows at the Sony Centre. It’s clearly not something he needs to do, but he appreciates the chance to talk about things that might not fit on his show.
“I really like doing it. I remember talking to Craig Ferguson one time, and he still goes out and does shows, and he basically said, ‘Look, if you stop for a year, you just probably won’t ever start ever again.’ A lot of it for me is because I do it less, so it’s exciting. During my SNL years, where we had a lot of weeks off, and I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, so I was doing a ton of standup. There are still things that occur to me that I want to talk about that don’t really fit into the framework of the show,” he says.
“It’s an opportunity to talk more about personal things, like having a family and having kids, and being married. I’ll say there will be some Trump, but a much smaller percentage than what people have come to expect on my show.”
I ask Meyers what he thinks about the state of standup right now, and he’s careful to say that it’d be better to ask a full-time practitioner of the art, but as a fan, it feels like it’s a healthy time, as streaming companies try to corner the market on funny people.
“It seems exciting and interesting that Netflix is experimenting with shorter specials. That strikes me as a cool idea,” he says. “I am lucky that I can go out and do standup on the back of having (my) show. But it strikes me as a good time right now, and it certainly strikes as an interesting time in that standup is diversifying as far as the people who are doing it and they way people are playing with the form, So I will say it’s an exciting time for the consumer of standup comedy.”