Seth Meyers has been behind the desk on SNL's Weekend Update for eight years, delivering solid laughs about politics and current events, with the occasional conversation with city correspondent Stefon. Also SNL's head writer, Meyers shifts to a new desk in 2014 when he takes the reins from Jimmy Fallon to host NBC's Late Night. The comedian hits the Mirage stage Saturday night, so we tapped him to discuss the new gig, what's in store for this weekend's show and more.
You've been head writer at SNL for eight seasons now. Of all the sketches that debuted during that time, which are you most proud of? That is a good question. I like to focus on the recent past more than the distant past, but this year I guess as far as things I've personally written, when Louis C.K. hosted I wrote a Lincoln piece that was a parody of his show. That was a real thrill to do, mostly because I'm just a huge fan of his and a huge fan of that show. And to be able to come up with an idea inspired by him that I got to work on with him was a real joy, and made way better by having Louis around to do stand-up as Abraham Lincoln. And then you know, over the years, I guess the political stuff I've done has always been a really fun thing to write, and working on the Sarah Palin stuff with Tina [Fey] was a real excitement, too.
A lot of solid, very popular performers have left recently—Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and now Bill Hader and Fred Armisen. Have any departures been especially hard on the writing team? It's always hard when people leave at this show. When the previous generation left, it was replaced with people like Kristen and Fred and Andy and Bill. So you know, the joy of the show is when new people come in and the writing staff sort of figures out that they're like resources that haven’t been used yet. And, you know, I think based on the first year a lot of our new cast members have had, there's nothing to worry about going on into the future.
We've been introduced to some pretty unforgettable characters on Weekend Update recently, most notably Bill Hader's Stefon. Was that character your brainchild? Oh god, I wish. That was the brainchild of Bill Hader and John Mulaney, and it was originally a sketch. The suggestion was made that it might have longer legs as a Weekend Update feature, but those guys did such an incredible job, both writing and performing it. And yeah, of all the things I've been sort of witness to [during] my time at the show, that was the one that the audience has the biggest love affair with, so I was very lucky to be in the two-shot with Stefon over the years. It was a very special relationship.
Indeed! You whisked him away from Anderson Cooper at the aisle during the show’s season finale. Are you two honeymooning? Well, you know, we're worried about paparazzi, so we're keeping it pretty quiet.
You'll be leaving SNL in 2014 after the Olympics to take over Late Night. Who would you like to see succeed you as host of Weekend Update? I think Lorne [Michaels] will have a lot of incredible options based on the people that are here now, and should he look outside, there'll be a lot of options there as well. I wouldn't want to say who I think should do it or who's best-served to do it, but I do look forward to seeing who it is that will do it. It's a family, you know. Once you do Weekend Update I think you're always somewhat invested in it.
Is Late Night a dream gig? To be fully honest, SNL is my dream job. I sort of never dreamed past this. And then once I had SNL as a dream job, I started thinking, like, what would be a dream job after it? The elements I wanted were … the sort of time slot like SNL where you can try a lot of different things. You can experiment with different forms of comedy. You can hire a lot of writers who have different voices, as opposed to the kind of show where you need all of the writers to sort of serve into one over-arching voice. This seemed like the next big, great place to go.
Are you doing anything special to prepare for the job? I'm taking a quiet month to just sort of wrap my head around all of it, and then I think over the course of the summer, the biggest thing with any show like this is just the staffing. You're only as good as your writing staff, and there's a lot of people that I've been lucky enough to meet over the years that I intend to reach out to. And then I also sort of look forward to just getting young, new blood, that hopefully will be having their first television job on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
You're performing at the Mirage this weekend. I haven't seen your stand-up comedy before. What is your style? Well, it's very similar to Weekend Update. I like talking about politics and what's going on in the world. And that's the really nice thing about doing a show, you know, daily, as opposed to once a week, is you just get more chances to talk about things like that.
Who are some of your comedic influences? I grew up watching SNL, so in a lot of ways, my boss, Lorne, was inspiring me long before I was in his employ. But you know, my parents introduced me to people like Woody Allen and Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Monte Python, and you know, old SNLs at a really young age, and that was stuff that really left a mark on me.
You've taken a few film and television roles in recent years. Will you continue to do that while hosting Late Night? No, I have good news for everybody: I think that's probably over. So they don't have to worry about seeing my dumb face in any movies.
Are you currently working on any other projects? I've got a cartoon called The Awesomes that's coming out on Hulu this summer that I'm really excited about. It's an animated series about a superhero team, and I've long been a comic book fan and it's long been one of my dreams to do animated shows, so I'm really excited about that.
Is there anything that you think your generation of SNL will be remembered for? I don’t know. I think you sort of just reflect [on] the time that you're doing the show and where you're at as a cast. The best casts on SNL are really varied in their skills and their comedic tastes. I certainly think, as a credit to the Lonely Island, this will rightly be remembered as the age where the show made the most of film switching to digital, and all the sudden it's a meeting a week to shoot a film piece and send guys out with a camera and get it done in a night. I feel that the short film part of the show has been really strong the last seven or eight years, inspired by those guys. So I think that's part of it, and you know, hopefully they'll remember Weekend Update was a fun place where a lot of lunatics stopped by.
Seth Meyers. June 15, 10 p.m., $53-$75. Mirage, 791-7111.