Seth Meyers on Bringing 'Late Night' to DC & Why Writing Is the Most Rewarding Part of His Job

By Amy Moeller | September 29, 2016 | People Feature

For Seth Meyers, an election year—especially this election year—is the gift that keeps on giving. To show his appreciation, he’s bringing Late Night to DC.

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In the ever-quickly-changing world of late-night television, funny guy and notable Saturday Night Live alum Seth Meyers is gaining ground. And this fall, Washington is getting in on the action. For four nights, beginning October 10, Meyers and his crew at Late Night with Seth Meyers will be on location, broadcasting daily from the Warner Theatre. “With Conan going to Chicago, Kimmel to Brooklyn, Fallon out to LA, and shows like The Daily Show going to conventions, we weren’t breaking new ground with the idea of taking the show on the road,” Meyers says. “We just wanted to be a part of it.”

And what better place to be a part of it, on the brink of an historic election, than the nation’s capital? After all, the current state of affairs, Meyers says, has certainly lent itself to comedy: “There’s just so much information out there right now. If it were a different election, who knows if we would talk about it as much as we talked about this one, but this has dovetailed so nicely with comedy that it has been fun to focus on.”

Along with politics, Meyers hopes to keep pop culture in the mix for the DC shows. “I’m just excited about the energy live,” he says. “I’ve done stand-up shows at the Warner before. It’s a great old theater, and I think it will be a fun venue.”

In addition to performing stand-up here—and visiting as a kid, of course—Meyers says his most memorable trip to the city was when he hosted the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2011. “I had a bunch of writers with me and a bunch of people from SNL came down that year to support,” he recalls. “The night after was one of the most fun nights of my life.”

Since then, much has changed for the 42-year-old comedian and late-night host. In 2013, he married his longtime girlfriend, lawyer Alexi Ashe, and just this year the two welcomed their first child. As the host of a politically driven show, having a new baby during election season has made him even busier than usual.

A typical workday begins at 8:30 am, when Meyers meets with his writing team to decide on and write the first part of the show. From there, he heads to a series of meetings where material is pitched and reviewed, before he sits down for a two-hour writing session—“probably the most intense part of the day,” he says. At 4 pm, he hits the studio, where “we’ll rehearse everything that’s going to be in tonight’s show for an audience that we sort of just drag in from 30 Rock—a bunch of tourists that we corral and try to lure with the promise of free, undercooked comedy.” The rehearsal typically includes some 50 jokes, which are subsequently narrowed down to 10 to 15 for the taping. The show tapes at 6:30, and at 7:30 Meyers heads home. “It’s a long day, but it’s never boring,” he says. “I always [feared] everything would feel boring after SNL. This is not boring.” It was at Northwestern University (something of a funny factory, having also graduated such comedians as Ana Gasteyer and Billy Eichner) that Meyers’s comedy career first took root. “I thought I wanted to be a film director,” he recalls, “[but during] New Student Week I saw the improv troupe. Northwestern had a pretty decent improv troupe, and I set my heart on that.” For the next three years, Meyers poured his efforts into joining. “I started going downtown in Chicago and taking improv classes,” he says. “Eventually, my senior year, I actually got cast in that improv troupe that I fell in love with. That kind of set me out down the road that ultimately led to here.”

“It’s a long day, but it’s never boring. I always [feared] everything would feel boring after SNL. This is not boring.”

But before he got “here,” Meyers spent 13 years on Saturday Night Live, ultimately earning the roles of co-head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor, joining the ranks of such SNL alumni as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. “Every decade, the show kind of recreates itself,” he says, “and I stayed long enough to make sure I was there for one of those re-creations. It was awesome. It was a lucky time to be there… especially being somebody who loved to write… Everybody in that group elevated everything you put on the page.”

As “Weekend Update” anchor, Meyers performed alongside such iconic SNL characters as Stefon, played by Bill Hader. “I think one of the many things, great things, you could say about Stefon and the job Bill and John [Mulaney] did writing it is that it ages really well,” Meyers says. “It doesn’t seem like a bygone era; it’s really great. It was so well-written and so well-performed that I think it will live for a long time.”

His transition from SNL to Late Night was a notably quick one: Meyers made his Late Night debut a mere three weeks after his SNL finale.

“I think if we’d been given six months instead of three weeks [for Late Night], it would have all been for naught,” he says, because “we [had to] learn how to do these shows by doing them more than anything else, which I think it’s important to stress to anyone watching one of these late-night show launches. So many have launched since we’ve started. I feel like there are more new shows since we started than ones that are still on the air. I was lucky enough that the network was patient. We got a lot more political about a year in. That, then, gave a sense of direction that we’ve sort of been embracing ever since.”

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Stranger than fiction (from top): Late Night host Seth Meyers has shared a couch with both of this year’s presidential candidates. He interviewed Hillary Clinton on his show last year, and paired up with Trump in 2004 for a Saturday Night Live skit, “Fathers and Sons,” in which the two portrayed Gary and Peter Fleck.

Just don’t expect any feigned nonpartisanship. “All good comedy comes from people that have a strong point of view,” Meyers explains. “One of the things we’ve embraced on this show is that point of view. We worry far more about taking the way we feel and making it funny as opposed to coming in every day and saying, ‘If we make a joke about that side, we have to make a corresponding joke about the other side.’ We try to be fair and accurate, but that’s more important to us than being evenhanded.”

Even as the host of Late Night, Meyers says he identifies most with being a writer.

“Even in high school… I loved writing, and to this day I still probably find it the most rewarding of everything I do,” he says. “With that said, it’s pretty great to walk out and do an hour show with a lot of material that’s been written for me by other great writers that I did not have to sweat over as much as they did. I always think of myself as a writer first and then a performer second.”

This fall, Washingtonians get the chance to see him be both. “Mostly I’m just curious to see how my writers behave in a hotel,” he says with a laugh. “I feel like a camp counselor who’s taking a lot of kids to a museum.”

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Categories: People Feature

photography by rodolfo martinez/nbc; by Jon pack/nbc/nbcU photo bank via getty images (clinton); mary ellen matthews/nbc/nbcU photo bank via getty images (trUmp).

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