He’s been head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor for the legendary comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live” for six years. But most people don’t know much about Seth Meyers beyond his 10 minutes of face-time each week on “SNL.” Now here’s your chance to get to know more of the sense of humor of the man who followed such “Weekend Update” legends as Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Dennis Miller, Norm MacDonald, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey.
Meyers takes the stage Thursday, April 18 at the Fillmore Miami Beach as part of the South Beach Comedy Festival. He talked to Miami.com about his set, his many experiences on “SNL,” and being a rabid sports fan from New England (spoiler: He’s not a Patriots fan).
Are you excited to come down to Miami?
Very excited! I’ve never done a show down there before, so I’m looking forward to it.
People know you primarily as the “Weekend Update” host. What can we expect from you as a stand-up comic?
Well, first of all, it’s thrilling to see me from the waist down. For people who haven’t seen it yet, it’s mind-blowing. But I’d say persona-wise, the guy who sits behind the desk is pretty close to who I am as a stand-up – I’m definitely talking about politics and current events, but I also get a chance to talk about my life and take a little more time telling stories in a way that would be indulgent if I did it on “Weekend Update.”
What would you like to show people who have no idea who you are other than the “WU” gig?
Just, you know, that I’m a human being like the rest of them [laughs], that I don’t just exist for 10 minutes once a week. I have parents, stuff like that. I’d like the chance to talk about what it’s like being in relationships, and also take more time talking about politics as opposed to just a set-up and punch line.
When you started at “Saturday Night Live,” did you envision at all where you’d end up, as head writer and “WU” host? I mean, that’s pretty high stuff.
I don’t think you envision anything – you spend the first five years just hoping that when [producer] Lorne [Michaels] passes you, he won’t extend the finger and show you where the door is. So you spend a long time just trying to survive. And I was lucky enough that Lorne saw that I was a guy who liked writing stuff for other people.
Were you intimidated at all by your “Weekend Update” predecessors?
We are constantly intimidated by the history of this place every second you’re here. You can’t walk down the hallway without seeing black-and-white framed photos of John Belushi and Chevy Chase, and every generation of the show. So it’s hard not to constantly be aware of what the show is and what it means to people.
As far as my predecessors, I definitely understood that I was following people who were very good at it. But I also had the benefit of, in the time that I was with the show, I saw Jimmy [Fallon] and Tina [Fey] do “Update,” and I saw Tina and Amy [Poehler] do it, so by the time I actually sat down I had the benefit of being close to the people who had come before me.
Do you feel like you’re working 24/7 because you have to be up on current events to prepare for the show?
Yeah - the part of it that’s the biggest pull as far as the rest of your time is that you’re just constantly trying to think of what you’re gonna do the next week. And the more up-to-date you are on what’s going on in the world, the better equipped you are to come up with ideas, certainly.
Do you still get the same adrenaline rush, or is it now more like, “Ahh, I got this”?
It’s hilarious, because we do a dress rehearsal at 8 o’clock on Saturday. Same studio – it’s a different audience, but they sit in the same chairs. And for that dress-rehearsal audience, there’s absolutely no butterflies. But when it counts a couple hours later – heart pounding out of the chest. At least until you get that first joke out.
You won an Emmy for writing Justin Timberlake’s opening musical monologue, and you also wrote one for Jason Segel. What’s your musical background?
I don’t have much of a musical background. It was John Mulaney and I – he was a writer on the show as well. And Justin Timberlake had this song idea, and John and I just sat in a room and sort of hammered out the lyrics for it, and we have a really talented musical department that takes our lamer efforts and helps shape it into a song. And obviously it doesn’t hurt having Justin Timberlake as part of the process as well.
How often do you get star-struck by some of the guests?
It’s funny, I think the longer you’re here, you get less star-struck and more just like struck at how good people can be at the show. Just this past week with Melissa McCarthy – having seen so many people host the show, she does certain things better than anyone I’ve ever seen. So you’re more struck by that part of it than you are by movie stars who come in that you like their work. Mostly because you kind of spend the whole week getting them ready for Saturday. Whereas before you’re like, “Oh my God this person was in that movie,” now you’re way more happy to say, “Oh my God, this person that was in that movie is great in this sketch.”
Some of the greatest moments on “WU” are appearances by the flamboyantly gay New York City Correspondent Stefon, played by Bill Hader, who recommends bizarre and absurd nightclubs for tourists to attend. Do you have a hand in writing that material, and how do you keep a straight face?
That’s all Bill Hader and John Mulaney again. People always ask me how I keep a straight face, but if you watch Stefon, about half the time I’m not on camera. And during that time, I do not have a straight face. It’s the best, and a part of being “Weekend Update” anchor is you learn when you’re on and off-camera.
You did write the Sarah Palin stuff for Tina Fey – how much fun was that?
That was a lot of pressure – for Tina and our writing staff – in that it was one of the things people were so excited for before it happened. Because I don’t think that anyone who saw Sarah Palin didn’t think “Tina Fey” right away. And it was a funny thing - usually you want to reveal what you’re doing as a sketch starts, but that was a case where months in advance, people couldn’t wait to see it. So in the end we were pretty happy with how it turned out.
You’ve hosted the ESPYs twice – are you a big sports fan?
Absolutely. I grew up in New England, so I’m a Red Sox fan, I’m a Celtics fan, and my dad grew up in Pittsburgh, so non-negotiably I’m a Steelers fan. And then I went to Northwestern University, so I’m a pretty big fan of Northwestern college football.
As a Celtics fan, you must hate the Miami Heat, right?
I don’t, you know? LeBron hosted our show in 2007 and could not have been a more wonderful guy to spend time with. So whereas I certainly root against the Heat when they play the Celtics, I don’t think I hate the Heat. I will say that the timing of LeBron’s Decision worked out really well for one of the times I hosted the ESPYs. So LeBron might not be as big a fan of me as I am of him. Hopefully we can one day work it back.
So you’re not a New England Patriots fan?
No, because of my dad I never was a Patriots fan. But again, it’s hard for me because Tom Brady is another one of those athletes who hosted the show and is an impossible person not to like. Three that really killed me are LeBron, Derek Jeter and Tom Brady, who all are incredible gentlemen. Guys that when you meet you realize there’s no real reason to root against them.
You also won Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown.” Was that a fluke, or are you a bad-ass card shark?
I’m not a bad card shark if you surround me with other celebrities. If you put me with actual card players, I think I’d be the first guy out. But if you even the playing field with some celebrities, you’re gonna see some pretty decent play from me.
As a New England guy, what do you think of Miami?
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Miami, but every time I’ve been there I’ve had a good time. I’m really excited to come down there for a comedy festival – there’s no better way to visit a city than that.