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#BornThisDay: Seth Meyers

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Photo by Anya Garrett via Wikimedia Commons

 

December 28, 1973Seth Meyers:

“I’d really like Rihanna to come on the show, and I know that’s a real 180 from what we’re talking about with politics, but I’ve talked to a lot of politicians this year, and the reality is, politics are more interesting than politicians. So, I guess, give me a Rihanna; give me a Beyoncé. I think they would be a lot more interesting to talk to.”

It hasn’t been easy, I know. 2017, what a year. The year of anxiety. It has been like one long ride in a clown car full of racists, homophobes and fascists driven by POTUS.

Meyers was the Emmy-nominated head writer for Saturday Night Live before taking over Late Night in 2014. Besides the usual roster of actors touting their latest projects, Meyer’s guests often includes politicians and best of all, writers. Not since the days of Dick Cavett have I watched a talk show with so many authors.

Meyers grew up loving to read and  spent a lot of time in his hometown library in Bedford, New Hampshire.

“Both of my parents were huge readers. When we went on vacation, everyone was responsible for having enough books to make it through without bothering the others. That was a big jumping-off point. I’ve never wanted to go anywhere without a book.”

His mother is a French teacher and his father worked in finance, and Josh Meyers, his cutie pie younger brother, is an actor.

Somehow, he manages to read the current book written by the writers appearing on his show, for which he is also a writer and executive producer. Since the show began, Meyers has hosted more than 75 writers on Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Books are such a big deal for Meyers and his wife, attorney Alexi Ashe, that when the couple married in 2013, guests were given paper cones to throw, filled with lavendar made from pages from their favorite books, Catch-22 and Great Expectations.

”Many authors on our show have never been on a talk show before, but the reality is that whatever fears they have about being on TV are trumped by their natural abilities as storytellers. I think authors are the people you want to end up next to at a dinner party. I feel less so about politicians, especially when they’re running for office and have eight or nine things they say over and over again. That’s an effective way to run for office but it’s a completely lousy way to be a dinner companion.”

But Meyers certainly doesn’t shy away from politics, especially during the show’s essential Closer Look segments, six-to-eight-minute explorations of an issue, usually what POTUS has said or tweeted. Among his guests have been: John McCain, Bill Clinton, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Kellyanne Conway and Bernie Sanders.

Meyers starts his workday checking the news sources and reporters he follows on Twitter. Meyers:

”The night before, we usually recognize the story we want to work on. In the morning we can drill down on that.”

Meyers studied film at Northwestern University, intending to be a director. But, he discovered Mee-Ow, the university’s long-running sketch comedy troupe. After graduation, he moved to Amsterdam, where he worked at Boom Chicago, a comedy club that is a training ground for many writers and performers.

SNL, with Bill Hader, via YouTube

In 2001 he joined the cast of SNL, where he did imitations of Anderson Cooper, Peyton Manning, Ryan Seacrest, John Kerry and Nicollette Sheridan, before becoming the show’s head writer, replacing Tina Fey and serving as the iconic anchor for Weekend Update.

Because of the election of November 2016, I discovered NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers. I sort of knew who Meyers was. I knew that he had been on SNL, but I hadn’t seen anything from that show, except for occasional clips, since 1977. Now, I am a regular viewer again.

I was impressed by Meyers take on the American Political scene, finding him smooth, smart, sly, insightful, and very, very funny. A Closer Look, is better than any news outlet for a quick rundown of current events. He takes jabs at all the players, but he really sticks it to You-Know-Who. It has become Meyers’ signature segment. A Closer Look remains a meticulous, searing dissection of the day’s top stories.

I’m not certain if he is really cute, because I tend to find people I like to be attractive. I love his comic timing and his smile. On the Thanksgiving episode, he featured his funny family, including Josh, a cast member of the once great sketch comedy series Mad TV, and the two of them together made me nearly faint with desire.

Late Night With Seth Meyers is not so much like Full Frontal With Samantha Bee or Real Time With Bill Maher, both of which I also admire and find very funny and informative; Meyers’ show still has a traditional talk show format; he has guests that sit in a chair beside his desk, and he is good at interviewing, generous and rather sweet with his guests, without gushing like Jimmy Fallon. This show always has just the right dash of cynicism while remaining bright and humorous, as if the Jon Stewart era The Daily Show had married 1970s The Dick Cavett Show and had a baby. It is sophisticated and smart, while unafraid to get silly.

I go to bed early, so I watch it first thing in the morning instead of The Today Show, which lost me when sexual harasser Matt Lauer gave Trump a hand job on air in the summer of 2016, and Kathie Lee Gifford was revealed to be a fascist sympathizer.

When Meyers signed-off for his winter hiatus last year, he jokingly addressed the camera with:

”We will be back on January 9, and we will be canceled on January 20.”

Meyers was joking, but he wasn’t kidding. This entire mess we find ourselves in now probably began when Meyers hosted the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where Trump was the butt of jokes by Barack Obama and Meyers.

Trump was so humiliated by the experience that it seemed to have triggered a deep, dark previously hidden hunger for revenge. That evening of public degradation, instead of sending the Orange Blob away for good, only accelerated his ferocious desire to take over the world.

On the night of November 9, 2016, just 12 hours after the world was shocked by the realization of who had become the next POTUS, Meyers delivered a poignant monologue to his audience, sharing an anecdote about informing his then 8-month-old son that:

”For the first time in our history, our president would be a failed steak salesman…”

But then, he took a more somber tone, and in tears said:

”As a white man, I also know that any emotions I’m feeling are likely a fraction of those being felt by the LGBTQ community, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, and any number of the immigrant communities so vital to our country, so hopefully the Trump administration and Trump supporters will be compassionate to them, because they need your compassion. And in general, I am hopeful for Trump because hope is always the best possible path to take, and one thing that makes me hopeful is we know from interviews he’s given over the years that he has, at any given point, held every position on every issue: He’s been pro-choice, pro-life, for the Iraq War, against the Iraq War. Pretty much his only consistent position has been: Anti-Rosie O’Donnell. So, I’m hopeful that he’s not actually a racist, and that he just used racist rhetoric to court voters, because when you’re courting someone, you’re always willing to pretend you’re something you’re not.”

That hope didn’t last long, but Meyers’ candid, considerate, and slyly sharp approach to dissecting the news did. He has zeroed in on how best to make jokes about the increasingly disturbing political events, and focused on the true injustices coming out of the administration with biting accuracy, and a determinedly level head. That combination sharpens Meyers’ jokes, and when a horrific occasion like Charlottesville calls for it, he brings real gravity to his quips.

Meyers:

”Looking back, it was not even a full day before you realized what kind of a president he was going to be.”

His show has also added a new segment, The Check In, to keep tabs on more ongoing stories and issues that may not be dominating the headlines, but that Meyers finds no less important. Meyers shows attention to detail in both his comedy and political commentary, now that the line between the two is blurred more than ever. Meyers highlights how the news of the day affects people who are different from him, a straight white guy late-night host.

The show features a segment that offers a look at diversity in a pointed, but bitingly humorous way: Jokes Seth Can’t Tell, in which Meyers sits between writers Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel while all three parties introduce themselves as follows:

Ruffin: ”I’m black!”

Hagel: ”I’m gay!”

Hagel and Ruffin: ”And we’re both women.”

Meyers: ”And I’m not.”

Meyers sets up jokes for Ruffin and Hagel’s punchlines that, had they come from him, might come across more like they were written with derision rather than affection.

Via YouTube

It was not even a full day after the election before I realized what kind of a show Late Night With Seth Meyers would be under a Trump Administration. I could not have survived 2017 without him.

I am excited to find out how Meyers will take on Trump and sexual harassment in Hollywood when he hosts the Golden Globes ceremony on January 7.


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