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Emmys: Host Seth Meyers Reveals How Show Could Go "Terribly Wrong"

This year's emcee is no song-and-dance man

Seth Meyers Emmy Style White - P 2014
NBC

Seth Meyers has taken on Washington's elite as emcee of the White House Correspondents' dinner and the titans of sports as host of the ESPY Awards. On Aug. 25, the Saturday Night Live veteran turned NBC Late Night host will get a shot at Hollywood as host of the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.

As the telecast nears — happening on a rare Monday to avoid preseason football on this year's host network, NBC — the only thing rattling Meyers, 40, is the possibility of the show running long. "I'm an incredibly punctual person," he says with a chuckle. While mum on his material, Meyers plans to lean on his ability to tell timely jokes, steering clear of the song-and-dance numbers that garnered predecessor Jimmy Fallon raves the previous time NBC aired the Emmys in 2010.

How is hosting the Emmys different from your stints on other awards shows?

Look, everybody likes good jokes. When you're in a sports audience, you can go a little deeper about sports than you would in a late-night monologue — and the same [about politics] for the correspondents' dinner. So the fun thing is that you can do things at the Emmys that are a little "inside baseball" [about entertainment], and it seems like the public at large has a better understanding of the inner workings of show business than ever before.

How thick is Hollywood's skin?

It's probably the thinnest of the skins. (Laughs.) Certainly sports has the thickest, and politics is sort of middle-thick.

Being tapped to host the Emmys is a big honor, but it can be a thankless job. Why say yes?

Crazy as it is to say yes, it would be crazier to say no. There's a chance this could go terribly wrong, but the thrill and excitement that it could go right is what draws us into a lot of this. To some degree, that's what I go through every day before I walk out to do my own show.

Complete this sentence: Something has gone terribly wrong if I …

If I break into song or dance, it's come off the rails.

Which awards-show host is closest to your prototype?

Steve Martin, both when he did the Oscars alone and when he did it with Alec Baldwin. Just really good jokes. That's where my strength is going to be. The reality is — and it's good to know this going into it — as an Emmy host, at best your responsibility is maybe 15 minutes of the three hours, half of which will be in the opening monologue.

Who are the easiest targets? Donald Trump didn't nab a nomination, so he's out.

Political targets are a little more deserving of it because, to some degree, they are people who serve the public — or, in Donald Trump's case, at least pretend to want to serve the public. Everyone at the Emmys is there because their work is being honored, so I don't picture my position as tearing that down. But as a comedian hosting an event like this, I think you can poke fun about the fact that we're taking it all a little seriously.

You had fun with NBC's decision to move its upfront presentation to New York's Javits Center in May. Can we expect the network's decision to move the Emmys to Monday to be a source of humor, too?

If your job is to entertain, it's almost fun when you have something working against you, be it the Javits Center or the fact that all of a sudden they've moved [the ceremony] to a worse time. (Laughs.) There will be a nice underdog spirit about the fact that we're doing it on a Monday.

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey brought you in to help write jokes for the Golden Globes. Who have you enlisted to help for the Emmys?

The reality is, if five or six friends can each give you one really good joke, you're off to a very good start. So I have people who have written for me at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, like John Mulaney and Neal Brennan; our writing staff here at Late Night; Pete Schultz and Josh Patten, who are [Saturday Night Live] "Weekend Update" writers; and then Amy and Tina.

Last year's Emmy telecast was criticized for being somber. How will this year's compare?

They tried something different last year, and I think we should embrace people who try different things. But the takeaway was that it was maybe a little more somber than a night like the Emmys should be. So we'll make sure it's lighter in tone than last year.

When they open the final envelope at the end of the night, which drama series would you like to be there?

Here's what I will say: I do think it's lovely when anyone or any show wins for the first time. I like to be socialist with my awards-show bounty.