Fred Armisen on His Role as Seth Meyers' 'Late Night' Bandleader
The "Saturday Night Live" veteran reveals the backstory, the offer and why he can't wait to get started at the show.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When Seth Meyers' Late Night launches on Feb. 24, it will do so with another familiar face by his side. The former Saturday Night Live head writer has tapped his former castmate Fred Armisen to be his bandleader.
The well-received plan came together during Meyers' final week on SNL, with Meyers acknowledging it was SNL impresario Lorne Michaels' idea. Armisen has already written a Late Night theme song, and his newly formed 8G Band has been playing as part of Meyers' mid-February test shows. Below, Armisen opens up about the backstory, the offer and why he can't wait to get started.
"Seth and I share the same taste in punk-rock music. We'd turn each other on to bands, and late in my tenure at Saturday Night Live, he came up with this sketch idea for a British punk guy named Ian Rubbish, who loved Margaret Thatcher. It was a brilliant idea. I would love to have said that I thought of it, but I didn't. So, Seth went off to write the lyrics, and he nailed it. Nobody would have guessed he's got this secret punk living inside of him. So, that's our musical history.
"A couple of weeks ago, Lorne Michaels called me and said, 'What would you think about curating a band for Seth's show?' I loved it. I had a meeting with [Late Night producer] Michael Shoemaker and Seth, and they said, 'Maybe you can come up with a theme song.' That's been a dream of mine. I thought, 'I could start up a band, write a couple songs and then just send them on a trajectory.' [He'll take a break to film IFC's Portlandia this summer.] We've been rehearsing, and it's been really fun.
"We talked about me not really talking very much. I didn't need it to be my show -- Seth has that covered. [Meyers suggests viewers eventually will see Armisen do characters.] I’ll do anything for Seth because he’s my friend and he’s brilliant, and my answer to things is usually, ‘Yeah, let me try it. This is new to me.' I like to think, 'What would [Flaming Lips frontman] Wayne Coyne do?' I love how he lives his life and I think he would have done this. Also, and I really mean this, 'What would James Franco do?' because James Franco has turned his life into a real art project. In my opinion, that’s the way to live.
"Questlove redefined what a band can be [on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon], and Paul Shaffer [of Late Show With David Letterman] and Max Weinberg [formerly of The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien] really put their own spin on it. I bow down to these people. All of them."