“At SNL there’s a different host every week, but here I’m the host every day,” says Seth Meyers, the longtime SNL castmember and writer who became host of Late Night With Seth Meyers in February 2014, as we sit down in his office at 30 Rock in New York to record an episode of the ‘Awards Chatter’ podcast. “So the one thing you can establish here is consistency, and as you get older, I think there’s a happiness to being able to provide something consistent having the same schedule every day and being able to go home to your wife and kid at the same time every night.”
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The youthful 42-year-old, who came up through the improv scene in Chicago, made his debut on Saturday Night Live during its first show after Sept. 11, 2001 — and spent the next 12 and a half years with it, longer than any other castmember in its history, save for Darrell Hammond. Meyers is the first to admit that his range as a performer wasn’t as wide as many of his castmates‘, but he nevertheless became one of producer Lorne Michaels‘ favorites because he proved to be an extremely talented writer (his sketches include those in which Tina Fey played Sarah Palin). “It was my key to survival,” he says, and he soon moved up the ranks “from being a featured player to a struggling castmember to a head writer and then to an [‘Weekend] Update’ anchor.”
When, in 2013, it was announced that Meyers’ former SNL castmate Jimmy Fallon would be leaving Late Night to take over The Tonight Show, Michaels, who also serves as executive producer of Late night, approached Meyers about succeeding him. “I hadn’t been working on an exit plan,” insists Meyers, who regarded SNL as his dream job. “I really loved working there.” In addition, he had major reservations about the idea. “When this [prospect] came up, my first fear was that I just wouldn’t like it as much, and that it would be boring compared to SNL, and that the grind of everyday would be so much worse — all of a sudden, you’re talking about 40-plus weeks versus 20-plus weeks and four shows a week versus one show a week, and it just seemed so oppressively hard. With that said, I just thought, ‘Of the things that I could do next,’ once it struck me that I’d have to do something next, ‘this would have some of the similarities.'”
Since Meyers’ first Late Night episode in February 2014, he has focused on doing what he does best — intellectual humor and intelligent interviews with a broad range of guests — rather than trying to become a talk-sketch hybrid and create viral sensations, like some of his competitors. He was, in fact, the first of this generation of late-night hosts to abandon a monologue in favor of a “deskologue” — “It feels newsier and a little bit less conversational, which I think feeds to the kind of writing we do a little bit better,” he says — and he’s found a forum for his biting wit and sarcasm in his frequent “A Closer Look” segments. Meyers says that he’ll always miss SNL, but that his feelings are assuaged by the fact that he still works closely with Michaels, just down the hall from Studio 8H, and that at Late Night, “We’re very much in the SNL style” of hiring competent people and then leaving them to their own devices to create comedy magic.