Seth Meyers on the "Frustrating" Challenge of Keeping Up With Trump
"He's probably the 'writer' that gets the most time on our show every week," says the 'Late Night' host as the president's tweets and unpredictable moves continue to flip the script on Meyers' best-laid monologue plans.
Based on the amount of time I spend reading his tweets or a transcript of something he said," says Seth Meyers of President Trump, "he's probably the 'writer' that gets the most time on our show every week. I'm surprised he hasn't come for a credit because — I don't know if you know this about him — but he loves credit." Indeed, the sheer volume of the news coming out of the White House has upended many of the best-laid Late Night With Seth Meyers monologue plans. Meyers' signature "A Closer Look" segment, a comic take on that day's head-scratcher out of D.C., has become a near-constant crash. A writer pens a draft the night before that Meyers begins to refine at about 9 a.m. The script must be locked by 3 p.m. for the 6:30 live taping, after which there's a six-hour window for events to blow up the segment before it airs after midnight — as they did when Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser on the evening of Feb. 13. "Obviously our audience understands what happens. It's not like they're watching it and thinking, 'Hey, did he not hear …?' " says Meyers. "But it's frustrating for us, because we are trying very hard to make it as up-to-the-minute as possible."
Other days, it's a mad rush to rewrite the segment before deadline as on Feb. 16, when Trump held his 77-minute news conference. Meyers filled in on PBS that day for Charlie Rose, who was recovering from heart surgery. He left the Late Night office at 1:30 p.m. to tape Rose's show at Bloomberg's offices. "We had a piece written. But in the 20 minutes before I went on to do Charlie's show, I was just watching [the news conference] and realizing, 'Oh, this is all anyone is going to be talking about, and we are going to have to start over from scratch,' " Meyers recalls. "It's exciting to pull those together, especially when [Trump] is giving so much material over the course of an hour."
But Meyers is keenly aware that the administration has caused a lot of real-life anxiety. "For me, it's been incredibly cathartic to be able to process all of this information every day with the show and to go out in front of an audience of people and explain what happened with jokes," he says. " 'Here's what happened today, can you f—ing believe it?' Because I think there are times where you can see in Rachel Maddow's eyes or Jake Tapper's eyes, they want to say, 'Can you f—ing believe it?' But they have a different, higher standard. And when you have a president with a low standard of what he's aiming for, it's nice to hang out with low-standard people like comedians who are happy to talk about him in the same terms."
This story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.