Seth Meyers On His New Life As The King Of Late Night

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finalPhoto: Courtesy of NBC.
Between becoming the newest king of Late Night and being asked to host the Emmy Awards this August, Seth Meyers is having a pretty good year. And, he wants to pay it forward. When he's not prepping for big interviews with everyone from Kanye West to Senator John McCain, Meyers takes time out to flex some philanthropic muscle. Last Saturday, the comedian returned to his Chicago stomping grounds to perform for 940 guests at the Make-A-Wish Wish Ball at Soldier Field. But, before hitting the stage, Meyers sat down with us to talk about his connection to the cause and how he's adjusting to his first weeks at Late Night.

What is it about Make-A-Wish that inspired you to participate in this event?
"Well, I am familiar with Make-A-Wish on a national level, but this is the first time I’ve ever done anything with the Illinois chapter. Every once in a while at SNL, there would be a wish that would come through — it was the kids' wishes to come by the studio of SNL for a week. You get to meet these really exceptional kids and see how spirited they are. So, for me this was a no-brainer."

What are a few highlights from your Late Night career so far?
"It’s been great every time. Kayne was someone I really enjoyed talking to. And, politicians like Joe Biden, John McCain, and Barney Frank. Those are people I find really interesting."

Who is on your dream guest list?
"First of all — and I’m not being coy about this — I can’t believe anyone comes on."

Why do you say that?
"It’s so dumb that you have a show, you say people’s names, they walk out of a door, sit down, and you start talking to them. Kiefer Sutherland was on the show the other day. I’ve been a fan forever, so the fact that I've talked to Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t make me dream bigger than that. I feel like the idea of making a dream list is just a way that you’d be disappointed by it. Honestly, every day I’m pretty excited about who we have."

Your interviews are more relaxed than some hosts'. You let the guests answer in a Charlie Rose kind of style. Is that a conscious thing?
"One of the nice things about coming from an improv background is they really press upon you the importance of listening. When two people are out there for the purposes of entertaining, it really doesn’t work if they’re not listening to one another. As a talk show host, your job is obviously listening, so I try to do that as much as possible. People like Charlie Rose — I just did Fresh Air with Terry Gross — they’re so great. Their questions are always so good, and they are amazing listeners. I’m so jealous of the amount of time they have with their subjects. The hardest part about this job so far is that I only have like seven or eight minutes. It’s amazing how fast it goes."
upload mePhotographed by Mary Melka.
How has the transition from SNL to Late Night been?
"The schedule is worlds better. With SNL, because you have a show at the end of the week, you can always stay another hour, you can always stay through the night fine-tuning something because we’re only going to get that one shot Saturday night at 11:30. And, it’s the only week we have with this one host, so we want to make it as good as we can. It’s like this tea-kettle pressure all week, and then it’s finally released all at once. Whereas with Late Night, you get to do the show every night. So, because of that — and how many more you get to do — you look forward rather than looking backward. You don’t lament over a bad show. To me, it’s insane that I’ve already done 40 shows — I feel like I’ve been doing this job for five minutes."

How is your style of Late Night different from your predecessors?
"By repetition, we are starting to learn what we do better. Not only have I never written for a Late Night show, but we have a staff of writers who haven’t either. We’re just kind of learning by doing, and that’s been great. We spent two months before we started having meetings where writers would pitch all these ideas. We probably had 100 ideas of which three worked. Now, we’re having a much better yield because people are starting to see what works and what doesn’t. We’re being smarter about what we’re pitching and writing. It’s fun in that petri dish way that we have a lot of real estate to try crazy ideas. I feel like we’ll get to know exponentially more a year from now."

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in entertainment, and what would you be doing if Late Night didn’t happen?
"I had no plan post-SNL. I was not developing an exit strategy very well. Summers when I was done with SNL, I dabbled with writing screenplays and things like that. I certainly didn’t consider acting as being the next chapter. I thought maybe I’d try to write stuff or direct something. This came up and was a nice combination of the things that I like to do, which is writing and performing as myself. As far as my life without entertainment, that’s a tough one. Maybe teach English? Writing teachers were probably some of the most influential people in my life growing up."