On Feb. 24, Seth Meyers will move from interviewing wacky “Saturday Night Live” characters to interviewing real people. Or at least actual celebrities.
Longtime “Weekend Update” anchor Meyers, 40, is taking over NBC’s 12:35 a.m. “Late Night” talk show from fellow “SNL” alum Jimmy Fallon, who on Feb. 17 will become the new host of “The Tonight Show.”
Both shows will originate from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City – the same building where Meyers spent 13 seasons at “SNL.” Most of those years were as the show’s head writer and as “Update” anchor or co-anchor and lender of a patient ear to “guests” such as Stefon and Drunk Uncle. (Current head writer Colin Jost will take Meyers’ update seat beside Cecily Strong.)
NBC-“SNL” synergy will reach Mach IV on Meyers’ first night, when Amy Poehler, star of NBC’s “Parks & Recreation” and Meyers’ former “Update” co-anchor, will be his inaugural guest.
Meyers, who wrapped up his “SNL” tenure last night, recently visited Sacramento’s KCRA (Channel 3) studios to talk about his new show, the details regarding which were still being worked out.
Meyers is just as friendly and quick to grin as his “SNL” appearances would suggest, but also looks taller and more muscular in person. Or perhaps his physicality has been obscured by all those years behind the “Update” desk.
When you started on “SNL,” could you envision it as a launching pad to hosting a network talk show?
I think it started to feel that way more when Jimmy made the transition, because obviously he had been a “Weekend Update” anchor as well. Every minute I have spent at “SNL” has been focused on just trying to do “SNL” well. I haven’t really ever had the time to sort of plan ahead or angle for anything.
(Once) I was on “SNL,” I desperately wanted to do “Weekend Update,” but once I did “Weekend Update,” I was happy as a clam and I really wasn’t thinking about what I was going to do next. But when (the “Late Night” hosting gig) came up, it was one of those opportunities I didn’t think I should pass up and (that) a lot of the things I had done leading up to this would probably be helpful.
How will your “Late Night” differ from Jimmy Fallon’s?
I think every talk show, the ultimate stamp of it is the creative DNA of the host. Jimmy and I have a lot of similarities, we have a lot of differences. You know, I am far less musical. Most of the differences are how I am less talented than Jimmy. (laughs)
I have a lot of interests in the world of sports and the world of politics, those are things I want to put a little focus on as well as show business. I also come from a world where I define myself as a sketch writer. So we want to have a lot of writing on the show.
I am trying to hire a lot of writers who are also performers so they can come on and play people and we can have a cast of characters that keeps coming back. But the nice thing about that 12:30 time slot is it’s a piece of real estate where you’re almost encouraged to take creative risks.
How do you think you will transition into interviewing real people?
That is the part of it I am most curious about, because I feel like that’s a thing you have to learn by doing. Everyone who ever had this job just gets better and better the more they do it. … There is really no way to get ready for it other than to do it. Other than having conversations in your regular life, which of course talk-show interviews aren’t exactly that.
One of the nice things about being on “SNL” is that I have met a lot of people. I met everyone sort of once. So that will hopefully be helpful.
Will you have a house band? How about a sidekick?
We are not going to have a sidekick, but we are going to try to make sure to go back to numerous people who can fill the role of being next to me. (What) I so enjoy at “Weekend Update” is being next to people who are funnier than me. So we want to make sure we keep doing that. Bandwise, we haven’t quite locked down what we are doing with music. We’ll have some musical element, though.
“SNL” was criticized earlier this season for its lack of women of color. The show just hired African American performer Sasheer Zamata and two African American female writers (LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones). This seems like a pretty direct, proactive way to confront criticism.
I think that’s certainly a nice way to look at it. I am mostly just excited about all three of the new people. … They are all really talented. I think it will be a great new chapter of the show.
Did you have anything to do with their hiring, or were you a lame duck by that point?
I have been a lame duck for a long time. (Smiles). No, I have always been in on auditions and things like that, and I certainly was involved enough to say that all three of them were great selections.
When you are a “SNL” cast member who becomes a talk-show host, does that career track preclude acting and being in movies?
Well, I have kind of been off the acting track for a while. That was one of the great things at “SNL.” If you are willing to listen, “SNL” is a place that will sort of tell you what your strengths are.
I always felt like I was stretching so much, as a cast member. It wasn’t until I got to be a writer on the show and did “Update” that I felt comfortable in my own skin. So I always had a sense that whatever I did next, whether it was a talk show or writing or directing, that my future career was going to be as Seth Meyers. It wasn’t going to be as playing someone else.
Call The Bee’s Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.