Throughout his multi-faceted career, Seth Meyers has received 31 Emmy nominations for hosting, writing, and producing responsibilities across a variety of shows. This year, he’s a double nominee: writing for his show Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC as well as his Netflix stand up special Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby.
Here, Meyers talks to Awards Daily about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed his job. He also riffs on dealing with comedy news in the Trump era. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we discover where The Thorn Birds book joke came from in his Closer Look segments.
Awards Daily: What have been the challenges of filming from home or your in-laws technically and creatively?
Seth Meyers: Technically, the in-laws have been a little easier because we had to go through the same challenges when we were in the attic. So, fortunately the more you move around, the better you get at setting up in the little makeshift studios. Creatively, it’s been less challenging and more just embracing the fact that, hopefully, knock on wood, that we never will have to do shows like this again, so you might as well make the most of it while you can. You know, I think there’s a lot of things we are doing right now that would play to awkward silences in a studio, but now we’re playing to expected silence in the in-laws’ house.
AD: In your Closer Look segments, you show a real passion for what Trump and the Republicans have done, be it the COVID-19 disaster or his administration of many crimes. While you are entertaining, has it been helpful as a way of expressing yourself and sharing information with your viewers as well?
SM: Of course! I always say the show provides so much catharsis for myself and the writing staff. You know, the hardest times for us are hiatus weeks insofar as you watch the news and you don’t have a way to make it fun or informative for yourself and other people. So people say, which is always incredibly flattering, that they like the Closer Look because it provides that catharsis that is exactly as important to me for those reasons.
AD: How do you feel about going back to the studio in September? Are your in-laws going to be happy with you leaving?
SM: I think they’re going to be thrilled, but they are very lovely people so they will probably hide how thrilled they are. I’ll see some crocodile tears on my way out of their house. It’s mixed feelings. I’m certainly happy to get back to a building that I have worked in for almost two decades, but I’m also really aware that it won’t be the same vibrant, fun place that I’m accustomed to it being. So I’m trying to scale down my expectations on how joyish it is going to be, while appreciating it’s the first step to hopefully getting back to the joyish place I remember.
AD: Do you have any particular plans for the return to studio show?
SM: You know, unfortunately all the planning right now is based on health and safety. We are obviously taking that very seriously. We just had an hour long Zoom call today with the health and safety professionals at 30 Rockefeller. And then I think it’s just going to be trying to find the fun in the same way. You know I had no plan insofar as what I was going to do in my in-laws’ house, and I let the knick-knacks guide me. So we will see what happens when I get back to the studio.
AD: Speaking of the knick-knacks, will The Thorn Birds be following you back to set?
SM: I think The Thorn Birds natural habitats are very much attics and in-laws’ homes. I don’t know if they would be as comfortable in television studios. I think their days might be numbered.
AD: I have to ask, where did that sketch idea of The Thorn Birds come from? Because it’s been quite enjoyable watching that.
SM: You know, early on I did three or four shows in a friend’s garage with a bookshelf behind me. For whatever reason a bunch of people on Twitter asked, ‘Why does Seth Meyers have The Thorn Birds?’ which I hadn’t even noticed. And it’s such a funny book because it evokes something from everybody even if they hadn’t read it. If you’re of a certain age everyone just had that book. At the time early in COVID, so much was being written about in regards to what books are behind people, and it just struck me that instead of having a bunch of books behind me trying to represent my taste I would have a book that I have never read with me everywhere I went.
AD: My wife saw the miniseries and hated it, so the book being there jumped out at her right away.
SM: [Laughing] You know that is the other funny thing, no one has said to me you have got to see the miniseries. Or you have got to read it.
AD: Your writers have been performing their own sketches on your show. How did this idea come about, and did it change the way you all work together?
SM: We’ve always encouraged and celebrated our writers being on camera. A lot of them we hired because we saw them on stage first and knew if they could write the things they were saying they would be better off in front of the camera saying it. So we always tried to find space for that and they just come up with different ideas during the pandemic the same way we all do. And that has been fun to watch.
AD: You also had a stand-up special on Netflix for which you were Emmy nominated. What was the inspiration for that special?
SM: Well, you know, I’ve been doing stand-up for a while, but I think I never thought I had an hour to shape an arc that would feel special enough to call it a special. A couple of things. One, my life provided me with some pretty meaty stories that seemed to fit pretty well into it. Then, the other thing was, once I came up with this turn at the end where I’m doing stand-up from my wife’s perspective about me, I thought, Oh, that’s not anything I have seen before, and once you come up with an idea that feels unique you want to get it out there as quickly as possible before someone else does it. So it was kind of racing to that moment.
AD: Your whole team has been nominated for the Emmy for script writing. You’ve all been nominated before. Does the experience change when you’ve been nominated so much, or is it still an exciting time?
SM: Oh, it’s especially exciting to be nominated for writing. I still identify as a writer first, and we put so much thought and effort into the kind of writers we wanted to work with. So it’s really cool and exciting to be nominated in that category. If anything will feel different this year, it is the fact that it’ll be remote. You know, again, I’ve been really lucky over the years, not just with our show, but with SNL I’ve been lucky to go to a lot of Emmy ceremonies, so I’m kind of looking forward to this new weird one. With the hope that it will be a one time thing.
AD: You have interviewed several famous people over the years, but do you still get nervous and do you have your own process for preparing?
SM: We have such good researchers and such incredible segment producers, and they always have me ready and prepared. I think nerves come when you’re not ready and if you haven’t put the work in. But there are so many people who put the work in on my behalf that I always feel pretty comfortable. You know it’s interesting there are people like Russell Crowe, who I interviewed yesterday, and the first time I interviewed him was intimidating just because he is such a huge movie star, and with someone who is such a big deal before I was on television, and so those are always just nervous on a fan level. Now the second time I talked to him it was a lot easier. So that’s one of the benefits of doing these shows. The longer you do them the less likely you are to run into somebody that’s going to throw you back on your heels with fandom.
AD: So much of the humor of your segments comes from being so on top of the news and being informed. What do you and your team do to keep on top of that?
SM: Mostly, unfortunately, we just have to consume the news constantly. I will say, and I‘ve said this before about the Trump era, you don’t have to pay that much attention on the weekends because Saturday news doesn’t hold until Monday. So we have a two-week hiatus coming up, and as much as people think, ‘Oh, my god, when we come back we’ll have to talk about this,’ the sad reality is whatever happens in the first week of hiatus will feel like it was last Christmas when we actually roll around into Labor Day. So that is really the only break you get from the Trump Administration. If you’re not doing a show that day, then you can take a break from listening.