Earlier this year, after more than a dozen years with Saturday Night Live, Seth Meyers made the leap from performing and writing satire and sketch comedy to replacing Jimmy Fallon as the host of NBC’s night owl chat show Late Night. Upcoming is an even bigger gig for Meyers — hosting the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards airing Monday, Aug. 25th live, coast to coast on NBC.
Meyers talked to the TV writers who gathered for the recent Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. And during the NBC interview panel he explained his job hosting the awards is simply to be entertaining for about three hours, and he’ll do that “in a very old school way. I get asked this question a lot about how you make it different, and what the responsibility is. I think you have to give the best version of yourself, figure out what is the kind of show we’re going to build for my skill set and just try to be entertaining in a really old school way that celebrates TV in the same way it’s been celebrated forever.”
Meyers said he’s ready for the gig and has been honing his monologue skills every night on Late Night. “That is so helpful for approaching something like this. My skill set is always going to be in the monologue and telling the jokes and the understanding of how much work you have to put into getting a really good monologue to open a show like this. I’m limited by the fact that I can’t sing or dance. So I have to tell jokes, and the monologue is the best place to tell jokes. Because, having been a nominee and a guest of the Emmys in the audience, I know that the first ten minutes is the best time to get the audience to laugh, because as the night progresses, more and more people are disappointed. So you want to be out there when it’s hopeful and optimistic, telling jokes.”
The likable fellow, who grew up in Bedford, New Hampshire, promised to balance the jokes with playfulness and irreverent comedy without crossing the line. He said, “SNL’s [creator-producer] Lorne Michaels always stressed ‘try not to tell a joke about somebody that would make you want to leave the cocktail party if they showed up.’ So you try to be fair enough that even if it’s maybe a little negative, as long as it seems fair, you can get away with it. Having done the White House Correspondents Dinner, that’s the tone I want to try to strike, which is you want to have a couple jokes that you walk out not knowing exactly how they’re going to play. But that makes it fun, walking the tightrope with material like that. I think we’ll be more playful than cutting or biting.”
It’s a calculated career risk taking the gig as the Emmy host, according to Seth. “It’s not easy, but because everyone knows these shows are hard, when you do a great job it pays off.”
Of course Seth is a big fan of the television shows that are up for Emmys and said he’s personally happy with the nominees “just because we watch a lot of the shows and think they are deserving. I really enjoy Fargo and True Detective this year for things that were new. I was happy for Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer. Those were two shows that I was happy to see get recognized in the nomination process. Portlandia is one of my favorite shows [with former SNL colleague Fred Armisen]. Obviously I’m a little biased. I loved Mad Men and Game of Thrones this year. And Breaking Bad was great. So I do watch television more than I watch movies these days. I’m just happy to see so many shows that I like getting nominated. And with [SNL alumni] Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, Fred Armisen, and Tina Fey all being there, that makes it all the better.” In addition to his hosting duties, Seth Meyers will be rooting for his friends.