“If there’s any music, I promise not to be a part of it,” Meyers tells TheWrap about the NBC awards show
NBC “Late Night” host Seth Meyers has emceed the ESPYs, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and anchored “Weekend Update” for seven-and-a-half seasons on “Saturday Night Live.” But on Aug. 25, he takes on his biggest hosting challenge yet — fronting the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
TheWrap spoke to the former “SNL” head writer about the differences between the various shows and events he’s hosted, the nominations and snubs of his famous pals and what TV shows have his imaginary vote this year.
Plus, Meyers — who is now in his sixth month behind the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” desk — filled us in on the origin of fan-favorite “Late Night” segment “Fred Talks,” and promised no big musical numbers at the television awards show this year … at least, none involving him.
Read the interview below.
TheWrap: How is performing a monologue for a room full of famous people different from what you do on your show, in front of a studio audience?
Meyers: You’re still doing it for the camera. That’s one of the more important things to remember. But, I think, when you do something like the Emmys or the ESPYs or the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the nice thing is that you’re sort of — because it’s an annual event, there’s a bit more excitement, because everybody is wearing tuxedos and beautiful dresses. And you know, instead of talking about what happens in the day’s news, you just sort of talk about the year in television.
So, everything about it is just a lot bigger than what I’m accustomed to, but … the fact that it’s big has its downsides in that you can find yourself terrified thinking about it. And it also has a lot of upsides, which is that there is, I think, in the audience a certain energy that you can feel that you don’t necessarily feel every night.
Can you talk a little bit about Fred Armisen‘s and Kate Mckinnon‘s Emmy nominations?
Absolutely. You know, Kate, for me, working with her behind the “[Weekend] Update” desk was sort of one of my last favorite memories [from SNL]. She was just such a delight to perform with. She’s pure performance. When you sit next to her, you’re basically just the closest audience member. You can’t help but just watch. I’m very impressed that I remembered the few times I had to cue her up for next the thing.
But, and then you know, Fred, for me, Fred has been one of the best actors on television for well over a decade. I’m just so delighted that he finally got a nomination for his work as a performer because I do really, truly believe he’s without peer.
My favorite “Late Night” clips are those of Fred lying [“Fred Talks”] to you.
It’s outstanding. I mean, it is the thing I miss most when he’s gone because it’s so fun. Again, it’s great to be there and just at ease, knowing that I can just throw questions at one of the greatest improvisers I’ve ever met.
How much of that is actually improvised? Do you have any idea what he’s going to go with?
No, I mean, I come up with the question and he doesn’t have any sense of what that question is going to be. And when I first sort of presented this to him as an idea during our test shows, it was presented as, “Hey, I’m just going to ask you a question and then you can just do with it whatever you want.” And his one insistence was, “Yeah, that’s great. Just never tell me what it is.”
But, I will say, the really funny thing is that you can’t help but try to predict what he’s going to say, but I’m never even in the neighborhood of what he ends up saying. He runs so far field of what I feel like the conventional comedy answer would be. Not just a conventional answer, but conventional comedy answer, and so, it’s just such a delight.
Back to the Emmys: Is there anything planned for the show that will take you out of your comfort zone?
I mean, if there’s any music, I promise not to be a part of it. I spent the last four years finding my comfort zone, so I’m not going to use one of television’s biggest stages to try out new things. But, you know, we also realize that it’s a show so we’re trying to pull together all the different ways that you can make a night like this sort of special and memorable.
What are you loving on TV these days? Is there anything off the beaten path that you’re rooting for? It’s a shame that Andy Samberg isn’t nominated, because your reaction at the Golden Globes was priceless.
I mean, obviously I’m definitely disappointed that Andy is not nominated again. I wanted to keep up my winning streak because if he won an Emmy and I hosted, at that point you would have to really attribute it to me.
When the nominations came out, I was delighted because you know, I watch so much TV and I’m a fan of so many of these shows. This year, shows like “Fargo” and “True Detective” sort of came from nowhere and we’re such a delight. The ending of “Breaking Bad” was wonderful and “Game of Thrones,” I feel like, is doing such great job of keeping that show interesting. And then, you know, “Mad Men” is a show that I’m so heartbroken is ending because I feel like I could just watch it forever.