Seth Meyers’ Whirlwind of ‘Late Night,’ Podcasts and Stand-Up Keeps Him Creatively Sharp: ‘They Feed One Another’

In a wide-ranging chat, the host tells TheWrap about extending his NBC deal, looking back on “SNL” with The Lonely Island and the upcoming election

Seth Meyers
Host Seth Meyers during the monologue on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC)

Hosting a late night talk show is a full time job. Every day is a blank slate: There are new jokes to be written and segments to be created based on what happened the day before, especially for a show as politically topical as “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” But over the last year, in addition to his “Late Night” duties, Meyers launched two different podcasts that he manages to host in between doing regular stand-up sets and, of course, being a husband and father to three young children.

How – and more importantly why – does he do it?

“They’re like feral, I mean if you saw the kids you’d be like, ‘Oh that’s how,’” Meyers joked to TheWrap before earnestly replying that his kids are “the best thing I do.” But the “Late Night” host and former “SNL” head writer has always been a multitasker, and he said his podcasts, stand-up and “Late Night” duties all creatively fuel one another.

Those podcasts are “Family Trips,” a show launched last June that he cohosts with his brother Josh Meyers in which a celebrity guest recounts a family trip they took as a kid – sometimes the stories are harrowing, sometimes they’re wild, but they’re almost always funny. And then there’s “The Lonely Island and Seth Meyers Podcast,” which debuted in April and finds Meyers and The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) recapping the origins, execution and reaction of every single “SNL” Digital Short they made.

“I think it helps that they’re all sort of different muscles,” Meyers said of the many hats he wears. “I think doing the podcast and having the luxury of more time to talk to guests probably makes me a better interviewer on ‘Late Night’ and vice versa. Even talking about the old days and remembering what the writing process was [at ‘SNL’] is always a helpful tool for the way you’re writing today.”

Indeed, one of the highlights of the Lonely Island and Seth Meyers podcast has been hearing how Meyers and the Lonely Island guys worked closely together at “SNL” — we take for granted now that they blew up with Lazy Sunday and just kept rocketing skyward, but as they’re eager to discuss, the journey was one of ups and downs.

“I think the only reason to do a bunch of different things is if they do sort of feed one another as opposed to take away from the other things you’re doing,” Meyers continued. “Even doing stand-up, I think you could get a little soft hosting a show like this because of how good your staff is. And if you don’t take it upon yourself to also try to perform and improve the way you deliver material, you kind of owe it to your staff to do that as well. So it’s always just let’s try to be well-rounded and hopefully it’ll pay off.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, Meyers talked about the juggling act but also dug into the surprising candor that’s come about in the process of recapping his time at “SNL” and the slow process of recording a podcast with four incredibly busy people. Meyers also talked about extending his deal to host “Late Night” through 2028, if there’s an endgame in mind for his popular “Corrections” YouTube shorts and how he and the “Late Night” team are feeling heading into the presidential election.

SETH MEYERS: You couldn’t be a more target audience for the Lonely Island podcast.

I remember watching Lonely Island videos in college on Daily Motion video, before YouTube came around.

It is very fun to actually drill down on the history of how hard it used to be to watch those things.

I love the candor as well.

It’s a delight to do. Those are very happy years to look back on. I think they’re more stressful than we probably give them credit for, but looking back on them is a delight.

You just extended your “Late Night” deal through 2028, and I was curious how you’re going to run “SNL” at the same time.

That’s a really good question, because I’d love to take on a third thing as well (laughs). Maybe assistant GM to the Knicks or something? I want to stress I’m continually flattered by everybody who asks, and at the same time, I’m hoping the extension of my deal puts it to bed (laughs).

It won’t, don’t worry. But how do you feel about staying put at “Late Night” for another four years?

I couldn’t be happier. I think there’s a really nice moment when you realize you’re doing the thing you most want to do. And it happened before — I was so happy at “SNL” right before I did “Late Night,” so I’m aware that there are oftentimes greener pastures but I’m also not just going to go looking for them for the sake of looking for them. I love the people I work with, I love the building I work in, I like the product we put out. I think there’s room to continue to have sort of small, creative renaissances that we’re always looking for and so to be here with that comfort of knowing the network’s happy with it is great.

You must feel some relief too — late night TV feels like something that could never go away, but everything in the industry is so topsy turvy, you never know.

There is that too, which is maybe five years ago I would have assumed there was more of a rubber stamp to the continuation of shows like this and now you realize nothing is guaranteed and the sands are shifting. There are no guarantees about anything, so at the same time when you have NBC saying, “Yeah, we want to keep you here until 2028,” you have to take it as a compliment.

OK so genuinely, how do you balance hosting a “Late Night” show with also running two podcasts?

Well, the nice thing about “Family Trips” is I just think about it as an hour with my brother. Just on a mental health level it’s a very good way to get through the week, to get to hang with him. And then with The Lonely Island, the good news is we barely ever do it because it’s almost impossible to get the four of us together. So, it’s just a breeze. We’re racing towards the end of the episodes we’ve completed.

I was both shocked and not shocked that you guys started recording this back in 2022.

It is a real reminder that those guys were, as I was, helped a great deal by the fact that we had to have stuff done by Saturday in our years at “SNL” (laughs). And also, it should be noted, one of the things that helped was nobody had kids. There’s two of us on the East Coast, two of them on the West Coast, and with pickup schedules and everything it’s a disaster. The good news is it flies every time we are talking with each other.

How far are you guys now into the recording?

I think we’ve done 17. It goes faster than you think – when you don’t add one a week and you lose one a week it’s a problem (laughs).

Yeah and you burned two in a week.

Oh yeah, we’re obviously kicking ourselves for that. We have two episodes coming up discussing “Hot Rod” which I think now I could say with confidence is a longer runtime than the film “Hot Rod” [Editor’s note: The first “Hot Rod” episode was released this week.]

Are you gonna do “Popstar” too?

I think we will happily do “Popstar,” again if we can keep the podcast going at that point in the calendar.

How has it been looking back on this period? There is a degree of candor in the podcast that’s refreshing when it comes to how these shorts were made and how everyone was really feeling at the time.

Having been there for at all, I have this memory of Lazy Sunday working and then it just being an arrow pointed up. So it’s an interesting trip back into my memory and realizing how much I had it wrong and how we just sort of fill in the gaps. So it is this rewarding exercise, and hopefully people listening will take this lesson of “If you can do consistently good work, people will forget that every now and then you tried very hard to make good work and put integrity into it and it kind of came up short.” The other thing about those guys, which is one of my favorite things about those guys, is they enjoy talking about the ones that went badly I think more than the ones that went well. Because they’re not the kind of guys to dine out on their success, but they love talking about things that ate shit.

While the podcast is framed through the digital shorts, it’s also given some really fascinating insight into how you were feeling at that time at “SNL.” You get really personal about feeling frustrated as a cast member and not finding your footing until you became head writer and Weekend Update coanchor. Was it surprising to you to dig into that?

The surprise for me was realizing not everybody saw it. I was always very tuned into the anxiety I was feeling so if anything, I feel a great relief in knowing that I internalized it pretty well. I mean, obviously Mike Shoemaker, who I work with today, he knew full well what I was going through, but the fact that once I had some seniority on the show I could not wear it on my sleeve probably made me a better person to collaborate with. And ultimately, that’s where I found my foothold at the show was as a collaborator. If there’s something I’m proud of looking back, it’s realizing I could put my own petty jealousies and anxieties somewhere where people weren’t seeing them all the time.

Where did the initial idea for The Lonely Island and Seth Meyers Podcast come from?

I realized that there were some people doing recap podcasts, the “It’s Always Sunny” guys for example and I think maybe “The Office” one had already started and I just sent a text to those guys saying you guys should do this. I did not offer my services, but then they said they would love to do that and I was very flattered that they were into the idea of me just sort of talking it through with them. Then we all got really excited and we agreed to try to average doing like one every three and a half months.

And Andy immediately regretted to do it.

Yeah when we talk about the honest authenticity of the podcast, I think it’s really nice for listeners to know that one of the four of us despises the format and the medium (laughs).

I did also want to talk about “Family Trips.” The stories are great, but it also offers some really personal insight into the guests and you and your brother. Was that kind of the hope?

I think the hope was how do we try to do something different? I’m not the first person to say it’s a pretty saturated market, so we wanted something where Josh and I could play off our own relationship and have that be authentic, and then by just being specific on things like family trips, we thought “Oh, that’ll just be a cool gateway into the way people grew up,” which obviously says a lot about who they are now. Some people just tell great anecdotes about the kinds of trips they took, and then some people sort of dig into why they didn’t take trips and that’s equally interesting and informative.

The John Oliver episode was very fun.

I mean, he’s the best. There are very few things he’s not the best at. It’s frustrating to me how good he is at hosting a show and it’s frustrating to me how good he is at being a guest on a show.

seth-meyers-thewrap
Seth Meyers (Photographed by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap)

It also feels like you’re daring your wife to listen to “Family Trips” with certain revelations and complaints.

My whole life is just throwing it out into the universe — you’ll see, I’m gonna do a new stand-up special, that’s a real dare. Will she watch that one? We’ll find out.

Has she listened to the podcast yet?

I bet if she’s friends with the person, she’s probably listened like with Will Forte or Amy Schumer.

The Lonely Island podcast obviously has an end date but with “Family Trips,” is that something you want to keep going as long as you can?

I do. It’s just so delightful to do something with Josh. You know, I think like a lot of people as they get older, you don’t do a good job of putting aside time to talk to the people you most want to talk to. And for he and I, it’s a very modern solution to host a podcast together. We were just in Boston together and we were walking down the street and multiple people stopped to tell us the love the podcast. We sort of took stock of the fact that that is not a thing we thought would be happening and it’s really cool that it does.

And then there’s your day job. How are you guys at “Late Night” feeling as the presidential race heats up?

I don’t know, I think probably the way everybody is feeling. Weirdly, I feel like the results of this election are going to tell me more than I want to know about the people I live with in this country (laughs). Because there’s really, at this point, you can’t say you don’t know what the options are. For any faults of one the candidates, it seems like a really easy choice for me.

Do you have any plans for live shows around the debates?

Sadly, one of the debates is scheduled during our summer hiatus. We schedule summer hiatus farther out than, it turns out, debates get scheduled. So I think we will miss the first one and then I think we’ll be back for the second one. I don’t know if we’ll go live but it’s certainly something where, depending on how the first one goes, I think it’s something we’d definitely consider.

You know I’m a big fan of “Corrections.” It’s a performance of sorts, but it feels like we’re mainlining your specific brand of humor. Is that fair to say?

I do. My friend Pete Gross, who is a writer for the show and my college roommate and the person I’ve known for the entirety of my comedy life, said it’s very funny that that is what it took to see the purest version of me: an empty studio while I read YouTube comments. I still kind of can’t believe we started doing it and I’m so happy we still do it. I think at some point, it’ll run its course. But every now and then we’ll watch an old one and realize, oh, they’ve become so many different things over the course of 102 episodes. That makes sense because it’s fully based on whatever ideas I have while I’m reading the comments, it’s a little bit like doing a stand-up set about the show and it’s a little bit like doing an improv set where you get the suggestions five hours before you do the show. The joy above all the other joys for me is just trying to make Shoemaker laugh. It’s the only thing I’ve done since I’ve known him that I haven’t made him look at first.

You said it might run its course. Do you think there’s an end date on that?

I don’t know. I mean, I think if there’s ever a time where I’m not laughing while I’m writing it and the crew is not laughing while I’m doing it, I might think it’s time to hang it up.

You crossed the 100-episode milestone in a very “Corrections” way. How did that feel?

A lot of “Corrections” is not thought out. So I think I made the mistake in like Episode 94, just in the middle of it, saying “The 100th would be a good end point,” and then of course the jackals started responding to that and so it’s just sort of a troll circle. I feel like the viewers troll me and then I’ll troll them and then the other thing is they kept guessing what I’d do and as soon as someone guessed it, I realized I couldn’t do that because the last thing I wanted was somebody being like, “Called it!” So I was just desperately trying to think of something that would catch people off guard. I only want to do things that are delightful to me in a way that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do as a show.

What was one of the things people called?

I think I did like 99.5 and then everyone’s like, “Oh, I bet next week is gonna be like 99.6,” so once people called out that I would slow count I was like, “Well I can’t do that.” So that’s when I decided to just re-record the first one like Taylor Swift (laughs).

Would you call Episode 100 the “Avengers: Endgame” of “Corrections?”

Yeah, I think there is that. Also I want to give a shout out to our director and our lighting team because we did that Mac Tonight ending and we’re not allowed to rehearse anything because the only audience is the people that work on it. So usually you rehearse stuff because you’re doing it for the home audience, but so much of it is doing for the crew.

So there’s “Late Night,” “Corrections,” your two podcasts and stand-up and you also have a family and young children. I do really want to know how you find time for it all.

I think it helps that they’re all sort of different muscles. I think doing the podcast and having the luxury of more time to talk to guests probably makes me a better interviewer on “Late Night” and vice versa. Even talking about the old days and remembering what the writing process was is always a helpful tool for the way you’re writing today. So I think the only reason to do a bunch of different things is if they do sort of feed one another as opposed to take away from the other things you’re doing. Even doing stand-up, I think you could get a little soft hosting a show like this because of how good your staff is. And if you don’t take it upon yourself to also try to perform and improve the way you deliver material, you kind of owe it to your staff to do that as well. So it’s always just let’s try to be well-rounded and hopefully it’ll pay off.

It feels like it’s fueling your creative growth. There can be a tendency in late night for hosts to get comfortable and plenty have been candid about that in the past. Letterman said that’s one of the reasons he left his show.

If you only watch A Closer Look, there’s probably a familiarity with the way we tell jokes, but we’re always trying to avoid making the show predictable. Getting out and doing other things is a good way to have it maybe zig a little bit more as opposed to getting caught zagging.

Has there been anything specific that has inspired something in the others?

I will say that “Corrections” changed the way I perform on stage. A Closer Look sometimes has a breakneck speed to it and I can get really fast, but I do stand-up and then the fact that “Corrections” has, oftentimes, a very slow build and if the payoff’s good enough the audience doesn’t mind the patience with it. So that has been a cool thing to learn from doing a web exclusive (laughs).

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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