Late Night with Seth Meyers’ Safe & Satisfying Debut

Thirteen years of Saturday Night Live prepared Seth Meyers to be the perfect late night host. As the host of SNL‘s Weekend Update since 2006, Meyers has displayed great comedic generosity and support towards his fellow castmates (Bill Hader’s Stefon wouldn’t be Stefon without Meyers as his straight man/husband), which makes him well-suited to ease America into slumber five nights a week. The first week of Late Night with Seth Meyers was solidly entertaining, if not all-too familiar and safe, debut.

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Late Night starts, as every other late show does, with a monologue. His newscaster comedic timing pitches his jokes a bit too formal with cadences more suited for Weekend Update, but I’m sure his delivery will ease with time. Unsurprisingly, Meyers shines brightest when behind his desk. Meyers is a master storyteller and his self-deprecating stories are the highlight of the hour. Whether it’s a story about Meyers knocking his masculinity in needing assistance with car troubles (“It was very hard to feel macho when you’re holding a tiny dog while another man changes your wife’s tire.”) or lovingly chastising his father-in-law for gushing over a celebrity (“To my father-in-law Tom, I love you so much; you have to give Brad Paisley space”), Meyers’ affable charisma endears himself to the audience, and allows us to get to know him more.

My favorite story of the week featured Meyers being approached in a restaurant by a fan’s mother:

Fred Armisen, who leads The 8G Band, provides a nice comedic foil to Meyers. Their banter sits in a comfortable pocket between absurd and esoteric, with Armisen rambling on about his fake new History Channel series Recent History that looks back on the past hour or his fake self-help book Fill in the Blanks that leaves every other word blank. These nightly Armisen segments are right out of a page from the Weekend Update playbook, as were other comedic segments with current SNL writer Tim Robinson or former SNL writer John Lutz. These safe comedic bits were fine, but the familiarity of it all deflated any sense that this show was something particularly fresh. If anything, the Lorne Michaels synergy, from Armisen to debut guest Amy Poehler to several SNL callbacks, was a little tiresome.

Seth Meyers is a great and knowledgeable interviewer, not to mention a natural listener, and quick on his feet with witty responses. Even though his Weekend Update interviews were scripted, Meyers brought a specificity to each interview in the way that he interacted with each guest and it’s nice to see that unfold into his Late Night interviewing. His Kelly Ripa segment revealed that the only interviewing he’s done is when he has hosted Live! with Kelly on numerous occasions (remember when he was rumored to be in the running to succeed Regis Philbin?), but his skill set makes him a natural.

His interview with Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart was a delight (and take note of McKellen’s digs at the homogenization of late night shows and the somewhat awkward Late Night chairs):

As it stands, Meyers’ debut was wholly safe, but wholly satisfying. And the show is already showing signs of improvement: the monologue’s distracting Jeopardy background seen above was replaced by a blue curtain by Friday night. (Now let’s see if something will be done about the tiny desk and chairs.) After his first week, one can’t expect Seth Meyers to reinvent the wheel, but there’s a lot of potential there. It will be interesting to see how Late Night with Seth Meyers will find its niche to distinguish itself from other late night shows.

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