Seth Meyers: "I Know I Can't Be Better Than Jimmy Fallon"
When Seth Meyers joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2001, he thought he'd landed the greatest gig in television. But after 12 seasons on NBC, he's confident that his job (30) rocks.
"I don't know that there's a better job [than mine]," Meyers says, speaking with New Times via phone from studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, where the 39-year-old comedian has worked since 2001. He's dismissing rumors that he'll take over the Peacock Network's Late Night franchise after Jimmy Fallon replaces Jay Leno on the Tonight Show.
"One thing I know I can't do is be better than Jimmy Fallon. He's incredible. But the nice thing right now, I really like my job -- I'm very much enjoying what I'm doing right now."
But who wouldn't?
A few years into his SNL career, Meyers became a co-head writer and the first cast member to jump from sketch to script in the show's nearly four-decade history.
"It's certainly happened a couple of times the other way around [writers joining the cast], but I may have been the first to go the other way. Which I think, if anything, is a credit to what a terrible actor I am. They were already paying but figured there was a better way to get their money's worth."
Not long after joining the writing team, Meyers found himself cohosting the venerable late-night comedy series' "Weekend Update" with Amy Poehler until her departure in 2008; he's now wrapping his eighth season as SNL's head writer (Colin Jost is also a head writer) and is the sole anchor of "Weekend Update."
Impressively, Meyers can name each of the previous "Weekend Update" hosts in less than 25 seconds, admitting there's a sort of comedic kinship among former anchors.
"It always means the most to me when I run into those guys," he says. "Whenever they do interviews, I always like listening to them talk about doing 'Weekend Update' because it's such a specific gig."
In fact, it was a former anchor who helped Meyers develop his own "Update" intro.
"Dennis Miller probably gave me the best advice," he says. "'After you say, "I'm Seth Meyers; here are tonight's top stories," he said, 'don't turn until the camera cuts. That way, they'll be waiting for you' [laughs]. I thought it was such good advice."
However, professional advice hasn't curbed Meyers' preshow jitters.
"I think it's just natural for any performer to get butterflies," he says. "I still get butterflies before my first joke on 'Update,' and I still get butterflies before my first joke in standup."
While he's on more TV screens than comedy club stages these days, Meyers estimates he performs about 50 stand-up dates a year.
He'll perform at the Fillmore Miami Beach this Thursday, April 18, as part of the 2013 South Beach Comedy Festival.
"What I like about standup is that luxury of time," he says. "With 'Weekend Update,' you do ten to 15 minutes -- on a big week, you're doing 15 minutes. It's nice to go somewhere and have a full hour to yourself with an audience. It allows you flexibility for storytelling and longer jokes, and that's fun for me."
Fun and sometimes unexpectedly personal, that is.
Last year during a stand-up engagement at the University of Florida, Meyers was asked to address an uncommon question about his private life: Are you Jewish?
The answer is no. Well, basically.
Out of context, the Jewish inquiry could have been misinterpreted as remarkably -- and unnecessarily -- offensive. But Meyers' performance that night was cosponsored by the university's Jewish Awareness Month committee, and he was scheduled to perform at a community event hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta just a few months later. Moreover, his Wikipedia pages states that Meyers "has played several Jewish Community Centers!"
How is a non-Jew landing all of these gigs? And most important, are Jewish comedians getting upset?
"I've never received any shit for it," Meyers quips. "I've spent my whole life -- thanks to my name and my face and everything about me -- having people assume I'm Jewish. My girlfriend is Jewish, and as far as her family is concerned, I'm basically Jewish."
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