Comedian Seth Meyers sure gets around. For seven years hes been pulling double duty as head writer for Saturday Night Live and anchor of the shows Weekend Update segment, Aside from his SNL duties, Meyers appears regularly in movies and TV and has hosted several high-profile events including the ESPYs and the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner.
Meyers also keeps up a busy standup comedy schedule he appears tonight at the Durham Center for the Performing Arts. Meyers recently spoke about SNL, comedy writing in Amsterdam and the power of Twitter.
Q: Have you performed in North Carolina before?
A: You know, I never have. Thats why Im so excited to get down there.
Q: Were you into comedy growing up?
A: Oh, yes. My parents introduced my brother and I to Saturday Night Live way earlier than they should have. And it took.
Q: Who were some of your favorite guys?
A: The first cast I hooked onto, that was Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller. Mike Meyers was a favorite. Those were the guys that I watched, but at the same time I was watching shows from the 1970s which were on every night in syndication on our local station.
Q: Youve been head writer on SNL for seven years now, and for a while you shared that job with Tina Fey before she left to do 30 Rock. Is being a comedy writer as fun as 30 Rock makes it look?
A: Its very fun. It might even be more fun than 30 Rock makes it look. The greatest part is just that youre surrounded by amazingly funny and intelligent people that make you laugh all the time. Obviously, youre dealing with the pressure of putting on a show, but if you have to deal with those pressures, you might as well be surrounded by talented people. I mean, everyone has their peccadillos, but its a great place to meet people and its no surprise that the people you meet there you tend to work with long after you leave SNL.
Q: It seems like the atmosphere over there is a lot healthier these days than it used to be, especially back in the 1970s and 1980s, with the cutthroat competition and the drugs.
A: Yeah, I do think its found its way into this era, which is both a lot more supportive and lifestyle-safer than it was back in the day. With that said, thank God they did everything they did because none of us would be here today if it wasnt for that original group.
Q: You were doing comedy in Amsterdam before you went to Saturday Night Live?
A: Yeah, so right after college I was living in Chicago and doing improv. And some guys from Chicago started an improv theater in Amsterdam sort of the Second City model. I went out and lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years. I met this girl out there and she and I started doing this two-person show that we took back to Chicago, and thats the show that SNL saw.
Q: Is there someone you would like to have on SNL that youve never been able to book? Anyone on the wish list?
A: Ive long thought that, in his post-political career, Bill Clinton would make a wonderful host. He probably has more important things to do. But certainly if were talking about a wish list, hes on it. And Sir Ben Kingsley. Any Sir would be nice, really, just to be able to call him Sir. We had Dame Helen Mirren; that was great.
Q: Since youre always writing jokes out of the headlines, is it even possible for you to just sit and read the paper like a regular guy?
A: You know, Ive found Twitter has been really helpful to me for this. My Twitter feed is mostly news sources. Whats nice about that is you sort of see the patterns of whats the big story, whats turning up everywhere. One of the problems with SNL is you cant really talk about small stories. If our audience hasnt heard about it, it has a very hard time getting the laughs it needs to sustain itself. The key is to find the things that everyone is talking about, then try to find the comedy in those.
Q: Is your stage show just a straight stand-up format? What can audiences expect?
A: Well, its a little bit like my Weekend Update persona I generally talk about whats going on in the world. But the different part is that standup allows me to talk about things that Weekend Update just doesnt have space for. It would be indulgent to talk about my life at the Weekend Update desk, but when you do standup, you can talk about yourself a little more.