When audience members at Monday’s broadcast of “Late Night” finished applauding and took their seats, the host Seth Meyers did something unusual: He sat down, too.
Then, from behind his desk, Meyers performed a 12-minute routine of topical jokes about President Barack Obama’s vacation in Martha’s Vineyard; a selfie photograph shared by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West; and the latest misadventures of every comedian’s favorite political aspirant, Donald Trump.
The stand-up comedy monologue has become a staple of late-night television, as traditional as celebrity interviews and bantering with a house band.
But now Meyers, in his second year as host of NBC’s “Late Night,” is the first of his broadcast network peers to dispense with it, substituting a format that more closely resembles “Weekend Update,” the “Saturday Night Live” news parody in which Meyers was an anchor for eight years.
In an interview on Tuesday, Meyers said he had been contemplating the sit-down format since he took over “Late Night” from Jimmy Fallon in February 2014, and the more low-pressure summer months presented an opportunity to make the switch.
“I’ve always, obviously, been comfortable behind a desk,” Meyers said. “It seemed like it was time to give it a shot.”
”I’ve embraced the challenge of trying the more conventional late-night monologue,” he added. “I felt like I’d had success telling jokes standing as well, be it at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the ESPYs or even doing stand-up. But I’m also aware that an hour before my show starts, Jimmy’s doing a classic monologue and he’s doing it very well.”
From its creation in the 1950s, Steve Allen’s “Tonight” show often found the host delivering opening remarks at his piano. But a stand-up monologue became the more customary arrangement under Jack Paar (who sometimes sat on a stool), and a defining feature for Johnny Carson, who used it as his signature platform for skewering politicians and grimacing at one-liners that occasionally went bust.
Today, hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden, Bill Maher and Conan O'Brien perform stand-up monologues, though not every late-night comedian has followed this template. Jon Stewart, who stepped down as host of “The Daily Show” on Thursday, delivered his material on this Comedy Central news satire from behind a desk as well. (The format is also used on programs that share “Daily Show” DNA, like “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore and “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. No word on what Stephen Colbert will do, though, he told Rolling Stone he will move the desk fromstage left to stage right.)
Meyers said he hoped to bring some of the unpredictability of a traditional monologue to his deskside presentation.
“I want to be able to have the fun of commenting on jokes that don’t land the way everyone thought they would,” he said. “On ‘Weekend Update,’ you’re telling 10 or 12 jokes a week and it stings a little bit more when one clunks. But here, when you’re telling so many more, it becomes part of the delight – the ones that go off the rails.”
Though his original plan had been to try out the sit-down monologue for the next two weeks and then evaluate whether it was working, Meyers said he was likely to stick with this new format.
“So far, a night into it, it’s a resounding success,” he said with a laugh.
Carson reruns to air
Do you have Antenna TV? Ever heard of it? You may want to check your channel guide, because
Starting Jan. 1 – for the first time in decades – the world will be able to fall asleep to the dulcet tones of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” every night. But only if they have Antenna TV (the Tribune Broadcasting network available in 102 markets across 78 percent of the country). It will air late-night reruns of the Johnny Carson show every weeknight at 11 p.m.. On weekends, it will show reruns of Carson’s 90-minute episodes at 10 p.m.
The caveats: The episodes won’t air in any sort of order; a representative confirms that the programming team will handpick episodes to run every night. There won’t be any repeats during the calendar year, and every episode will feature Carson – not one of his guest hosts.
Jeff Sotzing, Carson’s nephew, runs Carson Entertainment and has made shows increasingly available in recent years, including a YouTube channel with full episodes; DVDs and clips are available on the Johnny Carson website. But Carson reruns are hard to find on TV. Although some famous interviews were excerpted a few years ago for TCM’s popular “Carson on TCM” series, this is the first time since his “Tonight Show” ended in 1992 that the episodes will be available in a nightly strip.
The deal, a multi-year agreement, is a coup for Antenna TV, which is known for airing reruns of very famous shows of the past, including “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Bewitched.”
The Washington Post