Seth Meyers Still Eyes Talk Show Future

Post-'Live! With Kelly,' Seth Meyers plots 'SNL' election-year plans, and his own

Seth Meyers is about as busy as one can be these days. Fresh after guest-hosting LIVE! With Kelly this summer (though he says he never wanted the cohosting job that ultimately went to Michael Strahan), the Saturday Night Live head writer's focus is now on politics, mining headlines for his "Weekend Update" segments and the two SNL Weekend Update Thursday election specials on Sept. 20 and 27. Prior to SNL's season premiere, Meyers spoke to B&C programming editor Andrea Morabito about being Kelly Ripa's co-host, what losing Kristen Wiig means to SNL and whether 2012 can live up to the Tina Fey/Sarah Palin comedy gold of 2008.

Is this election cycle better or worse than 2008 for comedy?

Well, the best thing from a comedy perspective I think is when there's no incumbent, I've found, just because then you have two new candidates that nobody has any sort of sense of yet. I think 2008 was really fun that way and 2000 was really fun that way. With that said, I really like our Obama and our Biden and our Romney [impersonators on SNL]. So it should be fun. But you really don't know until the debates get started how much the candidates turn up the volume in the last two months here before the election.

In 2008, it was so great with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, which proved a huge ratings draw. Do you feel pressure to live up to that performance this year?

I think even during that election we were aware that there was, to some degree, lightning in a bottle. Obviously we didn't think somebody was going to pick a running mate this year that looks exactly like our most famous cast member. So while we were enjoying it a great deal four years ago, we are also comedians which makes us by nature cynical, and even then being like ‘Ugh, we're going to really regret how good this is going four years from now.' But with that said, it's very exciting to have set a high bar in 2008 that we're going to do our damnedest to match. 

You lost a big star in Kristen Wiig last season. How does that affect the chemistry of the cast for this season?

On the good side, Kristen kind of let us know that last year was going to be her last year, so I think we all really enjoyed and appreciated it to the fullest. It helped us brace for the fact that we were going to have to do it without her. The show was always about turnover and if anything, the absence of Kristen opened up a lot of space for people to sort of enter their second acts as SNL cast members, which is always really exciting.

What is going to be the biggest challenge for you this season as head writer?

I think the biggest challenge is always [that] you don't try to make stuff up when you're writing politics, so you just hope it's not going to be completely dry, as far as what you have to play with. Because I think that's the hardest part, is when you're writing about politics to try to keep it both at the height of its intelligence but also remember you're a comedy show. As much as people say they get their news from comedy shows, they probably wouldn't if they weren't also funny. So you really have to remember that the getting information is always going to be secondary to why people are watching the show.

What was your Live With Kelly audition experience like?

Well, I don't believe I was ever auditioning. I had agreed to do a full week because I just really enjoy doing it. It wasn't a job that I ever asked for or they ever offered. I think I am much better off at night because every time I finish performing, I like to have a glass of scotch, and if I did a morning job I would just start drinking so early in the day. But she's the best and I hope I can still fill in a couple of times a year because I've always really liked it when I've done it.

What's your career plan going forward though? What do you see as your next step?

I have found that there's very little in show business that you can plan. Hopefully some good options will present themselves if things keep going the way they're going. The nice thing about SNL is it requires 100% of your attention and you don't have too much time to worry about what's next.

You're working on a comedy script with your brother for NBC though.

I am, yeah, and a friend of ours Pete Gross, he used to write for The Colbert Report. So that's exciting, a sort of brothers-based comedy based on our upbringing, which is really fun.

Are you still interested in being a talk show host someday?

I will say in many years of doing SNL, with doing Weekend Update, I've realized I'm better at being Seth Meyers than I am at being other people. So I wouldn't be surprised if that's sort of the path that it takes me to.

NBCUniversal is very good at what they call "Symphony," cross-promoting their shows and talent on their various properties. Will you be doing anything on other NBCU networks?

I did the NBC Sports Network, Willie Geist and I had a really hot 15 minutes of comedy banter about the Olympics this summer. I'm going to try to pop up the way I popped up that day, with very little warning to the American viewing audience.

Would a multiplatform deal like Ryan Seacrest has with NBCU interest you?

I like having a lot of different things to do. I like doing stand-up, I like the sort of gabbing I've done with awards shows, I enjoy stuff like that, and I still like writing screenplays. But I feel like it's very hard for me to use the term ‘multiplatform' because I don't fully understand what it means.

Have you started working with host Joseph Gordon-Levitt yet for the Sept. 22 episode?

We haven't started working with him yet but we had him a few years ago and we really, really liked him. He's good. He's got an incredible commitment but he's also got a really nice offbeat sensibility that's really fun for a writing staff because he's really unique. When he showed up, it wasn't until Thursday that I think we understood what he did really well. So it's exciting to have him this time and know that on a Monday. So I think that's going to be a really fun show.

Do you have any overall goals or predictions for this season?

I think that we have a really exciting group of younger cast members on the show and I think this is going to be their year. And if we do our jobs as a writing staff, by the end of the year-you'll never stop missing somebody like Kristen Wiig or Andy Samberg-but hopefully people will feel like they're in safe hands.

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito