As the sole anchor of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” comedian Seth Meyers delivers plenty of laughs when giving his take on the week’s top stories. But as SNL’s head writer, Meyers is much more than a faux newsman. This year alone, he hosted the ESPY Awards and brought down the house at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, taking equal aim at Donald Trump and President Obama. We caught up with the funnyman ahead of his New Year’s Eve performance at The Borgata to get the scoop on working on live TV, his love affair with Bruce Springsteen and when a joke might go too far.
SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: You’ve been at Saturday Night Live for a while, so how have the pressures of live TV gotten easier, if at all?
SETH MEYERS: This is my 11th season with the show, but I’ve been a head writer since 2008. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s like a drug you get addicted to; there’s nothing quite like live television.
SJM: Was writing for SNL something you always aspired to be part of? Did you most enjoy working as an actor or as a writer?
SM: I always knew I wanted to aim for comedy. I loved [Saturday Night Live]; it’s always been [a favorite]. It’s better than a dream come true. When I went to college, I studied writing more than performing; I always thought writing would be somewhere I ended up. Now I do both. When you’re part of the SNL cast, writing is something you do often.
SJM: Do you look at any of the national news anchors and try to pick up on some of their mannerisms?
SM: I actually feel like Brian Williams is trying to jack some of my mannerisms. As a journalist, I think you should write a sincere exposé. Someone needs to put a stop to it.
SJM: Is there a type of news story that’s off limits for jokes?
SM: We’ve used the devil a few times in our sketches. We like him being outraged; it’s the card we play when stories are too hard to talk about. The Penn State thing is a tricky story for us; it was such a big story that we had to talk about it, and in the end we thought it was pretty funny and were happy how it turned out. [In the sketch during a Nov. 12 episode, the devil discovers details of the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky scandal and is highly offended.]
SJM: It must be hard to maintain composure sometimes. Do you have a favorite SNL moment?
SM: For me, it was probably when a nine-months-pregnant Amy [Poehler] was doing the Sarah Palin rap, right in front of Sarah Palin. The Stefon character, it’s one of our favorites … there’s certain people, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, who have a good capacity to crack me up, but I manage not to crack myself up that often.
SJM: In April, you opened for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, dishing out jabs at Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and the president. He obviously thought it was funny, but how does one even begin to make fun of the president to his face?
SM: It’s hard! You put a lot of time into it beforehand. The president, he’s got a good sense of humor, so we figured if he wrote a good enough joke, he’d go along with it. The bigger problem is he’s a better comedian than most of us! He told better jokes that night.
SJM: If you were booking the lineup for SNL, who would be your ultimate host and musical guest?
SM: Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen as the host and Bill as the saxophone player. Or backward. We’ve never had an ex-president as a guest and I think he would be the best at it. And any time I can get close to Bruce Springsteen, I don’t think I can turn it down.
SJM: Other than your current co-workers, which years or people made up your favorite cast?
SM: I love Phil Hartman; I love [Chris] Farley. When I came up [in comedy], I was a big Norm MacDonald fan, but I also love Dennis Miller … I love Gilda [Radner], too.
SJM: Your birthday is Dec. 28 and you’re performing in Atlantic City three days later. What can fans expect from your stand-up?
SM: It’s just an hour of you giving your take on things as opposed to being involved in a whole other big show. I’m mostly excited just to have plans for New Year’s already. I just have a couple weeks off, so it’s fun to get out.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 9 (December, 2011).
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