All of Seth Meyers’ Greatest Hits on His 49th Birthday
Seth Meyers’ influence on comedy over the last 20 years is pretty unrivaled. As head writer for SNL, he had a hand in many of the show’s funniest moments from 2006 to 2014. And after taking over the reins at Late Night, he’s continued to shine by highlighting members of his staff and relying on audience feedback to make the show better and better. A master comedy tactician, Myers has a delivery that isn’t reliant on snark but still manages to bite while coming across as easygoing and earnest.
And so, in honor of his 49th birthday, we’re gonna heap a bunch of praise on Myers’ comedy accomplishments.
Saturday Night Live
Meyers joined the SNL cast back in 2001, and five years later, he was promoted to co-head writer alongside Tina Fey and Andrew Steele. He then served as head writer starting with Season 32 in 2006 until leaving the show in 2014 to take over as host of Late Night. During that time, he wrote so many amazing sketches that it’s hard to pick a favorite. He was responsible for all of the Sarah Palin/Tina Fey sketches, the Irish home makeover show spoof You Call This a House Do Ya?, but one of our all-time favorites is the Peyton Manning United Way PSA.
Meyers started his anchor duties on Weekend Update in 2006, and was the longest-running anchor in the segment’s history until recently being unseated by Colin Jost and Michael Che. And on Meyers’ farewell episode, he went all out, providing some much needed closure on the sexual tension between him and Bill Hader’s Stefon character.
The 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Meyers’ turn as the keynote speaker at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has gone down as among the more noteworthy performances at the event for two eerily prophetic reasons: 1) His opening remarks mocked the Obama administration’s inability to track down Osama bin Laden, only to find out later that the military operation to kill bin Laden was greenlit the very next day; and 2) after spending two-and-a-half minutes roasting Donald Trump to his face about his plans to run for president, many believe that embarrassment may have helped to fuel much of the “well, who’s laughing now, smartass?” vibes we got when Trump announced his candidacy for real four years later.
A great recurring segment during Meyers’ time at Weekend Update was “REALLY!?!,” where he and Amy Poehler took turns roasting the subject of a recent news story. Meyers has even revisited the concept several times on either his own show or when he has returned to SNL.
When Meyers took over as host of Late Night after Jimmy Fallon left for The Tonight Show, it took a few tweaks to the standard format for him to find his groove. For example, doing a traditional stand-up “Did you guys hear about this?”-style late-night monologue really wasn’t a great fit for his delivery, so he soon switched the monologue to more of a Weekend Update behind-the-desk format. From there, he’s continued to play with different ideas that have helped the show stand out among other late-night fare. Still, it’s interesting to look back on his first episode and compare it to what the show has become over the past eight years.
Adapting During Lockdown
When COVID lockdowns hit, all of the late-night shows were sent scrambling to find a way to keep their shows going remotely without a studio or an audience. Recording his shows from the attic of his home in Manhattan — and later from his in-laws’ house — Meyers adapted the show to fit the surreal nature of life at the time. From sneaking Easter eggs into the background of his home set, to making a creepy painting of a sea captain into a dad-joke spewing sidekick voiced by Will Forte, to getting his family in on the insanity, Meyers learned to roll with the punches and kept his show interesting without having the energy of a studio audience.
“A Closer Look”
One recurring segment on Late Night with Seth Meyers that he first tried during his Weekend Update days was “A Closer Look,” where he breaks down the biggest news event of the day in much greater detail. It’s like a super-monologue, giving much greater context into the story, while also allowing Meyers and his writing staff a much bigger playground to lampoon it.
Another example of Meyers putting his own spin on traditional late-night talk show tropes is his “Day Drinking” segments. The concept is simple: In lieu of the standard, often stuffy in-studio celebrity interview, Meyers and his guest meet up at a bar, mix up some new drink recipes and proceed to get completely sloshed together.
“Jokes Seth Can’t Tell”
A regular theme throughout Meyers’ time on Late Night is that he frequently gives his writers their time to shine — a la his “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” segments. At the start of each, Meyers acknowledges that there are many great jokes that his writers provide that he, as a straight white man, can’t get away with. So, he provides the setup to them, but brings in Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel, a black woman and a lesbian respectively, to deliver the punchlines. Each segment ends with Ruffin and Hagel goading Meyers into telling one of the jokes himself and feigning outrage when he does so.
Every Friday, Meyers puts out a web exclusive where he goes through the comments left by fans pointing out the factual errors he made that week. Some comments he takes accountability for, and some he playfully pushes back on or throws his writers under the bus for. It’s a fun peek behind-the-curtain of the show.
Making Celebrities Out of His Staff
When Meyers returned to the studio after quarantine was lifted, he was still without a studio audience, and so, he began incorporating banter with his staff into the show. Case in point: When writer Mike Scollins wore a tank top during a staff Zoom meeting, it quickly became a running gag.
But the best example was when Action Bronson no-showed an in-studio interview; the backup guest became Wally Feresten, the show’s cue-card guy. Ever since, Wally has become a fan favorite, frequently inserting himself into parts of the show because it’s implied that he gets paid extra whenever he gets to speak lines.
Returning to Host SNL
Meyers seemed to really enjoy himself when he returned to host SNL in 2018, particularly during this ad for “Beta Force,” which absolutely nails the over-40 male supplement industry.
A series of stories from his life, including the titular story of his wife giving birth to their son in the lobby of their apartment building, Meyers’ Netflix special Lobby Baby is a funny, cute departure from what we see from him on Late Night. This joke is probably the best example: “I cannot stress to you how quickly she gave birth to our son. I was on the phone with 911, and this was the extent of my conversation with 911: ‘We’re about to have a baby. We’re having a baby. We had a baby.’ And let me tell you, it is very strange to be on a 911 call that ends with the operator saying, ‘Congratulations!’”