Seth Meyers Says This Indignity Is Even Worse Than Bombing in Front of the ‘SNL’ Audience

There’s failure — and then there’s failure in front of this guy
Seth Meyers Says This Indignity Is Even Worse Than Bombing in Front of the ‘SNL’ Audience

“I read a thing in the Times about Tina Fey and she said something like, ‘Well, you really want to please Daddy,’ with regard to Lorne (Michaels),” says former SNL writer Marilyn Suzanne Miller in Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. “But Jesus, we thought he was Daddy when I was twenty-five and he was thirty.”

Does the Lorne-as-distant-Daddy dynamic still carry on today? Sure sounds like it. “I had a weird path because when you write a sketch on SNL, you have to be under the bleachers with Lorne. Because I was a cast member first, it wasn't until my fifth year that I wrote something where then I was under the bleachers,” remembers Seth Meyers on The Lonely Island and Seth Meyers Podcast. “It was so jarring to be under there and realize, ‘Oh, this is why writers are always in a terrible mood.’ I thought actors had it bad because if your sketch bombed, you bombed in front of the audience. But it wasn't as bad.”

“No,” agreed Jorma Taccone, “there's nothing quite like bombing in front of Lorne.” 

Andy Samberg noted that if SNL cast members could hear the grumblings under the bleachers, they’d quit the business. 

Meyers remembered a time when Alex Baze, one-time Weekend Update writer and now head scribe on Late Night, “did the thing you're not supposed to do. But it was so funny he had to do it.” The sin was sharing something Lorne said after Meyers tested an early SNL version of his signature “Closer Look” segment. In this formative iteration, Meyers held a huge magnifying glass and spoke in a Sherlock Holmes accent to take a closer look at some burning topic in the news. “After it finished,” says Meyers, “Lorne turned to Baze and said, ‘Burn the tape.’”

That one left a mark. How much did Meyers look to Lorne Michaels for approval? Once when he was the segment’s anchorman, Meyers went into Lorne’s office to discuss what was wrong with Weekend Update. Lorne’s response? “Update is the least of my problems.”

Woohoo! “He didn't say it's not a problem,” noted Meyers, “but there was something about him saying it was the least of his problems where I think, ‘Oh, look at me!’”

“Teacher’s pet,” chided Samberg.

Writers and performers on SNL are never on firm footing, notes Meyers, but it’s a relief when “you're just not the biggest problem in (Lorne’s) world. Look at me!”

“You just sucked less than everything else sucked at that moment,” agreed Akiva Schaffer. 

That makes five decades in which Michaels's blessing is the most sought-after treasure in the SNL kingdom. “You would always look to Lorne for approval,” remembers Miller about her tenure in the 1970s. “I remember once he came up to me and said, ‘You did good,’ and that was like him giving me a giant house in the Hamptons and a garage full of cars.”


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?