DETAILS: Preparing for your first show as the new host
of Late Night must be stressful. Have you been having any recurring nightmares?
Seth Meyers: The only work-related stress dream I have is from my time as a waiter. I still have dreams about the Twisted Lizard, a Mexican restaurant in Chicago where I used to work. For whatever reason, it really got in my head. "Table 17 still hasn't gotten their burritos!" That's the recurring dream.
DETAILS: With the name Seth Meyers, a lot of people
will assume that you're going to be the only Jew in late night, though you're not Jewish. I still imagine that the Jews want to own you.
Seth Meyers: And now one does—I married one. By a rabbi under a chuppah. That counts, right? My mother-in-law was so happy when she heard her daughter was dating a Seth Meyers. She just thought it was a lock. Right out of the gate, I had to tell her I'm not actually Jewish. I feel like she did a lot of bargaining, the result of which is that I'm Jewish enough.
DETAILS: But an online column called Jewz in the Newz notes you've done stand-up at a lot of Jewish community centers.
Seth Meyers: It's really funny—I have. The Atlantic Jewish Community Center in Boston, one in Milwaukee. I get offered these gigs, and I always say I'm happy to do it but that I want them to know I'm not Jewish. I remember in Atlanta, there was a rabbi who came in to let me know all the food in the green room was kosher, in case I was concerned. I was like, "Oh, the message did not get out."
DETAILS: Lorne Michaels will be producing Late Night, just as he did when it was hosted by Jimmy Fallon. What do you imagine he'd say to you if your first show is an unmitigated disaster?
Seth Meyers: This is what I found with Lorne: If it's an unmitigated disaster, he'll find the positives in it—something that would explain why the audience wasn't laughing. He'd go, "There was a sense of appreciation from the audience for what you were attempting to do."
DETAILS: And if it is a success beyond all expectation?
Seth Meyers: He'd immediately say, "Let's see how you do tomorrow." Lorne's Canadian balance system is very good. If you're too full of your success, he's quick to point out how fleeting it can be if you don't continue to put the same effort in.
DETAILS: It's been said that 75 percent of success as a host is people liking you. I imagine there must have been a lot of audience testing before you got the gig. Have you seen your Q scores?
Seth Meyers: No, thank God. What an awful thing to have to look at. I have Twitter—I can find out that way.
DETAILS: Do you ever get worried about offending people?
Seth Meyers: A little, but you go into it with a certain integrity about what you think is right and wrong. Never tell a joke you don't think is fair. You should be able to tell a joke about a person, run into them later, and not have to skulk out of the room.
DETAILS: Last time there was a late-night shuffle, things got ugly. Did you learn anything from watching all that go down from within 30 Rock?
Seth Meyers: I didn't really learn anything, but I enjoyed reading about it. It's certainly fascinating anytime life imitates Game of Thrones.
DETAILS: Is it true that when you auditioned for SNL in 2001, you did impressions of Russell Crowe, Hugh Grant, and David Arquette?
Seth Meyers: You have to remember, 2001 was a very different time! I did Russell Crowe as a talk-show host who was not entertained. But you can't play Russell Crowe if you have a real narrow face. I could do the voice pretty well, and obviously our wig people and wardrobe people are without equal, but in the end my face is, like, half of his face. Lorne told me, "You're not really gonna succeed on the show playing people like Russell Crowe."
DETAILS: Did that sting?
Seth Meyers: No, I was always more comfortable being myself than being other people. I can't disappear into a character to save my life. I look bad in wigs. I always look like I'm in a high-school production of Death of a Salesman.
DETAILS: You performed at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, during the windup to Obama's reelection campaign. Were there certain jokes that didn't amuse the president?
Seth Meyers: I had a lot of jokes about the Republican candidates, and I noticed that Obama was kind of clamming up during them. He was laughing at jokes about the press, about himself, about Trump. But as I went through people he might run against, I realized he wasn't going to get caught on camera laughing.
DETAILS: Obama did embrace you afterward, and you two whispered about something. That was the night before the president announced Osama bin Laden had been killed. Did he tip you off?
Seth Meyers: No. But afterwards, I wanted to tell people that I'd whispered, "Check Abbottabad."