SXSW: Inside Late Night with Seth Meyers (Q&A)

Seth Meyers and Producer Mike Shoemaker appeared in a Ballroom at the Austin Convention Center for a South By Southwest (SXSW) Conference panel on Saturday to discuss the inner workings of his their new late-night show. The panel was moderated by The Newsroom’s Olivia Munn. What followed is below.

What do you like to do when you’re in Austin ?
Well, I’ve only been here a couple of times. I came for SXSW with the film MacGruber, and I was here for the Moontower Comedy Festival a couple years ago. It’s nice to come out when there are a lot of artists here and you see just how much Austin supports that kind of artistic community. I’ve been really lucky with my visits here.

What were you most nervous about before you went on the air with your show ?
There were two things: One is sort of telling jokes standing up. I mean, I do stand up so it’s not like I’ve never done it before, but certainly monologue jokes are slightly different than the looseness of a stand-up act. The bigger one was just interviewing people. I’ve been interviewed on talk shows, but I’ve never done the other side. I had a lot of fears about that going into it.

What about interviewing made you nervous or unsure ?
You’re doing it on television and because of that the biggest fear is just the time constraint. I feel like I could talk to just about anybody for 20 minutes, but sometimes you only have six and with someone who’s an author or promoting a project, it’s important to hit certain things that are the reasons they’re there while also finding time to talk about things that just come up during the course of the conversation.

Do you have any dream guests for your show ?
I really can’t stress this enough, they’re all dream come true. Just anybody who would give you time to come and show up and sit at your desk. I’ve said people like Hillary Clinton, but I would take Vladimir Putin.

Are you daunted by the legacy of the late night host position ?
Because I did SNL and because I did Weekend Update, which are all sort of legacy positions, I’ve been lucky enough to learn that you can’t get caught up in the burden of how you’re treating the legacy. I think that when you get a job like this you have to commit to doing the best version of it you can and hopefully if you do a good enough job, you’ll be lucky enough to be considered part its tradition. If you go into it too stressed out about “How do I live up to this?,” it might be the recipe for not succeeding.

Do you have any strategies for standing out from the late night pack ?
When I got Weekend Update I spent all this time strategizing about how I’d do it differently and in the end the way I did it was trusting your own delivery, your own taste and the things that make you laugh. These late night shows are so much about inherent personality, so as long as you bring that every night, and you bring your taste every night, it’s going to be different. Maybe not wildly different, but different enough.

Did Jimmy Fallon give you any advice about being a late night host?
I went on his show after it was announced and I went on his show about three weeks before I started, and the best thing Jimmy said was just how much fun it would be, and really that’s the most important thing you could hear before it starts.

Did you give Colin Jost any advice about taking over the Weekend Update desk?
That’s everyone’s own journey–there’s not much you can tell anybody about that. The thing I told Colin, who’s also one of my closest friends, is that you get those jobs for a reason and when you get them you don’t have to become a different person. You just have to take the person you were that made Lorne think you’d be good at this job and transfer into it. But like anything it’s repetition, and the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Do you miss anything about being on SNL?
I’m constantly stopping by up there. I’m very Wooderson.

Remember to use the #SethXSW for all Meyers related tweets during the festival.

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The TFM Team.

Posted in Festivals, SXSW Film Festival