Meyers Takes Over Late Night
by Clementine Wiley on Friday, March 7th, 2014
On February 24th, NBC introduced an hour-long extension of Saturday Night Live’s (SNL) “Weekend Update” with Seth Meyers, the former SNL head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor. NBC premiered his Late Night show, replacing Jimmy Fallon in the 12:30am time-slot.
A seasoned comic with a trademark delivery from his seven years behind the “Weekend Update” desk, Seth Meyers, during the first week of his new show, performed his opening monologues with the similar informative set-up tone followed by his blank, amused, “can-you-believe-this,” look in the jokes’ wakes. “Weekend Update” has a format favorable for this comedic style, characterized by the desk setting and the expected topical jokes. Transferring this style, Meyers made the Late Night Show feel like “Weekend Update,” except that he now must stand during the monologue, presenting consecutive, news-based jokes as he did on “Weekend Update.” He will also have to adjust to interviewing unscripted guests instead of hysterical, albeit imaginary, SNL characters.
Opening the premiere with a parody of Fallon’s “Thank You Notes,” in which an object or person is “thanked” for their various characteristics, Meyers promised to “do completely original comedy pieces… starting now.” Experienced and creative, Meyers can adjust to this different comedic environment, because he aims to establish funny characters and a playful, witty tone, but the comedy pieces aren’t all original or likeable the way they try to be. For example, I don’t like the disoriented, annoying lady, Cassandra, who presented the rounds of the game, “Fake or Florida.” Besides, she comes off as forced and recycled, sounding like SNL’s Cecily Strong and copying the joke of being too close to the camera from SNL’s Fred Armisen. I also have difficulty believing the personality of Dale, the “Next Week’s News” sidekick played by former SNL comedian Tim Robinson, as he forcefully supports Meyers’s jokes. Characters in recurring comedy pieces are difficult to create, because they should be so amusing that the audience is eager to see them again, or even so memorable that, years after the show, people reminisce about that classic, hilarious sidekick; however, this impression certainly wasn’t achieved by these two.
Despite certain awkward or forced features of the up-and-coming show, Meyers’s wit and confidence will stabilize the show’s humor as long as the star can create original sketches and become a personable host. I expect Meyers to continue writing funny jokes as he always has, although the monologue stage, a larger platform, inflates the expectations higher than simple one-liners. His challenge now is to create an original style that doesn’t outright mimic SNL’s. He must also develop a distinct TV personality by adapting to the wider space and personal interactions without using too many Weekend-Update-style jokes about theoretical, suggested humorous scenarios in reaction to his guests’ stories.
Meyers leans a lot on his SNL past, inviting his former fellow-anchor Amy Poehler as his first guest, making Fred Armisen the show’s bandleader, and over-using Weekend Update’s style. However, I admire the ambitious, original direction Meyers has lead the show with, and, once he adjusts to real interview format and assumes a personable and interested interviewer’s personality, Meyers can progress to establishing humorous interactions and hopefully creating better sketches. If not, at least we’ll have a lot of “Weekend Update” jokes to enjoy.
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