Seth Meyers Talks Taylor Swift’s ‘SNL’ Monologue, Jennifer Lawrence’s Crush, and How ‘A Closer Look’ Gets Made
Comedian and “Late Night” host also shares a Don Rickles anecdote during his Stern Show returnOctober 30, 2023
“Saturday Night Live” star turned late-night luminary Seth Meyers returned to the Stern Show on Monday where he regaled listeners with anecdotes about celebrities ranging from Taylor Swift to Don Rickles while also showing Howard precisely how the sausage he serves on his critically acclaimed NBC show gets made. The 49-year-old funnyman, father, podcaster, children’s author, and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” star was more than happy to peel back the curtain, especially when it came to his show’s signature segment, “A Closer Look.”
Howard is a fan of the recurring piece, which sees Seth explain and then satirize a different news story almost every night, but he couldn’t fathom the amount of work it must require. “That seems to me like a monumental task,” he said.
“There’s one guy who writes the first draft. His name is Sal Gentile,” Seth told Howard, explaining the segment producer turned writer has a unique perspective because of his background in both comedy and cable news. “I think [what] makes ‘A Closer Look’ so special is it’s structured like a cable news segment,” Meyers continued. “It has a beginning, a middle, an end. [Sal] lays out a thesis. He comes to a conclusion.”
Seth felt the cable news-inspired format was crucial to “A Closer Look’s” success. “It’s like the curtain rod that supports the jokes,” he said. “Fourteen minutes of jokes is not as much fun as people think it would be. You have to have something underneath that has some nutritional value.”
Seth praised several writers by name, as he often does on his show, for all their help coming up with jokes, bits, and segments. “Nothing’s worse than staring at a blank page, and when I think back to ‘SNL’ that was the hardest thing in the world,” he told Howard. “[But] when you read a first draft of ‘A Closer Look,’ there’s already this downhill momentum.”
He Never Thought He’d Work on ‘SNL’
Some comedians spend their whole lives dreaming of getting onto “Saturday Night Live,” but Seth never imagined he’d wind up on the prolific sketch-comedy series.
“It’s not that I have a low self-esteem, I just kind of thought people who aimed high were crazy,” he told Howard.
Funnily enough, Seth’s neighborhood in southern New Hampshire had already produced two legendary comedians and “SNL” alums in Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman. But Meyers never assumed following in their footsteps would be easy.
“I remember watching Adam Sandler on Letterman doing standup … I remember seeing him and going, ‘Well, that’s that. There’s not gonna be two of us.’ And then when Sarah Silverman made it I was like, ‘Well, that’s really [that]. Lightning never strikes a third time,’” Seth recalled with a laugh.
“It has been such a lovely trip that the three of us have given the area … a lot to be proud of,” he added.
Seth joined the “SNL” cast in 2001, but his career there really took off in 2006 when he started co-anchoring “Weekend Update.” He said working behind the “Weekend Update” desk was a blessing, especially since it meant he no longer needed to compete with colleagues for airtime.
“When you’re on ‘Update,’ you walk around ‘SNL’ that whole week and it feels like everyone’s flight has been canceled and you’re the only one who has been rebooked,” Seth explained, comparing working on the show to “a mad scramble at an airport where there are no flights.”
No Hard Feelings With Jennifer Lawrence
Studio 8H is the birthplace of more than just some of TV’s funniest sketches. The “Saturday Night Live” set is also where the seeds of love were planted with A-list couples ranging from Colin Jost and his now-wife Scarlett Johansson to Pete Davidson and his now-ex Ariana Grande. Meyers’ story is a bit different. While working as the head writer, he was on the receiving end of an unrequited crush from Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. The only problem? Seth was already happily engaged to his soon-to-be wife.
Most people live their entire lives without meeting a Hollywood starlet, let alone hearing they once had a crush on you, so Howard couldn’t help but wonder how Seth had taken the news that Lawrence wanted to ask him out on a date.
“I was very flattered,” Seth recalled.
Looking back on his time there, he told Howard the work was so grueling he “never had the bandwidth to flirt with anyone,” despite the fact many “charming, beautiful, intelligent women came through” the show.
“I also feel like I was always filthy and sweaty and stressed,” he added with a laugh. “[So] I mostly just think it reflects poorly on Jennifer Lawrence’s taste.”
Look What Hosting ‘SNL’ Made Taylor Swift Do
Speaking of charming “Saturday Night Live” hosts, Seth vividly remembered pop superstar Taylor Swift exceling at the job back in 2009. Though the singer-songwriter was only 19 at the time, her age and relative inexperience didn’t prevent her from making a great first impression with Meyers and “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels.
“She came to us and said, ‘I wrote a song for the opening monologue,’” Seth recalled. “So, we brought Taylor in Lorne’s office … [and] she sings this song which is not only a beautiful song by a beautiful singer, it’s a perfect ‘SNL’ monologue. Fully formed.”
“To this day, I’ve [never] had a moment like that where someone brings you a fully gift-wrapped present and its exactly what you need it to be,” he continued. “When she finished I should’ve said, ‘Now Taylor, just for you, I want to look at you and read what we had written for you just so you know how much fucking worse [our pitch] was,” he added with a laugh.
Despite the “Shake It Off” singer knocking it out of the park on her first try, Seth assured Howard that hosting “SNL” is a lot harder than it looks. “I worked at that show for twelve-and-a-half years and then, [about] three years after I left, I went back and hosted for the first time. And … no one tells you anything,” he lamented.
“Even I, who had worked there, couldn’t believe how it works,” he continued, explaining that his hosting experience made him feel retroactively guilty about how hosts were treated when he was on the staff.
“A host sometimes would say to me, ‘I don’t understand what I’m doing in the sketch,’ and in my head what I wanted to say was ‘Just fucking do it,’” he recalled. “Then, when I hosted, there were a few times where I realized what I was thinking was ‘I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do in this sketch.’”
A Don Rickles Story for the Road
Seth couldn’t say goodbye before sharing a hilarious anecdote involving a Stern Show favorite – the late, great Don Rickles.
Meyers met the renowned insult comic years ago at a black-tie party in Hollywood. “He’d untied his bowtie, and he just looked very tired,” he recalled. “I took a knee next to him, and I said, ‘My name is Seth Meyers. I work at SNL’ … I thought he was like out of it, [but] he put his hand on my shoulder and says, ‘I just want you to know I’m so sorry about what happened with “Saturday Night Live.” I’m so sorry it got canceled.’”
“And I go, ‘Oh, it didn’t get canceled.’” Meyers continued. “And he goes, ‘A guy can dream!’”
Howard cracked up before sharing an anecdote of his own in which Rickles roasted every single person at the dinner table. “I never heard anything so fucking funny,” he laughed.
“It’s the best,” Seth concluded. “What a gift.”
“Late Night with Seth Meyers” airs weeknights on NBC. Learn more about his podcast, Family Trips with the Meyers Brothers, here.