Bedford’s Seth Meyers hosts Late Night show on NBC

With Jay Leno’s recent retirement after 22 years of hosting the “Tonight Show,” there has been a reshuffling at NBC. Jimmy Fallon, host of Late Night and Leno’s heir apparent, is moving up an hour to host the “Tonight Show.” He has brought the show back to New York where it originated in 1954, and debuted on Feb. 17. And taking over Fallon’s 12:35 a.m. time slot is Seth Meyers, one of Bedford’s most famous sons, with a Monday, Feb. 24, premiere.

Meyers is familiar to audiences from his 12 years on “Saturday Night Live,” both as an actor and a writer. He shared the role of co-head writer with Tina Fey beginning in 2006, and remained as head writer after Fey’s departure from the show. He was responsible for writing the wildly popular sketches in which Fey portrayed 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Meyers has served as the anchor of Weekend Update since 2006, where his deadpan delivery of news-related punch lines and interviews with interesting characters like Drunk Uncle, Bar Mitzvah Boy and urban cultural guru Stefon showcased his skills.

Cecily Strong recently joined the Weekend Update team to prepare for the transition surrounding Meyers’ departure. Various former castmates, including co-anchor Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg and Bill Hader in character as Stefon, showed up for his final SNL broadcast on Feb. 1.

By his own admission, Meyers has had a whirlwind year. After a brief engagement, he married his girlfriend, Alexi Ashe, a human rights lawyer, on Sept. 1 on Martha’s Vineyard. The couple lives in Manhattan, with their dog, Frisbee, an Italian greyhound. They spent the Christmas holidays in New Mexico with Meyers’ in-laws, and he turned 40 on Dec. 28.

He has spent months preparing for his new gig, which involves moving his office within the NBC studios building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, all while still writing for and appearing on “Saturday Night Live.” He said people fail to realize that although the show is done live, the planning, writing and rehearsing for SNL involves working 6.5 days a week.

In addition to preparing for hosting “Late Night,” Meyers has been busy with publicity. He’s appeared in a series of television commercials about the show, and unexpectedly found himself on the cover of Time Magazine’s Jan. 13 issue.

Meyers is the first person from Bedford ever to grace the cover, and one of only a few New Hampshirites. He’s in the company of Derry astronaut Alan Shepard and author JD Salinger, who both appeared in 1961, Supreme Court Justice David Souter in 1990, and Olympic skier and gold medalist Bode Miller in 2006.

With NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics extending into late night, there’s been a chance for the network to stagger the departure of Jay Leno and the beginning of the Jimmy Fallon/Seth Meyers era.

Although he doesn’t return to New Hampshire as often as he used to, Meyers gave a live benefit performance at Bedford High School in 2012 to honor his mother, Hilary, upon her retirement after years of teaching French in the school district. His father, Larry, has worked for GE Trade Finance.

The Journal’s Irene Labombarde spoke with Meyers on Feb. 7.

A conversation with
Seth Meyers

Bedford Journal: First of all, congratulations on getting married, turning 40, getting your own show and being on the cover of Time Magazine.

Meyers: Thanks, it’s been a whirlwind.

Journal: I love the commercial that’s on where you’re upset your studio isn’t ready yet. How is it really coming along?

Meyers: Night and day, compared to that. We have our first test show on Tuesday (Feb. 11).

Journal: What can you tell us about the show?

Meyers: Amy Poehler will be my first guest. I’m not trying to deconstruct the late night model, just putting my personal time stamp on it.

Journal: Will you have characters that appear often or sketches?

Meyers: I’m way better being myself than anybody else. My writing staff is working on some recurrent pieces. We will try 50, so maybe five will work. Trial and error is such a big part of something like this. You have to give yourself six months to figure it out.

Journal: What are you most looking forward to with the new show?

Meyers: Interviewing people. I don’t know how I’ll find out where my aptitude lies until I do that. Hopefully it will be a place where people will keep coming back.

Journal: You’ve met so many people on “Saturday Night Live”: movie stars, politicians, musicians and athletes. Who are you most looking forward to having on your show?

Meyers: I’ve been really lucky to have been on “Saturday Night Live” for 12 years and to have met so many people. I’d have to say Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Hamm, Peyton Manning – I could give you hundreds of people I’ve had a great time with. I would love to have as many ex-hosts come on my show.

Journal: You’re going to open each show with a monologue. Are you nervous about that?

Meyers: I’ve done a lot of stand up over the years. It’s a skill I’m glad I’ve spent a lot of time on and have done things like hosting the ESPYs and keynote speaker at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Journal: Are you bringing anyone from SNL over to the new show?

Meyers: Alex Baze, the head writer, is the only person (SNL producer) Lorne Michaels would let me poach.

Journal: Do you plan on having a band?

Meyers: Yes, I think we will have a band. We’re a few days away from locking it down, but I’m really excited about it.

Editor’s note: Since this interview, it was announced that former SNL castmate Fred Armisen will be his new band leader.

Journal: Your mom mentioned that you will be well-dressed because you are friends with Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue Magazine.

Meyers: I’ll have a great wardrobe. I’ll have to have more than just one suit and tie.

Journal: How else will the new show be different from what you’ve done?

Meyers: There’s so much real estate to fill when you are doing a nightly show. On SNL, there are pieces you wish you could have done but you ran out of time. That won’t happen in late night.

Journal: You were just on the cover of Time Magazine. Do you know if anyone else from New Hampshire has graced the cover?

Meyers: Franklin Pierce?

Journal: When did you find out you were going to be on the cover?

Meyers: I was in Mexico after Christmas. I knew I’d done the interview and had taken the picture, but I had no idea I was going to be on the cover ‘til two days before. I thank the world for it being a slow news week.

It was great because that was a magazine we had in the house when I was growing up and it was very exciting.

My friends have been calling to say they saw it at the dentist’s office (since) it’s a month old now.

Journal: How does your brother Josh feel about all this?

Meyers: Josh is my best friend and is nothing but incredibly supportive.

Journal: What about your wife?

Meyers: She’s so excited. She sees me at 8:30 now instead of never.

Journal: Did Jimmy Fallon have any advice for you?

Meyers: He told me to be patient, these are jobs that take time. You’re hired for your sensibility and things you did before. Don’t overreact or try to course correct.

Journal: You’ve just had your last Weekend Update. I’ve watched SNL for years and that’s always my favorite part.

I watched the show in when I was in college and it was new, and I still watch it now while waiting for my teens to get home for curfew.

Meyers: I used to bring girls home before their curfews in order to be home in time to watch.

It’s been a long journey with SNL.