As Seth Meyers moves from "Saturday Night Live" to "Late Night" Monday, it's tempting to imagine how his "Weekend Update" foil Stefon might introduce the new gig: Welcome to New York's hottest new club – "Seth."
Meyers' version of "Late Night" hopefully will be devoid of the menagerie of freaks and perverse behavior pulsing through Stefon's after-hours adventures. But Meyers arrives Monday night with the opportunity to make his own mark in a fairly exclusive club.
He's just the fourth host in the 32-year history of "Late Night," a program third in longevity behind fellow NBC comedy franchises "The Tonight Show" and "SNL." All three previous hosts turned "Late Night" into launching pads to different levels of stardom.
David Letterman left in 1992 after losing his bid to replace Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" to Jay Leno, and began his ongoing two decade-plus reign on CBS’ "Late Show." Conan O’Brien, like Meyers a former “SNL” writer, served 16 years on “Late Night” before getting and losing “The Tonight Show,” and eventually landing in the 11 p.m. slot on TBS. Jimmy Fallon, another “SNL” vet, just started on “The Tonight Show” after nearly five years on “Late Night,” the shortest stint yet.
Meyers presumably has nowhere to go for quite some time, which is not a bad thing. His predecessors all benefitted from the late perch to experiment and find their talk show rhythm.
Meyers, best known for his role on “Weekend Update,” faces a steep challenge as he goes from producing a 10-minute segment about 22 times a season, to an hour-long weeknight show that runs year-round, repeats aside.
While he’s displayed some broader appeal hosting the ESPY Awards and the White House Correspondents Dinner, Meyers is largely untested as an interviewer. Still, he got training of sorts on “Weekend Update,” dealing with the likes of Stefon, Drunk Uncle and The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party. Like Carson, he's confident enough to let others get the laughs.
Meyers also has shown he’s comfortable sharing the stage with “SNL” colleagues, like Amy Poehler and Cecily Strong, who bookended his eight-plus-season “Weekend Update” run as co-anchors. Look for similar chemistry Is former “SNL” player Fred Armisen who steps in as Meyers’ "Late Night” bandleader.
Vice President Biden is set to be Meyers’ first guest Monday, an appropriate choice on two counts. It’s a signal that Meyers will continue the political-driven topical humor that characterized much of his “Weekend Update” tenure. Second, being host of “Late Night” is a lot like being the vice president of after-hours comedy: Bigger things are hoped for down the line. But there’s no guarantee of succession, only the opportunity to provide a few laughs along the way.
As Meyers prepares to join the “Late Night” club, check out a promo below:
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.