Seth Meyers Does It Late

The Saturday Night Live veteran is a different kind of frontman for late night television

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[Meyers' late night will be more topical than Fallon's]

Seth Meyers' new office at 30 rockefeller Plaza is a blank. Bare walls, a few boxes, a fresh legal pad on the otherwise empty desktop. There's one lonely picture tacked on his desk, of Meyers with the Count from Sesame Street.

You'll have to excuse the future Late Night host for not decorating: he still has another NBC office upstairs, at Saturday Night Live, where he's been since 2001. (Meyers' last SNL episode won't be before the beginning of February, he guesses.) So he commutes, by elevator. This December morning, he's going to take comedy pitches from his still incomplete Late Night writing staff. "Then I'll go upstairs and start writing on something," he says. "Then I'll pop down here and look at the next pass of those bits. Then I'll spend the night sleeping upstairs. Then I'll wake up and come down here. It's like having two families. I feel like Ray Liotta at the end of Goodfellas, with the helicopter following me."

For now, though, much of Meyers' Late Night job is waiting for Feb. 24, after Jimmy Fallon moves from Late Night to Tonight, when Meyers takes over the 12:35 a.m. E.T. show. Waiting for his new studio to get built. And waiting, in a way, to figure out who he is--at least as a host. When you make a drama or a sitcom, you decide what it will be, then hope it gets on the air. In late night, you get the show, then figure out what it will be like. Which depends largely on what you are like.

So who's Seth Meyers? Says Amy Poehler, who worked with him when he was SNL's head writer and plans to appear on his first show: "He enjoys bringing the best out of people. Maybe it's his improv training, but he really knows how to make other people look good." He's regularly described as a comedy writer's writer. "The defining thing with him is his intelligence and curiosity," says Lorne Michaels, the SNL impresario who brought Fallon to Late Night then tapped Meyers to replace him. "He can construct a joke in conversation," says his producer, Mike Shoemaker. "As he's talking, he writes."

He's also not entirely unlike the guy he's replacing. As Jay Leno leaves Tonight (again), to be replaced by the younger host of Late Night (again), both shows will be hosted by white guys, former Weekend Update anchors within a few months of 40 years old, broadcasting from Manhattan. (Fallon is moving Tonight from Los Angeles for the first time in half a century.) Meyers' studio will literally sit on top of the new Tonight digs.

"On paper, Seth and Jimmy look the same, but they're so completely different," says Shoemaker, a longtime SNL producer who also helped launch Fallon's show. Fallon has an eager enthusiast's persona, so he put on an upbeat Late Night that broke from the David Letterman--Conan O'Brien ironist tradition. A music buff, he hired the Roots as a house band and did inspired musical-comedy bits like "History of Rap" with Justin Timberlake.

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