Seth Meyers Does It Late

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

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Don't expect Meyers to sing. Like a groom planning a wedding, he doesn't yet even know if he'll have a DJ or a band. His interests are politics, sports, current events. He wrote much of Tina Fey's blistering Sarah Palin material in 2008, SNL's high-water mark of cultural pull in the past decade. He's a cerebral and incisive stand-up who can cut sharp with a nice guy's smile. At the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner, he roasted Donald Trump while the mogul fumed, stone-faced. "Donald Trump said recently he has a great relationship with the blacks," Meyers said, "though unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he's mistaken."

Since Late Night will be in the same city as the higher-profile Tonight, Shoemaker and Meyers talk about making a virtue of being lower on the booking chain, getting more authors, politicians and explainers. And building off Meyers' SNL work, expect more sketches, with staffers playing recurring characters. On SNL, Meyers killed as the straight man. His impromptu wedding to Bill Hader's departing "city correspondent" Stefon was one of the funniest bits SNL has done in recent years. "People will say to me, 'You were so good with Stefon, I can't wait to see you do interviews!'" Meyers says. "I have to remind them, You know those were scripted."

What Meyers won't do is reinvent the format. There will be a monologue, a desk, celebrities--all while the competition has become more numerous and varied. But there are worse things in a host than a level of familiarity. "These kinds of jobs are the definition of overexposed," Michaels says. "It needs to be somebody you want to spend a lot of time with."

The fact that Michaels runs essentially all of NBC's late night--SNL, Fallon and now Meyers--should buy some network patience. "I like that everyone before me has established this as a place to try things out," Meyers says. "It's 12:35 at night. You can do crazy stuff." As with Letterman, O'Brien and Fallon, the work of figuring out who Seth Meyers is will have to take place partly before our eyes. You can plan all you want, but only time can fill in the blank.

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