Seth Meyers Weathers Nerves, Abominable Set on 'Late Night' Debut

Last night Seth Meyers officially became the fourth host of NBC's Late Night show. Two Wire writers tried to suppress their crushes on Seth and Amy Poehler, his first guest, to objectively analyze his performance. 

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Last night, Seth Meyers officially became the fourth host of NBC's Late Night show. Two Wire writers tried to suppress their crushes on Seth and Amy Poehler, his first guest, to objectively analyze his performance. They (mostly) succeeded, but did Seth? Let's find out.

We’re both Seth fans to begin with, so what do we think he did well here?

Esther: Well, the monologue was basically a standing up version of Weekend Update—eschewing many major topics for weird news—and I like Seth’s Weekend Update so I was okay with that. He, naturally, looked a little uncomfortable, but was still miles more at ease than Jimmy was when he started out doing Late Night. One of my favorite things he did in the entire show was at the very very end, when he said, “I’d love to do like five hours of notes.” He’s learning and he’ll only keep getting better.

Connor: The monologue as standing Update was something that I’m hoping he’ll ease out of as he becomes more comfortable. It was alright for day one — God knows Jimmy’s first week on The Tonight Show rehashed his Late Night greatest hits, but at 11:30 — but I’m hoping Seth evolves past that two-sentence construction at some point. Jokes can be long! His story about needing to change a tire on his car was a great starting point — more authentic Seth Meyers, please. He was great, but I’m excited to see how he’s handling these segments in a month from now. The foundation is there — they just need to build the support around him. (More on construction later.)

And the interviews?

Esther: As for the interviews, Seth has a natural ease that can seemed to have also carried over from his time at the Update desk. No, he’s not talking to Stefon, but the fact that he was one of the best at doing interview segments on SNL is clearly going to be an asset here. That said, he clearly had it easy guest-wise on his first night. Amy Poehler is one of his best friends, and she is at ease with Joe Biden, who, despite being Vice President, seems like a pretty chill person. I’ll be interested to see how he does with someone more potentially volatile. Say, Kanye West, who is on tonight.

Connor: The first night was all about softballs, but kudos to Seth for booking someone as notoriously difficult as Kanye for night two. It’s a ratings gambit, but it could certainly backfire on the producers. Seth could be the best interviewer in late night. The potential is there, and tonight will be his first big test. We’ll see.

Esther: Yeah, he has a mix that might be good. He won’t be as smarmy as Kimmel and sometimes Letterman. He won’t be as eager-to-please as Jimmy. Here’s hoping.

The Roots were an important part of Jimmy’s success at 12:30, and Fred Armisen was a huge part of Seth’s first Late Night. What did you think about the band?

Connor: My biggest worry is too much Fred — he was fine in his limited role on the sidelines, but I don’t need more Fred Armisen in my 12:30 show. Maybe eventually, but for now I want Seth to fly solo. Everything else though? The musical pedigree is clearly there, and for Late Night’s usual crowd — kids in or just out of college who are probably a little high, or at least wonked from studying — the fit seems right.

Esther: I actually saw Fred as something as an afterthought at this point, up there doing his weird little bits. Most good late night hosts have someone they can play off of. Jimmy has it with both Quest and Steve Higgins. Letterman has Paul Shaffer. Kimmel, for better or worse, has Guillermo. I want to see Seth and Fred banter and bounce off one another, but I sort of think Fred might be just too weird for that.

In the morning-after coverage there’s been some talk about how traditional Seth’s show was. Is this good? Bad? Did we expect anything else?

Esther: Look, as much as I like Seth, he wasn’t a very exciting choice for this gig. He’s yet another white man in a white man’s world. His desk bits—the Venn Diagrams and Costas Vision—were cute, but nothing spectacular. Seth is never going to be Fallon, dressing up and playing guitar with Bruce Springsteen. But I’m interested to see how he evolves and uses his sketch background.

Connor: Everyone expected Seth to reinvent the wheel for some reason, when in truth he’s a better traditional comedy show host than Jimmy Fallon. Late Night with Seth was never going to become The Late-r Daily Show. The biggest change the show ended up with was forgoing the traditional late night curtain, and, well… that didn’t go well.

Let’s talk about that set.

Esther: The set is godawful, particularly the desk area. His desk is tiny, and the audience can see his feet underneath it. It just looks awkward. And those chairs! Amy Poehler and Joe Biden looked like giants sitting on them.

Connor: Thank God the night-two guests — Kanye and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — are all short. Hopefully they build a new set next summer. It reminded me of a bad job interview for some reason. I know NBC just finished building a brand spanking new, state of the art set for Jimmy’s Tonight Show, but Late Night looks like it was built with the leftover scrap material — they need to finish the desk!

Final question: How can we plan to make Amy Poehler our best friend?

Connor: Amy looks like she makes a killer bloody mary for brunch.

Esther: I want this so badly, Connor. Just. So. Badly.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.