With Jimmy Fallon making headlines in his first couple weeks on The Tonight Show, Seth Meyers has snuck under the radar in his quieter, later time slot on Late Night With Seth Meyers. There have been ups and downs throughout his first week, but I have to say I’m not quite sold. I always loved Meyers on SNL, and by that I mean on “Weekend Update,” and I wanted to love him on Late Night, but so far I’m not convinced he fits well into the slot.
It all starts with the monologue, and for Seth that has been a shaky spot. No one doubts his wit or sharp eye for humor, but so far the delivery has been somewhat stale, with the laughter of one joke falling flat turning into the awkwardness of multiple misses. The content is there, maybe even better than Jimmy Fallon’s, but Meyers still needs time to hone his craft, shifting away from what has so far been quick-hitting, standing versions of “Update.” I was hopeful for Fred Armisen, a fun and familiar choice for Meyers’ band leader, though so far his quirky schtick seems to be ready to wear thin quickly. Similar to Portlandia, Armisen’s weirdo brand of humor is best taken in small doses. That being said, Late Night should be the zanier cousin to The Tonight Show, so we’ll give it some time.
I should stop myself before I get too negative, as there have been some great moments in the first week. A potentially tipsy Amy Poehler brought some great laughs and was genuinely excited for her longtime friend’s opportunity. Moreover, she got to rekindle her hilarious Parks and Recreation romance with Vice President Joe Biden. Regardless of your politics, take a second to appreciate Biden’s comic timing, and willingness to poke some fun at his boss.
Besides those solid first-night guests, Meyers has had some interesting encounters. Having Kanye on seems to be both a great way to grab viewers and a dangerous test for someone just getting used to the bright lights of late night television. Any host will be uncomfortable at some point talking to the always crazy, possible genius that is Kanye West, and Meyers did a good job of poking some fun at the rambling icon (That clip is special, as you’ll get to see Kanye take a simple, funny memory and turn it into a statement on how the world works! Classic Kanye.).
As with The Tonight Show or anything else of this sort, Late Night has called in some big names for Meyers’ first week, and many of them have given entertaining appearances, but I still question his ability to carry the show in the long run. As we touched on with Fallon, the celebrity guests do augment the spectacle of any given show, but a great host must be able to roll with the proverbial punches and show a certain chemistry or boldness in his interactions with them. Meyers still has great writing chops and colleagues, as shown in the brilliant idea of “Fake or Florida,” but his delivery and “fun factor” remain question marks for me. Maybe he’s just getting his bearings before unleashing some more smiles and improvisations, and I hope it’s the case, but for now I’m not sure Seth can thrive in his spot, out from behind the familiar confines of the “Update” desk.