Seth Meyers on New Hampshire, fame and whether he's really a good guyBy MIKE COTE
New Hampshire Union Leader February 07. 2018 12:52PM
If you go...WHO: Seth Meyers
WHEN: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 So. Main St., Concord
TICKETS: $58 to $78
INFO: ccanh.com; 225-1111
Seth Meyers anchored “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” for several years and skewers national politics daily on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
Even with all that mileage, the Emmy winner says he nailed his best laughs in New Hampshire imitating the late Walter Lubelcyzk, who taught constitutional law at Manchester High School West.
“When I was on ‘SNL,’ people would say, ‘Who’s your favorite person to do an impression of?’ It was always Wally,” Meyers said in November, when he dedicated a few moments on ‘Late Night’ to his favorite teacher. “I did Wally at a talent show in high school, and I crushed harder than I’ve ever crushed since.”
Meyers, 44, returns home this Saturday for two shows at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord to raise money for CASA of New Hampshire and the Granite State Children’s Alliance. The Illinois native spent much of his childhood in Bedford, where his parents Larry and Hilary Meyers still live.
NH Weekend recently caught up with Meyers by phone from New York City, where he tapes “Late Night” for NBC.
In December, GQ magazine named Stephen Colbert “Bad Hombre of the Year.” In January, Men’s Journal put you on the cover with the headline “Comedy’s nice guy wins the late-night wars.” Are you really comedy’s ‘nice guy’?
No. There are a lot of people who are nicer than I am. Stephen happens to be one of them as well, I should say. But at the end of the day, you can’t decide what people put on the cover of their magazine. I will say that I hope the people that work with me and have to interact with me every day would attest to me at least being a nice person to work with.
You called President Trump “awful” for telling outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that his wife was a loser. During the segment, you dropped references to Batman, Hannibal Lecter, the Titanic and the 1974 Steve Miller Band No. 1 hit “The Joker.” Is this any way to talk about the President of the United States?
Well, if what he said to Andrew McCabe is true, I have no problem saying that’s an awful thing to say. And in general I feel as though he has lowered the discourse to the place where comedians are actually better equipped to talk about him than journalists are some days because journalists, God love them, actually have a code and standards they try to live up to.
And that’s the great thing about comedians. We have no standards. As we live in this era where it seems like the standards are falling every day, thanks to what’s happening in Washington, we are incredibly well equipped for this.
You just had (Republican) Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a guest, and he mentioned your New Hampshire roots. How did growing up in the first-in-the-nation primary state influence your political perspective and your comedy?
It was amazing to grow up in New Hampshire and have all the candidates just come through town and be able to see them in person, be it at your high school or the local coffee shop, or you could see them speak at places.
And for me, I just remember 1988 was probably the first time I realized that the same guys who were rolling through Bedford and Manchester to try to get New Hampshire voters to choose them were being impersonated on “SNL” by my favorite cast members. That was a really trippy thing to realize.
You spent 13 years on “Saturday Night Live,” and you’re about to mark four years on “Late Night.” How do you compare working on a weekly sketch show versus creating new material four days a week?
At first I thought doing a late-night show would be a lot harder, just based on the fact that there were four shows a week compared to one. But the reality is when you have this much real estate you’re less precious about it, and you kind of have to charge ahead. And the fact that our show is so dependent on the news every day, we can approach it a little bit more like a newspaper. Whereas I feel like at “SNL,” you approach it like you’re trying to write the great American novel. For a procrastinator, this is an even better job than “SNL” was.
The Manchester Wall of Fame at the Millyard Museum features 48 people. Three are comedians who got their start on “Saturday Night Live.” (Meyers was third after Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman). What does that say about the Queen City?
Well, we certainly had a hot patch there, where it seemed to be an incredible breaking of the odds that all three of us would find our way onto “SNL.” I will say the fact that Sarah and Adam were on “SNL” and grew up so nearby, to me that actually made me think there was no way I’d ever be on “SNL” because how could lightning strike three times to the same small area of a very small state? But it worked out, and obviously there’s something in the water.
In November, you devoted several minutes on your show to pay tribute to Walter Lubelczyk, who taught law at your alma mater, West High School, for nearly 40 years. What did you learn from Wally, other than how to do a great impression of him?
The great thing about constitutional law class, and especially Wally’s constitutional law class, is we would argue cases. And you’d be on a team with four other students. And some would do the opening, some would do the closing, some would do the cross, some would do the direct.
It was a fantastic class not just because of what you learned about the law, which was wonderful, but it was a great class insofar as it taught you how to frame an argument.
At the end of the day, I think kids often wonder, am I ever going to use this? Am I ever going to use algebra? Am I ever going to use chemistry?
And the reality is you probably won’t. But everyone is going to go into life and want to be able to frame our arguments and make our cases. I think Wally was probably the best time I ever spent in a classroom in regards to that.
Another of your West High teachers, the late Joe Sullivan, once wrote a column about you when you were on “SNL.” He said you made him laugh but that more importantly you made him smile. How did Joe’s approach to teaching creative writing influence your career?
One, he was so passionate, and if you wrote something good, he made a real point to let you know it was good. And the reason it counted was he wasn’t always positive. He was honest. He was a positive soul and a positive spirit, but if you mailed it in, if you turned it in late, he’d make you pay for it.
To have a person like that who had a great ear for writing, had a great enthusiasm for students, and at the same time was unfailingly fair — as far as being a writer he’s the most important teacher I’ve ever had.
Joe Sullivan wrote that column for the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2004 after you raised money for the Jimmy Fund by playing “Celebrity Poker.” That brings us to the reason for your appearance on Saturday at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord — to raise money for two nonprofit group: CASA of New Hampshire and the Granite State Children’s Alliance. How did you get involved with those groups?
You know, I’m very lucky that I have parents who still live in New Hampshire and are really connected to the community. They are the ones who brought these great organizations to my attention. And it really was my dad’s idea to come out and do a show where we could raise some money. I’ve come back a couple of times in the past year, and whenever I come to New Hampshire to do a show it just makes a lot of sense to find a cause for which to do the show.
We raised some money for the Palace Theatre. We raised some money for an education fund when my mom retired from teaching. And this time, these organizations, which obviously are doing great work in the state ... it’s really great we can sell some tickets and give all the money to them, which is the plan.
You and your wife, Alexi, have a son, Ashe, who will soon be 2, and you’re expecting another boy this year. Congratulations.
Thank you so much.
On your Thanksgiving show, your dad had a funny bit about suggesting you name your next son Albert in honor of the five family sheep dogs over the years who were all named Albert. Did anyone remind him about the ’70s Saturday morning Cosby cartoon? What if the little guy is chubby?
That’s an excellent point. And the good news is nothing has made even a dent on my wife wanting to name our child after the dogs. This is just another argument against (it).