Actor and comedian Seth Meyers has had one heck of a year.
2011 has seen the 37-year-old satirist hit the decade mark on NBC’s long-running “Saturday Night Live” (his fifth as the show’s head writer and Weekend Update anchor), he hosted ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards for the second year in a row, and was the keynote speaker at this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner.
Not bad for a one-time Northwestern University improv troupe member.
But despite the comedian’s busy schedule, he can’t help but make time for stand-up as well. An appearance at Pechanga Resort & Casino this weekend will be his last on a recent short run of dates before things at “Saturday Night Live” kick back into full gear.
And surprisingly, squeezing 10 dates of across-the-country comedy into his schedule this summer has little to do with keeping his wit sharp and at the ready.
“I just truly love it,” said Meyers recently from New York. “It’s a nice side effect that it keeps you on your toes, but that’s certainly not the only reason I do it. I mean, it’s a whole lot more fun than, say, getting up and going to the gym in the morning. But I do truly love doing stand-up and traveling around the country performing in front of different and unique crowds. It’s a blast.”
After this weekend’s show at Pechanga, Meyers will return to the East Coast and focus exclusively on the new season of “Saturday Night Live.” And it is not lost on him that this season is indeed significant.
“It’s a very cool milestone,” he said. “My very first show at ‘SNL’ was the first one they did after 9/11. So I’m constantly reminded that I’m hitting my decade point. But 10 years is crazy. And I’ve been in the same office the whole time. The only difference is that when I started, there were two other writers in it with me. The way they promote you at ‘SNL’ is that they take people out of your office. They don’t move you to a nicer one.”
Despite not getting new digs during his tenure with the show, the comedian notes the timing of his selection to the cast as a benefit itself.
“I’ve been really lucky in my time with the show,” Meyers said. “I feel like when I came in, I got to work under people who were excellent at the job like Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jimmy Fallon. And the people I came in with were people like Amy Poehler. I’ve also been able to be around for great new people like Bill Hader. I’ve been able to work with great people over the last 10 years.”
Meyers’ good fortune hasn’t ended there. His high-profile gig on late-night television has translated into a few prodigious hosting opportunities in the last few years.
A huge sports fan, he has helmed ESPN’s ESPY Awards for the past two years; and blurring the line between his political satire and its subjects, he had the honor of giving the keynote speech at the White House Correspondents dinner in April.
“It was crazy,” he said. “Of all the gigs I’ve had in my life, it was certainly the one I was most nervous about. But there’s almost no better comedy format than the roast. And there’s something so wonderful about getting to roast the most powerful people on Earth on a night where it’s understood you’re supposed to do that. Ninety-nine percent of that audience understands it’s a night where they could get teased, and that makes it really fun.”
Meyers took the business of being funny that night very seriously.
“I worked with about five other writers,” he said. “We got together, read everything we’d written, and then whittled down. Other comedians may take those jokes out to a club to see how they played, but because it’s such an inside room, I didn’t want to do a joke I didn’t have faith in and have it stiff. So the craziest part of it all was that it was the first time I told any of those jokes. ‘SNL’ has a dress rehearsal and the ESPYs bring in an audience so I can test my monologue. But that was the first time I ever did those jokes in public.”
It also marked the first time something Meyers had done went totally global.
“It was exciting for me,” he said. “Because ‘SNL’ doesn’t play abroad, it’s something that really resonated overseas. And it was great for the foreigners I know who live in New York, because to them, it’s an amazing thing that I was allowed to stand next to the president and tell jokes about him. There just aren’t a lot of countries where you get to do that.”
But Meyers says all of it really comes back to growing up in a funny household. He and his brother, Josh of “MADtv,” both took their cues from their joke-cracking father and the family’s penchant for comedy in general.
“My parents were big fans of ‘SNL,’ Monty Python, Woody Allen and Steve Martin,” he said. “And they exposed us to that stuff at a far earlier age than a lot of other kids are. The timing of all of those things was really helpful. Also, my mother has laughed at everything my father has said for the last 40 years. And my mother is a beautiful woman. So my brother and I have always thought that was how you got a beautiful woman. It’s the move we can all fall back on.”