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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Stage /  Funny business
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Thursday, September 15,2011

Funny business

The versatile Seth Meyers brings one part of his act to Boulder

By David Accomazzo

Seth Meyers is living the dream.

The 37-year-old New Hampshire native has an impressive résumé, starting with his tenure as a cast member and head writer on Saturday Night Live, and leading to his stints hosting the ESPYs and performing after President Barack Obama at this spring’s White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner. Throw in the occasional acting gig, and he says his current career situation is “perfect.”

He’s on top of his game while mocking deserving targets such as Donald Trump (“Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising because I just assumed he was running as a joke”) and Brett Favre (whose shadow, we’ve now learned “thanks to cell phone technology, is not as big as we originally thought”). Meyers talked with Boulder Weekly prior to his gig at the Boulder Theater about Boulder, Harry Caray and when jokes bomb on stage.

Boulder Weekly: So, you’re doing a stand-up tour right now. Is this a typical way you spend your time between SNL seasons?

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I try to do as many tours as I can, you know, obviously our summer is coming to a close here, and I’m heading off to [Los Angeles] for … that weekend, and it makes sense to stop on the way. I’ve been wanting to do Boulder for a really long time, and I’m just really glad it finally worked out.

BW: Have you ever been to Boulder? A: I have. I’ve been to Boulder a lot. A lot of my college buddies — I went to Northwestern [University in Evanston, Ill.] — two of my best college friends lived in Boulder. I’ve spent a fair amount of time there.

BW: Any special memories about Boulder when you were spending time here?

SM: Yeah, I’ve got some special memories but I’m going to save ’em for the show. I’ve got some things to tell the people of Boulder about the way they go about their business.

Well, it’s funny, there’s such an East Coast kind of kid, who their entire first 18 years of their lives is just waiting for the day where they can move to Boulder. I certainly had plenty of friends like that. It’s like Narnia for East Coast Phish fans.

BW: Do you prepare for stand-up in a different way than when you host your weekend update segments or when you host events?

SM: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that’s the nice thing about having as many outlets as possible for comedy. Sometimes you come up with an idea that’s not feasible as a sketch but would be good as a stand-up bit and vice-versa, so it’s nice when you’re doing SNL to keep a file of things that are better suited for stand-up. It’s really fun, especially at the end of the summer when I do a lot of shows. I’m very in the groove, which is nice.

BW: You did the ESPYs this year again. Did you find that athletes are a tougher audience than some of the other crowds that you perform to?

SM: I do think that athletes are hyper-aware of people watching them watch [the ESPY monologue]. Does that make sense? I know for a fact, talking to some athletes after the ESPYs, that they were like, “Hey man, I loved that joke; I just couldn’t be seen laughing at it,” which is interesting.

The other thing is that the difference between the correspondents’ dinner and something like the ESPYs is that [at] the ESPYs, an athlete is hyper-aware when the camera is on them. You know, the cameraman literally comes up the aisle and sets up shop in front of them. … Whereas something like the correspondents’ dinner where it’s on CSPAN, nobody knows when the camera’s on them, so it makes it a lot easier, better for me.

BW: Do you have a preferred outlet for comedy?

SM: You know, the thing I love the most about the stage is that you feel like you are in complete control. It’s a little more like fishing, where you’re aware of when to let out more line and when to start reeling it in, because you have a very immediate interaction with the audience. Your feedback is immediate.

BW: As far as performing on SNL goes, do you find that there are any hosts that sometimes get egos about the material?

SM: Yeah, but very rarely, though.

The nice thing about how long the show’s been on the air is that I think hosts know what they signed up for. Very rarely someone shows up and says, “Wait a minute … Are you making fun of my life?” I think the show, the reason why [Justin] Timberlake or [Alec] Baldwin or Jon Hamm have been such good hosts is that they have a field day poking fun at their own persona.

The problem is that comedy is an underdog’s game, and those guys are all sort of favorites — you know, they’re handsome, talented guys, and yet they come out and they let us make fun of any shortcomings they’ve ever had. And it makes the audience go like, “Oh, these guys are a lot more like us than we thought.”

BW: As head writer, does that give you a lot of freedom to write about what interests you, what topics are funniest to you?

SM: I think every writer on SNL has that freedom. No one ever gets assigned anything. We try to to hire guys and gals who all have unique takes that no one else on the staff has, so we have a lot of different kinds of things to choose from. Head writer, the bigger thing is almost, as the week goes on, having to fill specific holes, like, oh we have nothing about this big story, so that’s a little bit the opposite of freedom, because I have to fill the gaps in the show.

BW: As a comedian, how do you react when a joke doesn’t go over well with a crowd?

SM: You know, the funny thing on SNL is that you feel pretty good about them going on by the time we actually do it, so when they don’t, it’s kind of hilarious.

You try to mix it up a little bit, change the speed of your pitches. No comedian goes out and thinks they’re going to go out and throw a perfect game — I’m going to keep using baseball-pitching analogies for this answer.

You can’t go out and be like, “As long as everybody laughs at everything, this will be fine.”

BW: You’re a big baseball fan, right?

How was it preparing for singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the Cubs game?

SM: I can’t believe I agreed to do it. I think I got like, seduced by the allure of the offer, and then the day of, I was like, “What am I doing?” I hate singing, I hate singing while people watch me, and this isn’t the sort of thing where if you do well, it leads to something else — all you can do is fail.

They gave me good advice where if you lose your place or anything just wave your microphone like Harry Caray.

BW: Did you get to listen to Harry Caray call many games when you were at Northwestern?

SM: I did yeah. I had a lot of love for Harry Caray.

My favorite thing I ever heard Harry Caray say on the air was that … I think it was Derrick May ... [The Cubs] had someone whose last name was May, and Harry Caray was like, “Derrick May? His last name spelled backwards is Yam?”

Interview conducted, edited and condensed by author.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

On the Bill:

Seth Meyers performs at the Boulder Theater on Friday, Sept. 16. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $42.50. 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.

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