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Seth Meyers on why he doesn’t shy away from politicians on ‘Late Night’

Seth Meyers during the premiere of his new late night talk show.
Seth Meyers during the premiere of his new late night talk show.
Peter Kramer/AP

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“Late Night” host Seth Meyers is no stranger to politicians. So far on his NBC show he’s had Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Ted Cruz and several other pols who regularly have their names in headlines. And with regular segments that poke fun at politicians, Meyers’ take on late night is bitingly topical.

The Frame’s host John Horn sat down with Meyers, who just celebrated his second year as the host of “Late Night,” and talked about what it’s like having politicians on the show.


I feel like with politicians... a lot of them still stay married to their script and to their talking points. I feel like we had a really good interview with Hillary Clinton, I feel like we had a really good interview with Ted Cruz ... They didn’t come with a plan and they were a little bit more of a late night talk show guest. And I think that’s nice when you can marry politics with what you expect from late night television in those kind of interviews.

Last year you introduced your segment, “A Closer Look.” It’s a longer behind the desk analysis, or take down, of somebody in the news, a political figure. What was going on in the show at the time you put this together? Why was there a need to create this segment and what did you want to address?

I think what happened was we decided we would like the first act of the show to be as much about the day’s news as we could. We just wanted to build a different sort of container for the deeper dive politics we were talking about. Because I feel like we open with 12 monologue jokes and half of them are probably about the news and then half of them are sort of about sillier things. But it was nice to sort of then re-settle and do something a little bit more substantive.

You’ve done recent segments on the Supreme Court case about abortion rights, you’ve done a lot about Donald Trump. You did a memorable piece last year about gun violence in Oregon. Where does the idea generally for those pieces come from?

Well, you know, we have a lot of people on the staff who pay a lot of attention to the news. But I think on our show it has to come from something — it has to come from a point of view I already have. You know, I don’t come in every day and ask my writers: How do you think I should feel about this? I have a pretty strong idea about how I feel about stuff, and the longer I work with my writing staff the more they know.

And to some degree, you want to staff the show with people who see things similar to you. Not that you don’t want to be challenged by people on your writing staff, but, the sooner that we can all agree on something the better. You know, it’s nice that I feel like in this day-and-age, as a talk show host, you’re allowed to have a point of view and you don’t really need to hide how you feel about things. I feel like the audiences are pretty savvy and they expect you to have a position on things so you might as well share it with them.

It also sounds like you’re talking about not just an opportunity but also a responsibility — that a lot of people are looking at “Late Night” for a take.

Yeah, certainly. You know, responsibility is sometimes too big a word for what it is we set out to do. I would never walk into my writing staff and say, We have a responsibility. But with that said, I do feel there’s an appetite for talking about serious things — and both trying to explain it a little bit better and have a take on it. I feel as though there’s a generation of people who watch “Late Night” who have come up on comedians who have very strong points of views. So I don’t think they find it jarring to watch a late night show where a host does.

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