A Closer Look at NH's Own Seth Meyers

The “Late Night” host returns to New Hampshire for a good cause
Photo by Lloyd Bishop
Seth Meyers is looking good in this shot promoting his hosting of the 75th Golden Globes Awards ceremony. We think he did a great job!

In the political world, the term “favorite son” indicates a beloved local candidate who might best represent a state in an election. And while Seth Meyers exhibits absolutely zero interest in pursuing a political career, well, we can dream, can’t we? Meanwhile, in just about every other way, Meyers has become a New Hampshire favorite son as we’ve followed his success from his early fame as cast member, writer and “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live” to his current household-name status as the host of “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

You may have just seen Meyers hosting the Golden Globes awards night in January, but you’ll have a chance to see him up close and personal when he returns to New Hampshire on February 10 for two performances at the Capitol Center for the Arts — a benefit for CASA of NH and the Granite State Children’s Alliance. And, being the nice guy that he is, he also found some time in his schedule for this one-on-one interview.

People call you a New Hampshire native, but most Granite Staters have to be descended from a Colonial governor to achieve that status. What’s the most New Hampshire thing about you?

Well, of course I’m not a native in that I was born in the Midwest. I don’t know what’s the most New Hampshire thing about me. Probably just my roots — where I went to school and where my parents still are. That’s what I consider home.

I must warn you, while preparing for this interview I saw the current issue of Men’s Journal. Is that not the most burly picture of you ever taken? (See image below.)

Yeah, and it’s definitely not a coat or sweater I would ever wear otherwise.

In the article they refer to you as “unflappable.” Does that sound like you?

I don’t consider myself as unflappable as that piece suggests. I think that’s a lovely thing to be called because I have a career where one could so easily be flapped. I’m about to embark upon doing the Golden Globes and when you host something like that, it’s very helpful to remember that you’ve done things like this before and they’ve gone well enough, because those are the times where it’s very easy to spin out. But I do try to keep an even keel and stay appreciative of the fact that I get to do these things for a living and I never take that for granted.

You were kind enough to pose for our own 2006 “It List” cover. That was the first true celebrity cover we ever did.

Wow! 2006? You guys were early adopters.

We saw you coming. We even sent you an It List T-shirt to wear for the shot.

Oh, yeah, it’s in the scrapbook.

The T-shirt?

No, the photo.

How did you get involved with CASA and the Granite State Children’s Alliance?

As much as I love New Hampshire, I’m not as connected with it, living in New York. This is an idea my dad floated by me that made sense right away — coming up there and doing a couple of shows to raise some money.

Why is the cause meaningful to you?

Well, it strikes me that the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that kids should all get a fair chance. Also, in this day and age, it’s nice to have some organizations that everyone can get behind, and so hopefully that will be the spirit of the night.

They are engaged in some serious business. Will the performances at the Capitol Center offer any challenges to you?

The night’s just going to be about having a good time and raising money for a good cause. This will not be a tutorial. We’ll just have as much fun as possible, hopefully raise a lot of money and let the people of these two organizations go out and do what they do.

You started at SNL just weeks after the 9-11 attacks. That must have been a tough time to deliver topical humor.

Yes, well, I started at SNL right after 9-11, but it was five or six years before I started doing “Weekend Update.” I was a cast member who then became a writer who then became a “Weekend Update” member, so I took an uncommon path.

Is there a New Hampshire mystique in comedy as a result of you, Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman being from here? Or is that just something people here notice?

I can only say that when I was a kid it was the coolest thing in the world that both Adam and Sarah were people I could see on television who I knew were from the Bedford and Manchester area. I hope that’s been true for people coming up after me. I know that for those of us from New Hampshire who have succeeded, we talk about it constantly. The last time Adam Sandler was on our show was ostensibly to talk about his last project, but I think we spent most of the time talking about New Hampshire. Just to realize we experienced the same vacation spots, the same arcades, the same places to hang out in Manchester — it’s great to have that shared history.

Do your experiences here figure into your writing? Was it good material?

It wasn’t material, but Manchester West was a fantastic public school. My experiences there were outstanding. There was a winter follies show where kids could write comedy sketches and do them without adult supervision. By the time I finished up my time there, I had this fire inside me to pursue comedy.  But it was really just about opportunity and being at a school that lets you express yourself.

Did you have any summer camp experiences that were life-shaping?

I was pretty much a homebody, but I did go to the Mike Andrews baseball camp at Brandeis for two summers. I would say that was life-changing because after two intensive baseball camps, it was very clear to me that baseball was not the future for Seth Meyers.

You and your wife are expecting a second son, and they will have roughly the same age difference as you and Josh. Are there NH experiences that you and your brother had that you want to give your kids?

Well, the thing I keep thinking about is how I’m going to raise two Manhattan kids and they will be cooler than I am by the time they are …  4 or 5? … just based on experiences and things they’ll see. With that, I feel bad for them in that I went to a fundraiser the other night for the Hudson River Park — which is some old piers they have sort of renovated to be tiny soccer strips — and you just realize it’s millions and millions of dollars just to create what every single NH kid has in their backyard. I hope that someway, somewhere we can provide our children the sort of space to have the kind of carefree upbringing you have growing up in New Hampshire — this beautiful place with a lot of room to move around where you know your kids are safe and they know that too. That’s a great way to grow up.

Are there any NH values that you admire and would like to see instilled in your kids?

I hope my kids have an independent streak and that’s something I felt growing up in New Hampshire. A core sense of fairness and the want to speak out about it when you don’t feel it’s being executed. But we’ll see. Hopefully, there will be enough New England blood left in me by the time my kids are coming up that it will rub off on them.

People must ask you about your movie career. You were working on a couple of films last time we spoke, but I only see one acting credit for you, as Professor Alan Kitzens in Brendan Fraser’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” …

Let me jump right in and say no one asks me about my movie career. I haven’t been in one in like eight years. I’m such a bad actor they moved me behind a desk about 10 years into my career and I’ve been there ever since. So, yeah, it never comes up.

You and a group of your pals have made the acclaimed TV series “Documentary Now.”

We’re meeting about our third season now. That, people ask me about. It has been a great joy. It’s such a specific show for people who care about and love documentaries. I can’t tell you how full-time it is doing a late night talk show 40 weeks a year, so there’s not a lot of room for other things. You have about enough time for one vanity project a year.

You’ve said your dad is funny. I think all dads are funny, being one. Does he do jokes or is it just wit-in-the-moment kind of humor? Did you ever steal any of his bits?

Umm. I think I just stole a style from him. My dad is less jokes and more just the funniest guy in the room. My dad is funny funny, not just dad funny. He is incredibly quick on his feet, a great storyteller, doesn’t suffer fools and is just a delight to be around.

Does your mom laugh at his humor?

My mom has laughed at everything my father has ever said. He’s on an incredible Cal Ripkin-esque streak of making my mom laugh.

Did your sense of politics find some roots here?

For me the touchpoint was I read a lot of Hunter S. Thompson, who would talk about being on presidential campaigns and drinking at the Sheraton Wayfarer — that old place where all the political hacks used to hang out. It was a big deal to me that it was right down the street.

How about NH Primary experiences?

Yeah, when I first moved here in 1984 we had a fake election in our class where we were all assigned candidates and had to give speeches based on their positions. That was really exciting. In ’92 at Manchester West High, pretty much all the candidates came through and spoke. I got to introduce now-California-Governor Jerry Brown. It was really exciting. I remember getting to hear Clinton speak in ’92 and I was very confident he was a go-nowhere candidate. I remember going back and watching “The War Room” — that fantastic Pennebaker documentary about the campaign. It’s crazy because it opens with shots of Manchester. It’s only 1992 and it just seems like yesterday, but I can’t believe what cars looked like when I was a freshman in high school. It’s like wait, what?

You’ve added so much to the cultural grab bag. Is there a joke or a sketch that you hope you will always be remembered for?  

For years it was “Really!?! with Seth and Amy” with my old cohort Amy Poehler. I would say now it’s probably “A Closer Look” on our show. But my goal is just to keep getting a little bit better every day and hopefully be someone people enjoy working with. The nice thing about having your own show is you get to hire people you like working with and building a family that, ultimately, no matter how stressful the work is, you are happy to see the people you go about with each day.

Thanks for your time, Seth. Any last words for our readers?

Be well and happy New Year.

Categories: Features, Q&A