Seth Meyers' First Late Night: How Did He Do?

By Jen Trolio

Feb 25, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, those APPLAUSE lights are flashing, so let's all put our hands together for Seth Meyers' first episode of Late Night! The veteran Saturday Night Live player and "Weekend Update" anchor is now officially an after-hours talk-show host, his butt firmly planted in Jimmy Fallon's old seat. What did you think of Meyers' debut? Let's break down his first show bit by bit, and rate each segment on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Cold Open: Jimmy Fallon's Thank You Notes

"Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for taking over The Tonight Show at 11:30, so I could take over Late Night at 12:30. I promise to treat it with respect and dignity, and to only use it to do completely original comedy pieces... starting now." A cute way to pay homage to and make the transition from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to Late Night With Seth Meyers7 out of 10

The Monologue

I liked Meyers' opening line, "I'm gonna shake stuff up and start this thing with a monologue," but his first attempt at delivering the nightly speech was a bit of a bust for me. Meyers looked stiff, the pacing felt slow, the jokes were meh—he's definitely going to need more practice in this department. 3 out of 10

Fred Armisen and the 8G Band

Sure! Musically speaking, they seem perfectly capable. Meyers and Armisen are obviously comfortable working together, and there's lots of potential for good banter between them—in fact, I'm almost a little worried that Armisen might overshadow Meyers in that regard. I totally want to check his new History Channel series, Recent History, though. 6 out of 10

New Late Night Segment: "Venn Diagrams"

A series of jokes illustrated by a somewhat animated version of the overlapping-circles graphics you probably remember from grade school, i.e. "On one side we have 'People Who Wear Fedoras,' and on the other side we have 'People Who Are Cool,' and in the middle, we have 'Indiana Jones'—that's it, he's the only one." Nothing inherently wrong with the idea, but it could use some polish. 4 out of 10

The Part Where Meyers Sat at the Desk and Told More Jokes Before His Guests Came Out

Meyers first said thank you to his wife for putting up with him while he prepared for the new gig, and it was sweet. He also told a story about how he's not enough of a man to 1.) own a dog that weighs more than seven pounds or 2.) to change a flat tire, and it was... I dunno, not that surprising, but it sounded natural and was appropriately self-deprecating. Then he did an extended "Olympics Wrap-Up" bit that felt pretty dated. Hey did you guys know that Bob Costas had pinkeye during the Olympics? 5 out of 10

Guest #1: Amy Poehler

"You know her work on Saturday Night Live and the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, I know her as one of my best friends." Poehler is generally amazing, and she was as charming and congratulatory as you'd expect. There were a few moments where I thought the pair's conversation came off as a little too inside-jokey, but for the most part it was pleasant, and Poehler aptly pointed out that not all of Meyers' future guests will be as easy to interview as she was (and subsequently helped him practice for that future by pretending to be a bored actress, to marginally funny effect). Oh and guess what! Poehler also announced that Comedy Central's Broad City, which she executive produces, has been renewed for a second season. 6.5 out of 10

Guest #2: Vice President of the United States Joe Biden

I got the impression that Biden's appearance was predicated on the fact that he once shared a scene with Poehler on Parks and Recreation, but I suppose that doesn't matter, he's an entertaining-enough guy, and Poehler helped facilitate his interview. Meyers gave Biden some goodnatured guff about all those photos (and .GIFs!) from the State of the Union Address; Biden talked about trains and made a solid #politicianjoke about how he'd originally planned to make a major announcement during his visit to the show:

...and then Poehler came through with the perfect punchline. 5.5 out of 10

Musical Guest: A Great Big World

Maybe Meyers should've gone with a more high-profile act for his first show? Or maybe not, I like knowing that Late Night will feature a good mix of performers; which seems implied by the fact that Kanye West is lined up to be musical guest #2. I would've appreciated a more upbeat song, though. 5 out of 10

Ummm, and that was about it! Overall, a pretty acceptable first outing. Even though he clearly has some work to do, Meyers will probably be fine. What'd YOU think?

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  • BigDog81 May 02, 2014

    Seth is not funny at all and this is really boring to watch. I find myself scrambling for the remote when he comes on as I can't stand to watch it.

  • RickSpyder Apr 22, 2014

    What a Lame pile of crap this show is ... i want to barf when they do the Guitar player sketches....Seth has the appeal of rotting road kill...i'll be suprised if this show lasts a few months...come on people vote with your remote

  • JT_Kirk Feb 26, 2014

    What amazed me was Meyers is STILL yelling jokes at the audience, despite the more intimate setting.

    Also, what's with the Stargate behind him? That was distracting as hell, is there gonna be an event horizon that looks suspiciously like a toilet flushing?

    Anyway, this seems like an overall accurate representation, minus the part where you said it was "pretty acceptable" - this was like watching someone eat tapioca pudding, they didn't choke to death but you didn't get to taste anything either.

  • IndianaMom Feb 26, 2014

    I laughed a lot. Really enjoyed it. Yes, the monologue sounded like Weekend Update, but that's probably because we've been hearing him do WU for so many years. The story about the flat tire was hilarious. Amy was funny as usual. I always like when hosts have their famous friends as guests. They both seem more comfortable and it's more fun for the viewer. Seth's really quick on his feet. Once he relaxes a little he'll do even better.

    As for the set, I think he's going for a "low-tech" feel. Very different from Jimmy Fallon's hashtags and already-famous band. The low-grade graphics and set give the show an "indie" feel, or something. Like those indie bands that have poor sound quality on their recordings but people love the rawness of it. Still, what Seth has is a huge improvement over Letterman's studio and set when he was host of Late Night.

  • MarthaPreston Feb 26, 2014

    I will try it out and see if he gets his groove ! I only watch Craig because a least he tends to throw out the format every once in while and mixes seriousness and fun when needed

  • Mj_ps3 Feb 26, 2014

    I thought he did much better than anticipated.

  • FilmFanatic Feb 25, 2014

    Seth was stiff, not particularly funny and sometimes he shouted a lot. With that been said, I think it was just nerves and he will improve over the next shows!

  • WhiteBoy41 Feb 25, 2014

    The set - desk & guest seat look like they are for Children. & Get rid of That Band !!!! Fred Armpit ! ....& Come on - What the ?

  • jtrolio Feb 26, 2014

    I disagree on Armisen—I think he could turn out to be one of the best parts of the show.

    As for the furniture choices, I'm a little on the fence about them; as I said in a different reply below, I think it's interesting that Meyers seems to have gone for kind of a midcentury feel. At first I thought the guest chairs looked uncomfortable, and that it was messy/distracting to see his feet/chair base because the desk on such high legs. But maybe those more vintage-y pieces are visual cue that Meyers is trying to create a throwback atmosphere, to kind of set the tone for a "classy" interview that's a little less goofy in style than Fallon tended to be.

  • WhiteBoy41 Feb 27, 2014

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  • JT_Kirk Feb 26, 2014

    Armisen is a distraction, he's better than the host. Musically though, it wasn't compelling any more than any late night band not named The Roots.

  • jaynashvil Feb 25, 2014

    It's next to impossible to determine anything based on a talk show's first night, or even first month. Conan, Letterman, Fallon were all pretty lame until they found their grooves. It takes a while on daily/nightly shows for them to figure out what they're about. I'll check back in a month and see how he's doing.

  • jtrolio Feb 26, 2014

    Fair enough! I definitely think both Meyers and the show will evolve over time.

  • SoulDig Feb 25, 2014

    Jen Trolio on, "Seth Meyers' First Late Night: How Did He Do"?
    Jen, you are an amazing writer and show critic! I thought your review was "My Sentiments exactly". Your deceptive breakdown of the show as well as the "one to ten point scale", couldn't have been more accurate. In short, I would simply say... "What She Said".
    What you did NOT include in your critique was the SET. Now, while I understand this might not be a big deal to some, I personally thought that the set looked "CHEAP" and "OUT of PLACE". I couldn't help but to wonder if the guest felt as uncomfortable sitting in those tight, cheesy, looking chairs as they looked. The host desk looks like the first one I bought in the 80s, at a yard sale but maybe "I just don't get it" and the "plain & simple" look is hip and just works for others with greater vision than me. I JUST CANT SEE IT!
    Maybe spend some of that budget used for the graphics Seth joked about (that we saw and enjoyed for a fleeting moment), on the SET, that we have to look at and the "A List" artist and host have to endure for the entire show... I'm Juss' sayin'!

  • jtrolio Feb 26, 2014

    Thanks for the kind words!

    I absolutely hear you on the set—I also raised an eyebrow at it, but never really figured out how to mention it when I was writing this at 2am.

    When Meyers first came out to do the monologue, I actually pictured those stage doors malfunctioning; the traditional curtain just seems so much easier, you know? And I do wonder if we'll see little tweaks and changes over time.

    Once thing I find interesting, however, is that Meyers appears to have gone for kind of a midcentury feel with his furniture choices. On one hand I thought the guest chairs looked uncomfortable, and that it was messy or distracting to see his feet/chair base because the desk on such high legs. But on the other hand, perhaps it's a visual cue that he's trying to create a throwback atmosphere, to kind of set the tone for a "classy" interview that's a little less goofy in style than Fallon tended to be.

    Here's hoping the graphics will get better, though!

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