Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Greg Iwinski

Promotional poster for LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS

Host Greg Iwinski is joined by Late Night’s Seth Meyers to talk about the spirit of 12:30 and how a diverse writing staff is essential to success – and to take a closer look at A Closer Look.

Seth Meyers is a writer, comedian, and author known for his work on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and as the host/writer of NBC’s LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS.

He was named one of the 2014 TIME 100, Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and has received numerous awards and accolades, over 30 Writers Guild and Emmy Award nominations altogether, a 2009 Peabody Award, and back-to-back Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Talk Show in 2020-21.

LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS is the fourth incarnation of the LATE NIGHT franchise. Each episode features monologues and news segments that add a comedic lens to that day’s biggest alongside a slate of guests that includes both A-list celebrities, as well as people not seen anywhere else in late night like political figures and other interesting newsmakers.

The series, which recently received its first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, airs weeknights on NBC at 12:37 AM.

Greg Iwinski is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and no-award-winning performer whose writing includes LAST WEEK TONIGHT and THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT. He recently finished writing the first season of GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES on HBO, and can be found on Twitter @garyjackson (external – opens in a new window).

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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producer & Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Intro: Hello, you’re listening to OnWriting, a podcast from the Writer’s Guild of America East. In each episode, you’ll hear from the writers of your favorite films and television series. They’ll take you behind the scenes, go deep into the writing and production process, and explain how they got their project from the page to the screen.

Greg Iwinski: Today, my guest is Seth Meyers, the host and executive producer of the Emmy nominated Late Night with Seth Meyers, now in its ninth season on NBC. In our interview, Seth and I talk about the spirit of 12:30, how a diverse writing staff is essential to success, and we take a closer look at A Closer Look.

Thank you so much for being on the show. I have a million questions for you. I’ll try to get to them all, but-

Seth Meyers: Okay, great.

Greg Iwinski: … excited about this. So first off, Late Night is nominated for best variety series. Congratulations for the Emmys.

Seth Meyers: Thank you.

Greg Iwinski: It is a great show. If you were going to sway the allegiances of Emmy voters with a swag bag, what would you bribe/swag them with?

Seth Meyers: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah. What kind of-

Greg Iwinski: There’s an unlimited budget in this situation.

Seth Meyers: Oh, interesting. I feel like you don’t want to… If the swag bag’s too good though, they think that you’ve got the kind of budget where the last thing you need is an Emmy. So I feel like you want to make it look a little threadbare and desperate, a little homemade, like maybe a little yarn Seth Meyers man, that looks like I made it. And they think, “Oh.” I mean-

Greg Iwinski: Like a little-

Seth Meyers: I think I would go more for a sympathy move than an actual bribe of like, “Oh, here’s new AirPod headphones.”

Greg Iwinski: Right. So like, “Here are some mugs we had. I signed the bottom.”

Seth Meyers: Shipped mugs, right. And then, I think I might include a note that said, “If we don’t get nominated, could you send this back.”

Greg Iwinski: With a self addressed stamp envelope or just-

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I think I would self address it, but I would say like, “Do me a solid and give me a stamp. I mean, it’s the least you could do.”

Greg Iwinski: Oh, okay. Yeah, “The stamp’s on you, the envelope’s on me,” that’s good.

Seth Meyers: I’ve done the self addressing, which I feel like everybody kind of overlooks and they just want to focus on the stamp part. But if I self address it, I feel like you can do the stamp.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. And so all these late night shows, I mean, I’ve worked at a couple shows and your show has an incredible legacy. Conan talked about how much The Tonight Show meant to him when he got it and dealt with it. This show goes from Dave, to Conan, to you. Do you see a through line in the spirit of Late Night as a show?

Seth Meyers: I don’t know if I do see a through line, but I will say of the franchises, this is the one that meant way more to me growing up because it started when I first started watching late night talk shows. Johnny Carson, who I came to have a far greater appreciation for as I got older, seemed like past what I thought was funny, whereas David Letterman didn’t. And then, I was in college for the Conan years. And then obviously, Jimmy was a former colleague and friend and so that was really fun to watch.

I don’t quite know what the through line is other than the fact that I feel like Late Night as a franchise, as opposed to maybe The Tonight Show works best when the host figures out what they want to do with it. And by being the second show on the network, there’s less influence from the executive saying, “Now what late night is…,” whereas I think that might happen, obviously I don’t know, but I feel like maybe when you get something like The Tonight Show or an 11:30 show anywhere, there’s a little bit more, not interference, but suggestion, whereas we have had neither of those.

Greg Iwinski: Well, and that dovetails exactly to my next question. I also grew up watching Conan. I had the benefit of being in Arizona, which timezone wise, it was on at 11:30. So it’s like Tonight Show at 10:30, so I could watch Conan with my dad and still be in bed in time. So I heavily grew up on that. And I’m a person who is obsessed with Late Night and walk around and talk to my three year old about the spirit of 12:30. Yeah, “Like 12:30 is different than 11:30 because it’s the weirdos who are still awake and shouldn’t be up.” Do you think that there is a 12:30, or like you said, that second show style of Late Night versus the kind of maybe more mainstream?

Seth Meyers: I do. I mean, it’s weird. Letterman was here in February for the 40th anniversary of the franchise. And I was saying to him that I feel like TV has changed more from when I got the show until now, than it did from when he had the show until I got the show. So again, people engage with the show online, there’s less time zone pressure in regards to what people are watching when. So it’s more about the fact there’s just another one of these shows in front of you. And so that is kind of the battering ram show that like busts through for the network. And then there you get to pick around and do the things that you most want to do.

But for us, finding the spirit of 12:30, I think took the pandemic more than anything else. I think that we feel more like what maybe a classic 12:30 show is now after having spent 20 months away from a studio audience. Because when you have no audience to play to night in and night out, it’s amazing the freedom that gives you to take giant creative swings.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I mean, I think the quote that I’ve seen either you or Shoemaker use before is that your brains broke in the pandemic.

Seth Meyers: Yeah. And everybody was nice-

Greg Iwinski: And I think that’s revealed in a lot of your content.

Seth Meyers: Yeah. And I think it’s more, it’s better timing to have your brains break at the same moment that everyone else’s brains are breaking for the same reason. You know what I mean? If we just started doing addict shows apropos of nothing, I don’t know if it would’ve worked as well. But I think that shared, I don’t know, it was a shared mayhem as opposed to mayhem that just came from us internally.

Greg Iwinski: Well, I think it did represent the moment as well in terms of, we’re all stuck. We all have cabin fever, attic fever. What lessons did you learn in the nuts and bolts of making the show when you had to make it at home? Because you don’t have 30 Rock and all the building and the cameras and cue cards and things?

Seth Meyers: I mean, really, as far as technical lessons, there was almost nothing I learned that would be worth passing. I mean, certainly will not be doing a masterclass on how to self produce. In fact, one of the nicest things that happened to me in the early days of the pandemic, which led to interacting more with our viewers online, is a guy basically made a YouTube video. It was very polite, where he said, “I really like these Late Night shows, but they’re so bad at filming at home.” And he goes, “As a YouTuber, I just have a few tips for them.” So it was that thing. It supposedly doesn’t exist on the internet, which was a very kind helpful man.

And then I reached out to him, he basically DM ed me. And then he led me through the pandemic with tips on the right kind of mic to use and the right kind of lights to use. And so that was great. I think the thing we learned, or I learned, which was more philosophical, was when I’m doing a show into an iPad for those whatever six months, a lot of people are just watching the show on an iPad. And so where it’s usually me and a studio audience and these studio cameras, I felt like there was almost no wall between me and the audience. And that closeness was the thing that we wanted to hold onto once we got the audience back in the studio.

Greg Iwinski: And one of the things I think that’s also changed, at least from my side, with pandemic stuff is more people writing remote. I mean, you were remote in the attic, but then came back. But there are still rooms and shows that are remote now and shows continue to happen. And I think I’ve seen positives from that in terms of getting to stay home or getting to work from a home office, but also drawbacks of not physically being there. What has your experience been with remote rooms and what do you see in the future in terms of remote writing? Do you think we’re ending it, we’ll end up going back to everybody being in person or that remote writing might be more of a thing?

Seth Meyers: I feel like remote writing has a pretty good future on a show like ours, where a lot of the writing is siloed off. I mean, I’ve never worked in a sitcom room, but it does seem like that might be more requiring of the tossing back and forth of ideas. Our monologue joke writers, they’re all just sort of going off on their own anyway. And A Closer Look is a very small group of us so that has worked out fine. It’s nice now that the three of us are in a room together when we’re working on it. But even in the pre pandemic days, when you walked into our writers’ room, which was a bullpen of about 15 writers, all their desks, it was very rarely what I think people picture of a writer’s room, which was sort of zaniness, people flying around paper airplanes. It was mostly people hunkered over their own keyboard doing their thing.

With that said, I would like it to be a place that people can come back to just because one of the nice elements of having a show like this is that you get to work with people who make you laugh, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that they’re making you laugh because you’re working on a sketch that makes you laugh. It’s just nice to be around funny people. That’s always been one of the upsides of working on a writing staff of a place like SNL, or any of the late night shows, is you get to go to work today with people who are brilliantly funny.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I mean, it is one of the best things when you sit back and go like, “I’m hanging out with all the funniest people and getting paid to do it.” It’s one of the upsides. I want to talk about A Closer Look. It’s a huge hit. I mean, it is a staple of the show, is A Closer Look in views and in attention and in what it’s doing that people weren’t doing before. How do you balance the explosion of A Closer Look with the rest of the show, because when it’s online, people can pick and choose and do those things, but you’re making a whole show every night?

Seth Meyers: Yeah. I mean, it’s been wonderful that A Closer Look has become a thing that we can count on doing three days a week. It takes a lot of pressure off the idea of how are we going to fill up the show every night. It does take up a lot of real estate. And so sometimes I wish we had another act every night where we could do stuff that was more sketch based or maybe more of a classic desk piece. But what we tried really hard to do is, within the body of A Closer Look, build in a lot of room for the silly bits that might not be self-sustaining if they were their own bits, but within the body of A Closer Look thrive.

We should never write a comedy piece around my terrible impressions, but my terrible impressions within A Closer Look, I think is a perfectly nice place to do it. But for me, it’s always been, and this was even from the very beginning when I didn’t quite have my sea legs. It always feels like the work of the show is over once we get to the guests, talking to interesting people and funny people, as long as you can get out of their way. That doesn’t feel like a part of the show that’s particularly burdensome to me.

Greg Iwinski: You talk about it having silliness in it. I think it ramped up in the pandemic. You didn’t have your sea legs, but you did have a sea captain.

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I did.

Greg Iwinski: And has that also helped, I think with the… There’s a relentlessness to heavy political news comedy, because it’s the worst people in the world doing the worst things in the world every day. And so has that provided maybe an outlet to that to make it easier to write, that you can dip into silliness?

Seth Meyers: Very much. Because again, we do want A Closer Look to be informative and Sal Gentile, who’s our head writer for that, does a great job. His first draft is very much, “I’m going to make a thesis statement. I’m going to present an argument. I’m going to come to a conclusion,” and he builds those bones so strongly that they can bear the burden of really dumb bits. Now I should note, Sal also loves writing those dumb bits. It’s not like he comes in and he’s like, “What have you done to my precious political writing?”

So we understand that if you put a lot of work into the veracity of what you’re doing and trying to make your point of view super clear, that sort of buys you the permission to load the silly stuff on top of it. And then it makes it both, for us, more fun to do, obviously the hope is, it’s more fun to listen to. I think everybody who’s engaging with A Closer Look, from the people who write it to the people who watch it are in agreement on how shitty a lot of things are. And so providing a little catharsis in there is one of the services we’re hoping to get across.

Greg Iwinski: Well, that brings up another question. I think I’ve watched thousands of hours of Trump. I mean, I think from 2018 to 2020, I watched every minute of everything he said. And so it raises a question too, where it’s like, “What does this do when we write these things that point out the hypocrisy and do that,” because I would love to tell my kids, I brought down a president, but if he wins in 2024, I’m going to have to throw that out the window.

Seth Meyers: Oh, yeah. I mean, well, it’s so funny because I’ve been through so many of these to know that comedy writing, to a point… I was at SNL in 2004, and playing John Kerry, it should be noted, with a great amount of charisma, but obviously, you know that. People aren’t watching, you made a real doubtful face.

Greg Iwinski: I think I did. I did.

Seth Meyers: I hadn’t grown in-

Greg Iwinski: I did a “Hmm,” as well.

Seth Meyers: I hadn’t grown as an impressionist yet. But then in 2008, SNL, not alone obviously, The Daily Show was also, it was like, what they did with Sarah Palin, that was the tipping point. But then of course, in 2016, it just goes to show you like, “Oh, I don’t know if our levers of power are as strong as anybody thinks.” I think what we tried to do then is, look, I don’t think Trump fans on any given night say, “Huh, you know what? I’m going to check back in on Seth Meyers. I feel like maybe he’s come around.”

But I do think there are people who are on the fence, right? Like, I mean, these elections are decided by 40,000 people, at least the last two, based on where they live. So maybe if you just lay out, you just really try to lay an argument, maybe it has some effect. But really the goal is to, in an entertaining way as possible, let people know they’re not the only ones who think this is also fucking crazy.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I mean, I think that catharsis is important. I think it also speaks to why it’s so important that diversity grows in late night. So that the number and group of people who are getting catharsis grows, because like the catharsis needed from a spate of police shootings is slightly different for maybe a group of black people versus white people. And the more people we have talking about that, the better.

Seth Meyers: Yeah. And that was a situation where we were so fortunate. During the George Floyd moment, not only did I not know what to say, I didn’t particularly think anybody wanted to hear what I had to say to begin with. And Amber Ruffin, who’s just a superstar writer and performer on our show. She did us the great service of emailing Shoemaker and I, and saying, “I can tell a story, a true story, about myself interacting with police.” And not only was it incredibly moving and resonant, I also just felt such relief to know, “Oh God, it’s so nice to work with somebody who, when the time comes, can actually step in and say, “This one’s not for you. This one’s for me.”

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Because I think, again, I’ve never been a white man, so I’m not going to make your culture, my costume.

Seth Meyers: You got to try it.

Greg Iwinski: Oh, I would love to, just give me one day. But there is a balance to be done because, I mean, like my wife is white and is an ally, at least as far as I know, and there is a thing where it’s like, you want white people to speak out against racism for you, but also realize, like you said, there’s a point at which it’s like, “Well, I’ve gone as far as I can. Now I see the floor.” And I think that even when you’re talking about things like jokes Seth can’t tell, there’s been a thing in the voice of the show that I think is pretty objective of you being able to say, “This is where I realize the limit I should be talking, and now these people will talk.” It’s a great thing to see in the field of late night. I don’t know. I don’t even have a question. I just appreciate it.

Seth Meyers: The other thing that’s really important to note is, you just don’t as a white comedy writer who obviously thinks all those things are great. You also just never even think to come up with them, right? Like your brain, like jokes I can’t tell which I get to be a participant in, like not in a million years would it have occurred to me as a bit. And yet the minute Amber and Jenny brought it to us, we all… A comedy writer’s mind could immediately appreciate like, “Oh, that’s a great idea,” and appreciate why it also worked on the level of just pure representation.

So it’s not just the jokes you can’t tell. It’s also like the ideas you’re never going to come up with, and to no fault of your own. We all have these lenses we see things through. And the older you get, you’re not going to develop new lenses. It’s far more better to just bring in a bunch of different sets of eyes.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. And I mean, and your room is a fairly diverse room, especially for late night. I mean, and I just know a couple people, Amber and Karen Chee and some of those people, but is that the benefit of diversity is that you’re getting, that’s what I would believe, is that you’re getting jokes from so many more places, even on the same news headlines.

Seth Meyers: 100%, and also, for us, it’s been helpful that with Jenny, with Amber, with Karen, with Jeff Wright, they’re also wonderful performers. Because it’s not just that they write good jokes for me, it’s far better that they can be on camera and present it from their perspective. And having that background at SNL, which was the entire, feels like, the first three acts in my career, but to work at that place and realize, at some point, it isn’t just about the writing, right? It’s also about the delivery system, which is what comedy’s always been, a great joke for one comedian is a bad joke for another, and it’s insane to pretend like it doesn’t matter. The joke’s good, it should work for whoever says it.

That’s never been the case. It’s crazy to say it has. And so the fact that we also have writers from different backgrounds who can get in front of camera and tell their story is so much better than if I was up there saying, “We have a writer named Dina Gusovsky who came here from Russia. And she was telling me…,” it’s just far better for Dina to get up there and be able to say that.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah, because I mean her experience, she said like, “Last year, the first time I’ve used a washing machine,” or like, “A dishwasher.” I remember I DM ed her like, “Is this a joke?” She’s like, “No, I didn’t have one. I was in Russia.” I was like, “Oh, okay, cool.”

Well, one thing that you have that I think is a 30 Rock thing are writers working and producing. So if you have a segment or a piece, you’re working on getting it done and obviously that helps a writer maybe moving forward if they’re going to produce something. But how do you think that helps their writing?

Seth Meyers: Oh, that’s such a good question. I do think that you just become a better writer to work with in regards to… You understand the limitations of what a production, what a crew, what department heads can pull off for you. And we, certainly, again, came up at SNL best in the business. A lot of the people who work here also have that SNL bloodline. They’re the best in the business, but they do have limits. And so, I feel like the longer you produce your own pieces, you write with a real clarity. You try to write in a way, certainly in the stage directions where you are answering questions, as opposed to presenting problems. And then you just try to meet people halfway. I think that we’re lucky enough to work with department heads who they’re going to break their backs, trying to do what you ask for.

But if they come to you and say like, “Hey, we actually can’t find a 12 year old girl who could do a back flip on roller skates.” Then you as a writer say, “Oh, I can take that part out then. I can come up with something else.” It teaches you how to be a collaborator. And the longer you go on in this business, that becomes a far, far more important calling card than almost anything else, is if someone could say, “Oh, not only are they a really talented writer, but they’re also really good to work with and they’re not stubborn to the place of never getting anything done.”

Greg Iwinski: I mean, I think that’s dead on. I’ve talked to starting writers and people submitting packets. And even at some places where I was the more senior writer, even about things like mockups, about going, “Hey, you know, if you give them a source image and in the script, you’re telling them what you want it to look like.” That’s so much easier for the graphics department than if you say like, “Hey, a funny explosion and Trump has a silly hat.” Then they have to find it. So thinking ahead of going, “This person’s going to have to work on my work. How do I make it easier for them?” Then you are building those relationships.

Seth Meyers: I am very lucky to have, especially with the graphics department, there are people in our graphics department who also work for SNL. And so, I’m now about two decades into working with them. And so I basically am giving myself permission to underwrite stage directions and them permission to crush it when it’s there. But the amount that I write, key, key meaning, the picture that’ll be over my shoulder in a joke. I’ll just write, “Key that, ?” and hope that they know based on the joke, I just told what I want the image to be.

So I have definitely picked up some bad habits, but it’s only over the course of knowing that they are so on top of it. I do think when you’re a new writer, the appreciation people have, because again, they’re great. Our department heads are great. They actually will learn the individual styles of the writers over time, which is why the sooner you can be specific about your style, the better off you’re going to be.

Greg Iwinski: I have one more question about A Closer Look, which is, do you have a plan for like if Sal gets sick or has a heart attack or the Mets win the World Series and he just is gone, how you’re going to do it?

Seth Meyers: Yeah. I would love to tell you we’ve got a rock solid plan, but at the same time, that would undervalue Sal to say that we would basically be able to just keep going business as usual. I think if you ever see, if A Closer Look ever devolves into me talking about how In Bruges is an underrated movie, you’ll know that Sal got hit by a bus.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. Yeah. Or he’s at the Mets parade if it happens.

Seth Meyers: I mean, it is written into his contract that he gets a week off if the Mets win the World Series. We feel pretty good. We’re not that worried.

Greg Iwinski: In the before times, he and I used to get drinks after work and talk either comedy or baseball.

Seth Meyers: Perfect. What’s your team?

Greg Iwinski: The Yankees.

Seth Meyers: Oh, wow. Congratulations.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I will say this. Since September 11th, the Yankees and the Diamondbacks have the same number of World Series.

Seth Meyers: Oh, wow, that makes me happy. There you go.

Greg Iwinski: Always good when a sentence this starts with since 9/11.

Seth Meyers: Well, even better when you somehow end it with a thing that brings me joy.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Okay. This is a small diversion, but I love Studio 60, the show Studio 60. And I know, you know it, and some people hate to love it. Some people love it. I own it on DVD and on digital. And you have dropped references like, “But what was it like to be at Saturday Night Live when Studio 60 came out?

Seth Meyers: Oh, are you asking?

Greg Iwinski: Yes, because you were three years in, I think.

Seth Meyers: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It was-

Greg Iwinski: What was that like?

Seth Meyers: Well, what was it like? I mean, it was a thing, I remember my mom saying, and I didn’t watch Studio 60 except for a few episodes, but I remember the first episode ended with that Gilbert and Sullivan me, type. Yes, it did. And my mom, I remember my mom saying, “Oh, why doesn’t SNL do anything like that?” And that completely informed my feeling towards Studio 60, which was a genuine feeling of resentment and rage. I should note, it was too early in my time at SNL to view it through a fair lens, because I didn’t have my own footing there. And so anything that, I don’t know, framed it as a different show than the one I was working on, made me angry. I should go back and watch it. You know what I was thinking about it the other day, because we had the lead of that wonderful new show, The Bear and Jeremy Allen White was on the show. And I do feel like people who work in restaurants might feel the same way about The Bear that I felt about Studio 60.

Greg Iwinski: That’s fair. Yeah, my mom, who was a nurse for 30 years, when ER came on, she would just leave the room in that same way. I mean, what’s weird is, for me, as a young guy who hadn’t gotten into comedy writing yet, I watched Studio 16 and thought, “Well, that must be how it is.”

Seth Meyers: Yeah. I should note the other thing is, I love the way Aaron Sorkin writes. I love that cast. And so really the only reason I could write off now for not being fully in on it is this sense that it hurt my feelings somehow, that I can’t quite put my feelings on… I guess, just that my mom thought we should do a Gilbert and Sullivan’s song.

Greg Iwinski: That’s fair. Because SNL exists in the Studio 60 universe, would it be a huge hindrance to have a show come out Friday nights, like a day before?

Seth Meyers: Oh, so if we were SNL and there was a show as big as SNL that came on.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Studio 60 shoots in LA Friday nights live.

Seth Meyers: That reality would be so much worse than the reality that there was a show called Studio 60, like a fictional show. If there was a real Studio 60 that was filming in LA on Friday nights and then we had to like deal with the fallout of what they did. That would’ve been far worse. So now I embrace Studio 60’s existence because it did happen in a fictional universe as opposed to the one I live in.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Speaking of fictional universes, you have created one with Corrections, the jackal universe. I don’t know what it is technically called.

Seth Meyers: The Correction. Yeah, the Correction Cinematic Universe, some version of that.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. Now, it is a staple of my Friday, it is one of my favorite things you’ve ever done. But could you explain to someone who might not know what Corrections is, what it is?

Seth Meyers: How dare you put me in this position? So Corrections is filmed Thursday after the studio audience leaves. And it is me addressing every YouTube commenter who pointed out an error over the course of the previous week’s shows. And I read all the YouTube comments myself, and I just keep a running list of the errors and then I address them to camera, and it basically feels like I’m doing a weekly standup set about my own show.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. Yeah, I mean, it is. And it’s incredible to watch and there’s actually been a lot of press about it because it’s also Emmy nominated-

Seth Meyers: Oh, thank you very much.

Greg Iwinski: … which is great. What was it like telling Shoemaker, you wanted to submit it for the Emmys?

Seth Meyers: Well, it was last year, it was nominated last year as well, but it was really funny because I just walked in to his… I mean, a lot of the thing about Corrections is how much Shoemaker and I just laugh at the very idea that it exists. But I did walk in and say, “Hey, I think Corrections might be Emmy eligible. And so we submitted it last year. So I have to admit, I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but last year that was the only nomination for the show, was Corrections.

And I was, I admit, I was slightly disappointed that the show didn’t get nominated. And because of that, I didn’t quite appreciate how great it was that Corrections had gotten nominated. So this year, obviously we were over the moon to get nominated and then the fact that Corrections got it again, I think it really allowed me to step back and say, “Oh, it’s really cool that… One, this thing exists. Two, that I get to do it every week because it’s so much fun to do. And three, that enough people recognize it, that it got a nomination.

Greg Iwinski: And people have talked a lot in the press about Corrections, about that it is different than other Late Night in that now in the political era, stuff is made to be piecemeal picked up. So I could watch one A Closer Look or I could watch one monologue segment, and it’s on its own. I don’t need to know anything. And Corrections is kind of doing old school Late Night, where there are characters coming back, and callback jokes, and a lot of inside knowledge and stuff that you will only wink to and give no explanation for, that to know, you had to watch Corrections 10 weeks ago. Was that intentional or did that develop as you kept building Corrections?

Seth Meyers: Nothing about Corrections was intentional. It is a growing, living thing and I feel like we’re just holding on to its tail of following it where it goes. But we certainly have never stepped back and said, “How can we make Corrections fun for people who are just joining us?” It was a little bit, growing up reading comic books, I feel like, I can still remember the first comic book I took off a rack, which is like a Green Lantern comic book. And then you read it, and what I loved about it as a kid, was not only did I want to see what was going to happen next week, but I wanted to go back, go buy back issues to understand what had happened the week that I read it. And so to some degree, that is what Corrections is.

I think it’s fun if you watch it, but it’s more fun if you watch all of them. I know this is a terrible sales pitch. Like there’s only 50 and they’re all 20 minutes. But the thing about it is, people will often say, “What’s a good one to watch?” And I’m always like, “Well, this one’s great, but it’s got a callback joke to one seven episodes previous.” But the reason it works is the captive audience for it every week is the crew. So at least I know that any joke I make, even though it might be missed by people who are watching it, will be enjoyed by people who are there. And I will say, because of that, when I make a callback joke that doesn’t even work with the crew, I know that I’ve actually done the reverse of comedy, whatever that is.

Greg Iwinski: I mean, I do think a crew laugh is a true test for some first shows where you’re doing that many jokes every week. When the crew laughs hard at something, you know that it works. But what I love so much about Corrections is that it, not to get back to the spirit of 12:30, but there is that late night thing that’s like, “I’m up very late,” like a lot of young people and people with weird jobs and things like that so you feel like you’re in a weird club where it’s like, “Well, I understand this con callback.” I understand these things like this fake serial, these are things that now from the fans, you get to create this group of like the Corrections fans. And it creates a sense of community when so much online community is toxic and horrible, this is kind of a… I mean, they’re toxic to you in correcting everything you do, but in terms of with each other.

Seth Meyers: But it’s play toxic. It really is. People say, “I don’t believe you read all the comments. How could you suffer through it?” And I will say there’s a little bit of that when I read through the comments on A Closer Look, for sure. But the Corrections comments is just everybody playing their part. And so, they’re pretending to be mad about a mistake that they then know I will pretend to be mad that they were mad about. And it is just fully crowdsourced whereas you have to pay attention to the news to write A Closer Look. The only thing you have to pay attention to write Corrections is last week’s Corrections. And yeah, it’s really fun. And it’s also, it’s the final homage to that time we spent in the studio without an audience.

And I remember when the audience came back, I was certainly hesitant about it. I didn’t know how it would feel. I think a lot of people at home, I remember when I announced the audience was coming back, they were in the comments saying, “I love what the show was without an audience.” And so, Corrections, it’s our final way of like, “Hey, remember what it was like, that weird time. Well here, good news. We do have an audience back, but also good news, here’s 20 minutes that’ll remind you about that time when it was just me in an echoey studio with my crew.”

Greg Iwinski: I mean, yeah. I think my favorite comment that you read was the person who was like, “Get back to the politics. Let’s get back to the serious stuff. America’s burning and you’re joking about the Thornbirds.”

Seth Meyers: My other favorite thing about Corrections, and, well, let’s be honest, I got a lot of favorite things about corrections. But I like that I can make a joke about a crew member and the crew laughs. And without giving any context to the people at home, I feel like they know… It’s funny to them because they can tell the crew wouldn’t have laughed if it wasn’t funny. And so, when I’m lucky enough in life to cross paths with a jackal, nothing makes me happier when they… You’ve met Mike Shoemaker. He is actually not like the persona I’ve created for him in Corrections, but it does make me happy that some people think he is really like that.

Greg Iwinski: Are you safer on Mikey the Shoe?

Seth Meyers: Yeah. He’s safer at him.

Greg Iwinski: We only have a little bit of time. I have a couple of quick questions, one of which is, you have one of the most stable writers rooms in late night. I know this as a late night writer. I know as someone who loves your show and all late night writers know each other. What do you attribute that to, that it’s so solid?

Seth Meyers: Well, I mean, I do think it’s a really nice place to work. I do think that what we ask of our writing staff is to write the stuff that they think they would write better than anybody else. We don’t sort of push them, or I should say, we don’t point them towards a target as much as ask them to do the thing that nobody else is doing. And so hopefully, don’t get me wrong, I think there’s still frustration because sometimes you might do that perfectly and then it gets to our desk and it’s not for us that week, right? And so it’s not that we do everything everybody writes, but we do try to create space where they can write the thing they most want to write. And more often than not, that ends up being the thing we most want to do on the show.

It’s a supportive group of people and we’re really happy with them. So as long as they’re happy with us, we are glad that they’re still here. We always hope that their next chapter will be something exciting for them that they’ll graduate to. We do want this to be everybody’s first stop on a long and fruitful comedy writing career. And so that’s why, for us, when somebody like Michelle Wolf goes on to her next thing, we’re really sad when she goes, but it makes us so happy to watch the things that she does after. And hopefully, that’s the future for everybody on our writing staff right now.

Greg Iwinski: That’s great. A couple other segments in your show. So day drinking, the story is that you almost killed Lorde.

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I think Lorde-

Greg Iwinski: She had to get an IV.

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I think Lord took it the worst.

Greg Iwinski: Had to go to the hospital after. So how do you prep for that? Is it like laying down carbs before you’re drinking or what’s the prep like?

Seth Meyers: I think most of my prep for day drinking is having gone to a Midwestern University during the binge drinking nineties. You know what I mean? I don’t do much prep. I mean, I will say I go into them with a great amount of dread because it’s not, obviously, our writers do a great job of building premises or games, but I don’t know where the comedy’s going to come from. It’s a little bit like doing an improv scene. And the way I used to feel before I did an improv scene was that doubt that anything was going to be funny. Now what’s nice about it is like, 30 minutes into day drinking. I have drowned the part of me that doubts. And then like a really good improviser, I’m totally in the moment.

But they’re really fun to do. I mean, we have to space them out because I don’t think they’re particularly healthy to do, but we’ve been very happy with how they’ve turned out. And one of the hardest things these days is getting, because there’s so many great talk shows and people do such media tours, even when you have a great interview with someone, it’s very hard to have the best interview with someone when they do their press tour. But if you do day drinking, I think you get to see a version of Lorde or a version of Post Malone that maybe you wouldn’t have seen if you were just on the desk with them.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. It’s a truly unique interview experience. I will say the part that you do where you just mix stuff to make drinks, that’s choosing chaos. As someone who’s had Chicago drinking experiences. You can just pick one thing and just go all night. The mixing is terrifying to me.

Seth Meyers: The mixing is by far the worst part. I will say, I think I was still more knocked out by doing hot ones than I ever was by one of my own day drinkings. So just know that there is a worse path forward.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. And so, we are out of time, unfortunately. I could talk to you all day about Late Night and comedy. But my last question is, is there anything that you had hoped we’d talk about that I didn’t ask you?

Seth Meyers: Gosh, I thought this went really well, got day drinking in at the end. I don’t think I have any, yeah, I have no regrets. I really enjoyed this as well. Thank you so much for the time.

Greg Iwinski: It’s been great. It’s been great. Thanks.

Seth Meyers: All right. Thanks so much.

Outro: OnWriting is a production of the Writer’s Guild of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer, tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stockboy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America East online at You can follow the Guild on all social media platforms at @wgaeast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening, and write on.

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