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One Week Down: Late Night with Seth Myers

February 28, 2014

This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the debut of NBC’s new Late Night show with host Seth Myers. I’ve never been a dedicated viewer of late night talk shows, but of the ones I’ve watched Late Night has always been my favorite. I caught the tail end of the Letterman era, was most attached during the early years of Conan, came back to the show for a brief spell when Jimmy Fallon took over for Conan and am now watching again for the first time in 5 years or so. It’s not the Peacock that brought me in or the 12:30 time slot; I just always preferred the slightly younger, slightly edgier comedians that NBC used to host Late Night. Letterman was always pushing the envelope (well, compared to Leno anyway) and Conan followed that up with a genuinely odd but endearing sense of humor. And Fallon is as strange as … wait, that’s not right.

Jimmy Fallon is a fine host and I believe he’ll do well for years or even decades as the new host of The Tonight Show. He’s always been a little more Leno than Letterman though. Always eager to ingratiate himself to his guests, making the jokes that you’d expect, and the laughing – the man never stops laughing. I may be biased against him for all the skits he ruined on Saturday Night Live by breaking with laughter, but I always found him just a little to willing to please. Some people love that side of Fallon; others (including both me and Tracy Morgan) never did. You can’t deny however that Fallon makes both his guests and his viewing audience comfortable.

I have a feeling Seth Myers will do a little less of that. He’s super-likeable, so he won’t have any trouble succeeding on Late Night, and his years serving as anchor on SNL‘s “Weekend Update” have trained him well both for the opening monologue and for playing straight man, necessary while sitting in the host’s chair. At the same time his jokes are a little more biting, his humor a little more daring, and he has a sneaky way of smirking and smiling at the same time which laces his friendliness with a bit of mischief. A Time review of the opening night show said it well: “If Jimmy Fallon was (and is) your guitar-playing camp counselor, Seth Meyers is a little more like your wisecracking grad-student T.A.”

It’s becomes even more obvious when you consider his choice of band leader. Fred Armisen is almost the polar opposite of Questlove (of the Roots, Fallon’s house band). On night 1 Armisen, co-star of the out-there Portlandia,  talked with Myers about his made up show “Recent History”, and followed that up on night 2 by discussing his made up sport, “Statue Sport”. Clearly Myers has cast his lot with an unusual sidekick.

It’s going to take some time for Myers to get his feet under him. Fallon was pretty raw as host of Late Night when he first started but developed into someone who NBC handed the keys to the Tonight Show in less than a decade. So far it seems like he’s off to a really good start. Myers feels like he belongs. He may never have the broad appeal that Fallon does – he could even one day wind up on a cable network like Conan! – but for my money I’d rather watch Myers any day of the week. Including this past week.

And That’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.

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From → Television

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