The ways we consume media have changed tremendously over the last decade. Shows with live audiences, perhaps more than any other type of program, had to pivot virtually almost overnight when the pandemic started. That certainly was the case with “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” As viewers have more sources for entertainment now than ever before, the show had to find creative ways to keep fans engaged and entertained. Lucky for us, Seth Meyers, the affable host of the show bearing his name, joins to discuss what he thinks about the future of entertainment and comedy, why he felt closer to the audience while hosting from home and more.
Note: This is a rough transcript — please excuse any typos.
Seth Meyers: There was a whole year where we were putting in punchlines about the Mets because it worked with the nine Mets fans who were running cables and working cameras and the security guards and I think that the audience at home even for people in Europe who don't get Mets jokes.
Chris Hayes: Right.
Seth Meyers: They got that the joke wasn't the Mets joke.
Chris Hayes: No.
Seth Meyers: The joke was that I was a comedian who was pandering to the only nine people in the room.
Chris Hayes: Right.
Seth Meyers: The show just took on a new dimension because of that.
Chris Hayes: Hello and welcome to Why Is This Happening with me your host Chris Hayes. Really big day today, we're excited to launch our first ever kind of thematic miniseries, a special four part miniseries we're calling The Future Of. The idea of it goes like this, for me I have found it increasingly difficult to think about the future in a way that doesn't feel bleak.
I'm laughing because that's my coping mechanism for that fact, but been kind of a rough few years, I'm speaking to you right now as there's a land war on Europe, following the once in a century pandemic, and American democracy under assault and IPCC report, issuing increasingly frenetic and dire warnings about our climate future.
So it's very easy to get into a sort of dystopic frame of mind, but I also think that dystopia is enervating. I think that dystopia makes us feel hopeless and glum and like we can't build a better world and I think that we can build a better world. And I think even if we can't build a better world, we should think about how we would build a better world because that's the only way we retain a possibility of building a better world.
Let's think about what a better future would look like and we've got answers to that question and more with this really sort of interesting and eclectic lineup of guests, including Cathie Wood, who's founder, CEO and CIO of Ark Invest, authors and podcasters Anne Freeman and Aminatou Sow, and Jonah Goldman, who's a Managing Director of Breakthrough Energy. You may know Breakthrough Energy as the network that's backed by Bill Gates and public and private partners trying to get to net zero emissions by 2050.
But first up in our series, someone who I consider a friend, and colleague, and I'm an admirer of his work and someone who I think has been navigating this moment in entertainment as well as anyone else's we come off this once in a century pandemic, this insane disruption to the basic contours of how entertainment works, about how comedy works, about how communicating to audiences on various platforms works, I thought the best person to talk to you about broadly the kind of future of entertainment, like how are we going to talk to people, communicate to people, entertain, make people laugh across platforms in this new age, as we come out of the pandemic, the best person to talk to about that is my friend, Seth Meyers of Late Night with Seth Meyers.
And without further ado, here's our conversation on the future of entertainment, and a lot more.
So Seth, you're back. You're back in 30 Rock. You're back in front of an audience.
Seth Meyers: Yes. We did it.
Chris Hayes: You did it. Well, it's funny because it was interesting to watch the trajectory of Late Night during this period, because it's so dependent on a bunch of formal pillars like the desk, the suit, the crowd, the band. These are all the things that comprise the genre that is Late Night.
Seth Meyers: Yes.
Chris Hayes: Then one by one, they were taken away and I felt like it was fascinating to watch you guys reinvent it, because literally the things that were the signifiers to the audience, you are watching Late Night, from a genre perspective, were not available so you guys had to do something else.
Seth Meyers: It's interesting because the audience went along with it, which was the best part and I don't know if they would have had, there been no pandemic and just one of us chose to do it this way.
Chris Hayes: Hey, it's me in a T-shirt in my room.
Seth Meyers: Yes. Or I'm going to do it from an attic and I think that's what people want to watch. But, again, it's that necessity is the mother of invention, am I saying that right?
Chris Hayes: Yup.
Seth Meyers: That forced us all to not just retreat from the studios for health and safety reasons, but also figure out a way to still make the show. My personal journey through it after a lot of technical hiccups and those headaches, I felt closer to the audience that I'd ever felt before, because I was just doing it alone into an iPad and I have come to the conclusion that most people when you do a show like mine are maybe they're watching it on TV, but often they're watching it off an iPad, often they're watching it off their phone and almost all the time, they're watching it alone at 12:30 on a weeknight.
I don't think it's a communal viewing experience for a lot of people and so it felt like me in a room with a lot of people who were in a room. Without that audience of 180 people, which had sort of been this buffer between us, there was this real connection. That grew from the fact that the only way I could find out what people thought about the show was reading YouTube comments, which had some, look, you had to get through some stuff but have been--
Chris Hayes: Wait. Wait. I have a bit about YouTube comments. I'm going to give you my 30-second bit about YouTube comments, which is that when the apocalypse happens and the aliens land at the planet, charred that if they ever find the YouTube comments, they'll be like, oh, well, clearly this is what these people are headed towards. That's uncharitable.
Seth Meyers: That is uncharitable. Look, you have to do some sifting, but the YouTube comments for my show now are far more positive place, partly because I have encouraged people to criticize the show and this, again, totally born out of a pandemic, but I do this thing now every Thursday after we tape our last show of the week called Corrections, which is just on YouTube where I go through 20 different things that people have complained about over the course of the week and address them, but it's done sort of lovingly.
I'm fake mad at them for being jackals and I think they appreciate that there's a thing just for them.
Chris Hayes: Well, you've built a community there, that's the key. It's not drive by and I think it's so fascinating to hear you say this, because one of the things when you talk to comedians, they'll talk about the word in comedy world right is room, like that's a good room, that's a bad room.
Seth Meyers: Yeah.
Chris Hayes: The reason for that is there is a dynamic interplay fundamentally in comedy between the person selling jokes, and the people laughing and that's irreplaceable to a certain level. What you're saying is you built a new room, like you basically built a virtual room.
Seth Meyers: Yes, and I think the Metaverse is going to work. No, I don't know. Again, this is why and I should say hashtag ad, this is why the future Facebook - no - but you're right, we established rules and the deal was if you want to come have a good time and be a part of this weird play acting, you guys nitpick and I will respond and we'll have a really fun time doing it.
Even when we talk about rooms, it was the room for a long time for a year almost was just the crew and they were their own kind of room. But the audience at home I understood the rules of that and so there was a whole year where we were putting in punchlines about the Mets it worked with the nine Mets fans who were running cables and working cameras and the security guards. I think that the audience at home, even for people in Europe who don't get Mets jokes.
Chris Hayes: Right.
Seth Meyers: They got that the joke wasn't the Mets joke.
Chris Hayes: No.
Seth Meyers: The joke was that I was a comedian who was pandering to the only nine people in the room.
Chris Hayes: Right.
Seth Meyers: The show just took on a new dimension because of that and another thing that has happened, you know this, but we used to tape our show at 6:30, because of that extra time we would do a test audience. The test audience was just 40 people in 30 Rock that we would round up and I'd read the monologue off paper, and then I would read a closer look in - I was going to say in street clothes, in what now are my show clothes, but then was dressed down.
Chris Hayes: Right. Not, I should say, like I've watched this on the closed caption of the monitor inside, it's really interesting, because you're kind of going at half speed almost, like you're not performing it. You're sort of just going through it, so it's a sort of interesting thing to watch.
Seth Meyers: Yes. It was enough to set a level for knowing what jokes worked versus other jokes. But part of that was those 40 people were the least likely to go for the most esoteric jokes. They were often Norwegians who were on their way from the Lego store to the tree. By losing that test audience, we then had to put our faith in the jokes we liked, which now we do with a lot more confidence after having done the show for two years with no audience. Like we know what works now and in a weird way, sometimes we have to weather those moments where the joke doesn't work in the room, because we value that at home audience more because they're the ones that are more likely with us every day.
Chris Hayes: It's so fascinating, because when you come back to it like you have these two audiences and I found I have a tiny little experience with this, not in a comedy space where we did this live show. There were times we're modulating what is for them in the room. They're not the actual audience because you're broadcasting to million people, but because you're a performer, all you want is what those eyeballs in that space give you. That's everything and I would even watch.
I would be up there and I'd be like, "That monologue killed. It killed. Like I saw I had them." Then I go back and I'd be like, whoa, that was a lot. You need to calm down, because the medium back through the through the screen is very different in that room.
Seth Meyers: One of the things that our producer Mike Shoemaker always says is because especially in the early days of the show, that was when I lived and died a lot more on good crowd, bad crowd. But rough show, tough Thursday show I'm going to have a bad weekend and he would say, "You really can't tell when you watch it." Like the sound of the audience flattens out at a level that I don't think people at home are thinking, whoa, they were off the charts.
That's why you can't get too plugged into the audience because people at home aren't even experiencing that feeling of, well, it was rocking in the house.
Chris Hayes: Not only that. It's like I've had exactly the same trajectory in my time doing this daily show. It's so iterative. It's like whenever I see interviews with like athletes, particularly baseball players, and they're just like, yes, you go off the floor, then you got to come back the next day. Like if you're going to be upset that it's not going to work, you got to go back. But it's also like from the viewers' perspective, it's like it's a delicious cheeseburger and they like it and they like to eat it. You're like, "Ah, there were supposed to be three pickles and not two." Then they're just like, "This is yummy. I love this. This is great. Thanks."
Seth Meyers: Right. Also it's not also it's not episodic television, where if episode three has a plot hole, it's just going to spin out of control by episode 17.
Chris Hayes: Exactly.
Seth Meyers: We have built shows where we get to start with a clean slate every day, so that is lovely. Also lovely though is we've started building in like runners over the course of a week. Like things that would build dumb jokes that we would talk about for a whole week because the in-studio audience there's less of a chance they watch yesterday's show than the people at home. The people at home who watch on Tuesday probably watch Monday. I can't say that with certainty.
But a lot of times the people in the studio, maybe they like me from SNL, maybe they do like the show. But there's a chance they're not going to get the Monday call back when you do it on Wednesday. So it was fun to build in a little bit of cinematic universe stuff.
Chris Hayes: We'll be right back with more of our future of entertainment conversations after we take this quick break.
Chris Hayes: Here's another question, this is a lot of technique stuff but I'm obsessed with this. I'm particularly obsessed like the general premise here is that we really have gone through a once in a century experience. Because we're humans and we're good at acclimating, I think we all know that and we make jokes about it and we deal with it. But I think we don't really wrestle with like, whoa, we really went through a thing. It's going to change a lot what's on the other side.
One of the other things I'm interested in is the other place where people use the room in comedy is the room of writers, which is a very, again, like it's a culture and you all order lunch together, and you're joking with each other, and obviously this is dramatized on 30 Rock a little bit and in other places. But how that changed being remote, like the dynamics of comedy collaboration writing, when people aren't in the same place?
Seth Meyers: I mostly have deep empathy for people who are at that part of their career. I'm sort of past the collaborative part of it.
Chris Hayes: Of course. Yes.
Seth Meyers: Most of the writing I do now is solitary rewriting, so it hasn't affected me that much. If anything less people knock on my door, which is not the worst thing in the world. But I feel bad that our writers aren't all together right now. I feel terrible for the current SNL writers because they haven't fully come back to their sort of classically collaborative workplace environment. That was the one that was mirrored on 30 Rock.
I can't imagine having worked there, for everything I went through emotionally to not have the comfort of being surrounded by a group of writers. That I do hope comes back for people who are at that part of their career. I have friends who work on episodic comedy writing and they say doing it on Zoom is the worst. It was so much better to be in a room because then you get the residual fun when you're not trying to break a story thing, somebody starts doing a bit or makes you go watch a YouTube video you've never seen. That's better than the mic.
Chris Hayes: Well, I have to say as someone who has been a solitary writer in my youth, because I was writing articles, you just do that by yourself, that the experience I've had like I've been co-writing this TV project with a friend and like that collaborative part is fun. The socialization, the camaraderie, the jokes you do in between stuff, all of that and it also kind of fires things creatively in a way that like I've written books and I've written articles and that sort of real solitary authorial locked in a place is just a totally different headspace.
Seth Meyers: Right. Plus, you have to come to conclusions.
Chris Hayes: Yes.
Seth Meyers: It wasn't like you were just writing short fiction where it didn't matter. Those things when they're online, they're in it forever, Chris. I don't know if you knew that.
Chris Hayes: Oh, I do. I do. The YouTube part of this is interesting, so you've come back and you've sort of like how did you choose - again, these are technical questions, but it's the kind of thing I'm obsessed with - how did do you choose what of the pandemic era, Seth, gets carried over into now - even though we're still in the pandemic - and what gets left behind and how intentional were those choices?
Seth Meyers: There was a choice not to bring any bits with us. We had this, I should note, it wasn't like an A plus bit or anything, very polarizing talking sea painting cap--
Chris Hayes: I was about to say. The iconic pandemic bit of the Seth Meyers show.
Seth Meyers: Which was basically despised from the minute we started it.
Chris Hayes: I personally loved, but--
Seth Meyers: Yeah and I hear about it. It's the perfect outcome which is people tell me all the time they want me to bring it back and they're all wrong but it means the world to me. I wish they were right. They're not right.
Chris Hayes: Will you explain what the bit is just briefly?
Seth Meyers: I was doing a show at my in-laws house, that was the second location. I did attic, then I did in laws house. They had the sea captain painting. Again, I don't know anything about set dressing and I'm thinking what's a good backdrop. This will be the nautical theme part of the pandemic. You know Sal who writes Closer Look, Sal Gentile?
Chris Hayes: Yeah.
Seth Meyers: I, one day, just decided I was going to have the sea captain say something and then I texted Will Forte and I was like we record this line and he immediately sent it back. When I say animated, you just make the mouth move on the painting.
Chris Hayes: Yes. Part of the bit, by the way, which is part of what makes it funny.
Seth Meyers: Yes. It was the Pee-wee's Playhouse thing of the show and we loved it. We really loved it. It made us deeply happy. It was one of those things that in a crazy time felt like the right way to treat what we're going through, which was we're going to make the sea captain talk.
We did want to bring something like that back with us, because it was of that moment and we were really happy with it. But we wanted to bring back the space we had given ourselves then to come up with something like that. I think that once we got back in the studio before we had an audience back, Wally became the new sea captain. Wally is the cue card guy for our show as well as SNL.
Also, Wally is genuinely good on camera and really funny and so I started talking to Wally and then we started writing lines for Wally. We're always cognizant of the fact that the worst thing we would do is over expose Wally.
Chris Hayes: Right.
Seth Meyers: But that's that kind of freedom to make these choices and then the biggest thing was, over the course of the pandemic, we started taking these wild turns within the body of the Closer Look. Closer look is - you know Sal's writing style - it's very much. I'm going to lay out a premise, I'm going to support the argument, I'm going to come to a conclusion. He's got a really unique and special writing style for Late Night comedy.
Yet within the body of it over the course of the pandemic, we started taking weird curly cues, and tangents and doing impressions but always finding our way back to it. That was something that we never would have started trying to do in front of an audience. But because we were away from an audience and because we were appreciative of the fact that everybody was a little crazy, that there would be room to do it and people watching it wouldn't think I'd gone crazy. They would think I know exactly what's happening here. It's happening to me too. I'm having crazy thoughts all day long.
Because it was the comedy of being cooped up and so in a way that we were taught how to write it, the audience was taught how to watch it and I think we all enjoyed it, so we decided to bring it back with us when we came back and it was scary. That first week that an audience was back, we didn't know how it would go. The first show with an audience back was the most emotional show I feel like I had done here, maybe top five, but not because, oh, I'm so happy an audience is back. It was the moment I realized, oh, you're the audience that was watching while we were gone. Like you're not an audience, you're our audience and that was the best feeling ever.
Chris Hayes: Wait, there's so many things I want to say. One is that the Will Forte Day Drinking, I don't know what it is. I laughed so hard.
Seth Meyers: I feel the burden in Day Drinking and why it's very stressful is I feel as though I have to find the comedy in the moment where all I was.
Chris Hayes: Right, because it's not scripted. You're just there, and the camera is rolling, and then the bit is that you guys are having drinks in the day and you want it to be funny.
Seth Meyers: Yes. I'm a control freak and yet I'm drinking more so I'm losing control, and so there's no sense of how it's going. Whereas with Will, I just felt like an audience from the second it start.
Chris Hayes: People should watch it, it's up on YouTube. There's a bit in which Will has to make you break. It's just extremely funny.
Seth Meyers: One thing that's jarring about that, he gets very close to me--
Chris Hayes: Yes. I mean, one of his recurring bits to get you to break is to come within basically half an inch of your lips with his face and it's very effective.
Seth Meyers: Yes. A lot of the feedback online from that is that I maybe don't have any cartilage in my nose, because at one point he gets really close and my nose does - I hadn't noticed it - my nose does like fold in half like a paper airplane wing.
Chris Hayes: Well, Day Drinking is interesting, because it's like, again, I think you're doing comedy in this very like, again, this very kind of, I think, previously sort of genre-bound container, the Late Night show which has a very specific set of formal elements. But because of the pandemic but also because of the world we live in, like you get to do other stuff in these different environments kind of across platforms and Day Drinking is sort of a perfect example of that where like you can't do that in the Late Night show. It's its own kind of thing. It exists in another place. How did how did that come about?
Seth Meyers: We always struggled to figure out how to do stuff out of the studio and the problem is that I don't like not having a script. I'm an improviser, but I don't like improvising with strangers.
I remember we went out once on St. Patrick's Day to shoot something and as I walked out, all I could think was, I'm sure Letterman did this better. I'm sure Conan did this better. I'm sure Jimmy did this better. I'm uncomfortable, I don't know like being around people, I don't like any of this.
We basically, to some degree, turned around and went home and then we've done some really great scripted things out of the studio sketches like Boston accent or white savior. But those are a lot of production. They take a lot of time. We can only do about one a year. So Day Drinking came up originally, because my brother and I we thought it'd be fun if he and I went out and we shot the two of us and then we did one with my mom and then there was Retta, the really funny comedian who said she wanted to do one.
That sort of opened the gates and now I will say post Rihanna, the Day Drinking problem we have is a lot of people want to go Day Drinking and I'm constantly reminded by my wife about the current age of my liver and the fact that now is not the time to take a binge drinking again.
Chris Hayes: Can we book five next week? Can we book five?
Seth Meyers: Also, I will say I'm very proud of myself, because, again, this has nothing to do with me, this has to do with Rihanna, everybody of any age watches Rihanna do something and they think that's a cool thing to do. Because of that, a lot of really young, beautiful women have said, oh, I'd love to do that. I think that at some point it's not fun watching a man my age get drunk, even though I would be nothing but gentlemen. It would just be a gross thing to watch.
Chris Hayes: Yeah.
Seth Meyers: I would not misbehave.
Chris Hayes: No. Yeah, right. No, I think that's right and I think it's a great bit. I think about this a lot like you you're a writer in SNL and then your head writer at SNL. Maybe I'm misreading this, but here's my sort of feeling about things; like I think for a long time there was a fairly constrained, Seth, of what comedy, who did comedy and what that sort of world of comedy was and there was a very clear hierarchy with, I think, SNL writer being a very near the top and writers on those Late Night shows.
It just feels like it's a real thousand flowers blooming now and I'm just curious to get your thoughts on sort of what's changed in a universe in which there's a million shows and there's more comedy than ever. I also feel like comedy just has this ubiquitous presence in the culture, partly like podcasts. I mean, it's sort of everywhere, all the time, even on TikTok. If I'm on TikTok, you're seeing stand-up bits all the time. Random people, I don't even know.
Seth Meyers: Yes. That's what I feel as though I've even aged out of appreciating how much comedy is a part of TikTok, not just new comedians are finding their way in TikTok, but old material is finding its way back on TikTok. It is nice to know that good content will always find a home, you just hope that good content creators are properly compensated for it.
Chris Hayes: Totally, yep.
Seth Meyers: Because I do feel as though what used to be a back end is now some teen lip synching on TikTok and they got a billion views, so that part is a little scary. I mean, it's great that there are more creators out there telling different stories. The scarier part is just shorter seasons. Being a writer on TV show doesn't mean what it used to mean. It's almost a part-time job, so that's the part it's almost that as soon as it becomes diverse and for everyone, it becomes worse job. The timing of it is the part that seems deeply unfair.
Chris Hayes: The thing I say to people who are young journalists is that what I have watched in my life happened in journalism is for it to go from a career a little like being like a school principal. Like a good and prestigious job, but like a middle-class job that like people in your town might have had to being an actor. Like there's always going to be actors and there's thousands, hundreds of thousands of actors, but there's a real pyramid of success in acting.
It's very hard to sustain basically a middle-class job in Columbus, Ohio as an actor, right?
Seth Meyers: Right.
Chris Hayes: It used to be the case that you could sustain a middle-class job in Columbus, Ohio, Portland, Oregon, in Nebraska as a journalist, at the local newspaper and that was your job. Now, journalism has become more like acting where there's like a small amount of people who make it really big, a lot of people trying to get into it and then a lot of churn among young people who don't have a lot of leverage or wage negotiation power.
I think that's happening in more and more industries. Obviously, in comedy, like you got the Writers Guild which worked very hard to create these structures for writers, but it does seem like there's some of that happening there as well.
Seth Meyers: Very much so and it is the same problem that I think now probably more than ever is happening with journalism. Like that top tier like with actors, we know them a little bit better now. Weirdly that top tier success, I feel like is like a magnet for more young - like it pulls more people in at a time where the entry hole is smaller. I should note that it's scary all over in all fields.
Chris Hayes: Right. Totally, yeah.
Seth Meyers: But I will say as somebody who consumes TV and films, I feel like as a viewer, it's a really exciting time to watch new things. We just finished watching Mindy Kaling's new show, Sex Lives of College Girls, which it was just great and also it's an incredibly diverse cast. I went to college, whatever, 25 years ago, it works for me as a white guy.
Chris Hayes: Yes. Totally, yeah.
Seth Meyers: It all rings true. So it's this weird thing of constantly being reminded like everybody has a different experience, but also at our core like it was crazy to think the only person who look like me could tell a story I understood.
Chris Hayes: Yes. I think that's an interesting segue. I mean, there's this very, I think, sort of tiresome meta commentary about comedy and like cancellation and you can't say anything anymore. I've become like the person - because I'm 43 now - where like in our editorial meetings, I'm aging into the place of like, "You kids." I was talking about this with Rogan the other day where it's like I went through this with Imus and Stern and like shock jocks. I'm like, there's a whole thing about this.
They were saying offensive things, they were getting a lot of attention, a very pitched cultural conversation about what is and isn't inside the line, what's the value of provocation, what's the value of not being an offensive jerk to people all the time. I guess, I feel like it's not actually that complicated that you can do things that are edgy and respectful at the same time or you could do things that are edgy and also not cruel, I guess is the way I would put it.
Seth Meyers: Or you can do things that are edgy and cool and people are going to react like you did thing that was cool.
Chris Hayes: Yes, exactly.
Seth Meyers: That's the part I don't understand, which is, look, you're allowed to say whatever you want but then the audience is allowed to react. There's this idea that freedom only belongs to the person who does it in the first place and then there's no freedom to comment. Here's the thing, if you want to do offensive comedy, what is your problem with people being offended, like otherwise you didn't do offensive comedy. Are people supposed to just be quietly upset?
Chris Hayes: Yeah.
Seth Meyers: Yeah. I'm deeply frustrated because it does feel like, A; it's constantly sort of the shifting of what the boundaries are that we're even talking about here. But again, I think people do like to go out and tell a joke that is cruel. They want the points for taking that risk, but what is the risk? How can you say a joke is risky if there wasn't some blowback?
Chris Hayes: Right. This is a thing I think the jokes Seth can't tell a bit, which I think it's two things that I think are hard to get together, which is why I admire it. It's conceptually very smart and the idea is that it's you and two writers, one of them a white woman and one a black woman, telling jokes that you can't tell. This is the setup of the bit.
But it's also super first order funny and it's funny also because of the tension between the two, where you're kind of pointing to where these lines are and why they exist and also playing with them, which is a hard thing to do and I'm curious to talk about the development of that bit, because that feels like a high-wire act that you pull off. I think because you're, A; not trying to be cruel, B, you're fronting the thing that you're messing with in a way that sort of makes it work.
Seth Meyers: It just came from our reality, which is Jenny Hegel, who's this really talented writer, who is also a lesbian and also Puerto Rican, would write jokes that were really funny. But I would say to her, laughing, I would say, Jenny, I would be pilloried to do these jokes. I can't do these jokes, poking fun, making granular observations of lesbians. I just can't do it.
Chris Hayes: That kind of lesbian that comes in?
Seth Meyers: Yeah.
Chris Hayes: Yeah, right. Yeah.
Seth Meyers: I was like, "What?" It would be crazy. So she agreed, it wasn't as though she was offended by it, but then she also realized that I told her I thought they were funny. It wasn't that I shook my fist and said, this isn't the kind of joke we do in Late Night. I just said we problematically are stuck with me as the delivery system. So they wrote it up and we had a table read and it was out of the gates. It would have been like a movie where the guy at the soundboard, here's Johnny Cash. I'll look at Shoemaker and we just both kind of nodded our head like, I think we got a hit.
So it was just that simple. I mean, we just explain it as it is and I think that it also proves a point that some comedians might disagree with, but I do think the delivery system matters of a joke. That is a proof but it matters. Again, the joke is funny. As written, the joke is funny. It is just not fun when I say it.
Chris Hayes: Ta-Nehisi has a great line about language and context and who can say what and the perennial thing of like, "Well, black people say the N word and why can't I," which I think is pretty lame and beaten down. But he's got this great line, he's like, "I can call my wife baby, but I can't call your wife baby."
Seth Meyers: Yeah.
Chris Hayes: It's like, yup, they're a different contexts where different language is differently interpreted and that's true of all language even outside comedy.
Seth Meyers: I'm also surprised people don't like figuring that puzzle out, so much of comedy writing is solving the puzzle. Even the most physical comedian cares about language and the order of words and where you put the emphasis on a word. Everybody in this game cares and appreciates the value of structure and sometimes you have to worry about the context as well. It's just part of it.
By the way, I want to stress too like I think there is a place for offensive comedy. I think that if somebody's act is I'm going to go out and tell jokes that no one but me has the nerve to say, if you want the reward for doing that, you have to go into it knowing that some people are going to be upset and it's up to you how to deal with them. But I feel like framing yourself as a victim is the version that I'm least interested.
Chris Hayes: Yeah. I think that's what I have a hard time with, too. And I think also partly I think it's just very human too like we've just got a lot of channels for feedback and I think part of the weird defensiveness I think you see sometimes like there could be a weird comedy guild defensiveness around this stuff that I think is a little unsavory but I also empathize with because there is something very vulnerable about going up and trying to get people to laugh, and there's something very ego-destroying about being criticized for that.
Seth Meyers: A hundred percent.
Chris Hayes: But then you just got to grow up. Like people say mean things about me all the time, but I'm very lucky I'm one of the most privileged lucky people in the country. Like I get to do this incredible thing and talk to all these people and so part of the price I play is like people say nasty stuff about me and that's just what it is. I got to look into my kid's eyes, hold my wife and enjoy the things that matter and like not let it get in your head.
Seth Meyers: My problem is my kids say the nastiest word about me, so I got nowhere to turn. That's why I go to YouTube for comments. Yeah, that's where I found solace.
Chris Hayes: That's where I go for love. I'm getting heckled in my home. The other big transition I feel like for you, the show really kind of blossomed in the age of Trump just in terms of where it was and the trajectory. I think all of us had this experience of we had bigger audiences, people were watching more. There was a really this sort of collective sense in sort of pre-pandemic like holy lord, like we're all watching this thing happen that we're processing all the time, because it's so nuts. You just kind of need to talk about it and process it.
It's so kind of surreal and unbelievable. You feel like you're in a walking dream all the time. You're constantly saying to people like did you - and I'm curious how you thought about that and how you thought about being in a different era now.
Seth Meyers: Well, I mean, so much of that era was the catharsis of talking about it and hoping that it was cathartic to hear. Early in that era, I feel people with jobs like mine were asked, "Do you really think you're changing anyone's mind?" That wasn't the goal.
Chris Hayes: No.
Seth Meyers: I think it was to know there was a place where people who also thought this was crazy would convene to make jokes about it. The hardest weeks for me during that era were when we were on hiatus and something crazy would happen. It was far easier to do the show and talk about it that way as supposed to just be stuck on vacation looking at Twitter, which I had to take Twitter off my phone during vacation, because without an outlet, it was only the bad part of it as opposed to the bad part of it and then let's, at least, make jokes.
Chris Hayes: I would say the exact same thing to people. I mean, I wasn't making jokes, but I was talking about it and I would say to people and people are like, "Oh, it must be so exhausting to be covering this." I was like, "It is but it's also kind of like therapeutic." I'm very lucky that I get to say my piece at the end of the day about what I've witnessed and I too take Twitter off my phone on vacation for exactly the same reason, which is that it just kind of like it's all the input with none of the output and the output ends up being the kind of processing mechanism to deal with it and without that, I'm the same way, it drives me a little nuts.
Seth Meyers: Yes. So having some place to put it was really valuable and now as much as I think, I don't really feel like we're on the other side of it.
Chris Hayes: I think we are.
Seth Meyers: A criticism that I would get from people who are not - actually, let me just say this, people say, "Why are you still talking about Trump?"
Chris Hayes: Yeah, same. I get the same.
Seth Meyers: I'm talking about him because he's still the head of your party and I think he's coming back and until he stops talking, I promise I'll stop talking. I promise I will and yet he won't.
Chris Hayes: There was even a little period after January 6th and after he left, I remember there being a few months where it was like he was in Mar-A-Lago, everyone kind of been like that was really rough and there was a period where like we weren't talking about him. Then, he basically began to kind of reassert his primacy over one of the two major parties in American and it's like, well, the guy that tried to overthrow American democracy the first time since the Civil War, basically.
Seth Meyers: Right. I mean, again, I wish it would be very unfair to compare his first year and a half out of office to Obama's first year and a half out of office. Anyone who's wondering why we're still talking about him, hopefully that's an answer. I think now that they've heard you and I say it, I think they'll finally agree. I think the people that are mad that we're still talking about Trump just needed to hear us explain ourselves.
Chris Hayes: Oh, yeah. Yeah. No, that's done now. That's done. So you have a baby.
Seth Meyers: Yeah.
Chris Hayes: How old is your baby?
Seth Meyers: You can't call it baby. I can call it baby.
Chris Hayes: Okay.
Seth Meyers: Child, please. No, she's five months old.
Chris Hayes: That's great.
Seth Meyers: It's great.
Chris Hayes: It's your third.
Seth Meyers: Yes.
Chris Hayes: I've just aged out of like potty training, sleep, like all of the stuff that comes with like very young children and it's sad because that's such a beautiful part of life. It's one of the most precious things a human can experience and it's also one of the most unremittingly exhausting things.
Seth Meyers: What was the gap between two and three to you?
Chris Hayes: My kids are 10, eight and four. So there's four years between.
Seth Meyers: Similarly, we had three and a half years. So we were out of it and then we restarted it.
Chris Hayes: Right, yeah.
Seth Meyers: Which you were as well.
Chris Hayes: Yes. We had we had aged out of it and then--
Seth Meyers: Yeah, restarted the clock. The only thing I'll say is going through it this time, all of the things that are bad are still bad, but knowing it's the last one, having watched the other two aged out of it and having nostalgia for a thing you thought it was impossible to have nostalgia for.
Chris Hayes: Totally. You're like, "Ah, this poop and this diaper." It's a real blow out.
Seth Meyers: Yeah, look at this. Look at this here. It should be noted, the burden certainly in the first five months is much more on the mother than the father.
Chris Hayes: Yes. Particularly if she's nursing or breastfeeding.
Seth Meyers: Yes, which she is. For us, the harder part for me is coming, but still we're just so happy that we get to do it one more time and we obviously are really lucky that it's a girl and she does have the vibe of someone who's aware that there's a lot going on. She seems to be saying, look, check in with me when I'm a teenager. I will work through all of that stuff with you then.
Chris Hayes: My youngest is a similar vibe. We just went on vacation last week and we were down this place by the beach and there were some young parents, there's a five month old on the beach having their first vacation with a baby. The first vacation with the baby is like such a rude awakening because you're like, oh, because like you go from being like in our case 30 years old and on vacation, you sleep till 10:30 whatever and then all of a sudden, you're like up at 5:30 and you're like we're not really doing vacation. We're doing child care in a different setting. Like this is not going to be what vacation used to be.
Watching these parents and just remembering like how psychotically neurotic the culture in certain socioeconomic, in certain cultural spheres is about raising your first kid and all the messages about how high stakes it is and how you have to do it right or you're going to screw up, this is like very intense and I do think that one of the nice things by the time you work your way to three is like, I just didn't feel any of that anymore. It was just like we kind of know what we're doing and I'm not like taking the LSAT here. If I get it wrong, I'm going to be judged and get a bad grade on being a parent, which is very much the message you get, I think, when you first have a kid.
Seth Meyers: Yes. Then it's also, for example, I don't think we played Mozart once and held it to my wife's belly. So if she's the only one that's not a classically trained musician--
Chris Hayes: That's why.
Seth Meyers: --that'll be why. The other thing that no one tells you is when you - I don't know if you were like this, but when you have your first, the worse sound a baby can make is nothing. Like I couldn't sleep, just the amount that I wanted to check on - because again it was the first time in your life that you were in charge of another person's well-being at that level. Because you're like baby is asleep and when they sleep, god, the best thing in the world would be if they don't make a peep and she's good sleeper and so we're very lucky so far in regards to that.
Chris Hayes: How long do you want to host Late Night television?
Seth Meyers: Well, it's weird. I'm coming up on 10 years a lot faster than I thought it would come. We just had our eighth anniversary and we've got a couple more years. If you think of it in chunks of five, I would like to think I have another five of me, at least, mostly because it goes so fast.
Chris Hayes: It does.
Seth Meyers: Again, silver linings, I remember my first year on the show, Paul Shaffer was here and he said, "How's it going?" And I said, "It's great. It's never boring." And he said, "Give it time." And I think that was the thing, the risk of doing these shows unlike SNL, which SNL never gets boring because the host just changes it too much. Each week is so, so different based on that and here it's not. But the pandemic was this weird thrilling reset as far as what the show was and so I like the show a lot what it was right before the pandemic, but I like what it is now even more.
Chris Hayes: That's great.
Seth Meyers: And so as long as you can see growth, I don't think there's a reason to stop. I think these are shows you stop when - and by the way, I think it's impossible to continue to grow. At some point you just go, "All right. I don't have any other moves in the toolbox." But right now it does feel like something where I would like to keep doing it for a while longer.
Chris Hayes: April 1st would be our 9th anniversary doing All In and I've been keeping this list. I've been joking to Kate about things that I've been hosting All In longer than which includes like the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, both world wars, even Vietnam, The Beatles recording and Seinfeld, which was on air for nine seasons.
Seth Meyers: Wow.
Chris Hayes: It's funny because your sense of time like - I've been thinking about this a lot with The Beatles, where it's like they weren't together that long. Small amounts of time can produce incredibly long lasting and it's really wild to think I totally agree with you about how the time goes so fast. It's just incomprehensible with me that I've been doing this long.
Seth Meyers: I would imagine, you also have your show number on each script. Like that number is crazy to me. Like tonight we'll be doing whatever, 1,269, let's say, and that is mind-boggling, because I still remember when it was show seven and you could remember what show one is.
Chris Hayes: Well, I hope you guys keep doing it. I'm genuinely a fan.
Seth Meyers: I do. I think you were fishing for it, so I will say I do consider the Seinfeld of MSNBC.
Chris Hayes: I think I'm the Seinfeld of NBC.
Seth Meyers: You're NBC's Seinfeld, yeah.
Chris Hayes: By the way have you ever been - this is a fun thing - in one of the dining rooms in 30 Rock like one of the fancy ones that I've been in like once where like the Comcast people decides who lives and who dies. There is the notes from the Seinfeld pilot read or a pitch. It's a great document. It's a frame document and it's executive notes on a Seinfeld. Either the pitch of the pilot that's like this is not very good and I don't see this working and it's framed and it's up in the dining room, it's great.
Seth Meyers: We get tested every day. On the floor I get tested, it's the perfect thing for a corporation to do with content which is stenciled on this little rooms that you wait are lines for movies.
Chris Hayes: I know exactly that floor.
Seth Meyers: The room I wait for my test says we're on a mission from god and I just love everything The Blues Brothers was about, to one day be stenciled on a little cubicle with like one chair and a corporate phone. But then I told that to (inaudible) and they said on the morning that - because Jimmy and I both got COVID around the same time, so the morning he came in to work and tested positive for COVID, his (inaudible) said, "What are you talking about, Willis?" Which is just the perfect.
Chris Hayes: Seth Meyers is the host, of course, of Late Night with Seth Meyers. He's a comedian, a writer, a producer, an actor, and a dad and a husband. This was fantastic, Seth. Thank you so much.
Seth Meyers: Thanks, Chris. I'll see you soon. Come visit us again.
Chris Hayes: Definitely.
Once again, my great thanks to Seth Meyers. It was really great to talk - I love Seth. I think he's such a mensch, I got to say. One of my favorite people in all of this world that I live in. I don't have a ton of interactions with other people that host television shows. Rachel is a good friend of mine. It's a small sphere, but he's just a great guy.
Our four-part WITHpod Future Of miniseries continues next up in our feed, Cathie Wood who's the founder, CEO and CIO of Ark Invest on the future of innovation.
Cathie Wood: I don't think we'll be able to get away from artificial intelligence. I think we need to get on the right side of change here. Make sure that we've got the right experts focused on the potential problems, but then run with the solutions that it offers.
Chris Hayes: Why is this Happening is presented by MSNBC and NBC News. Produced by the All In team. It features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work including links to things we mentioned here by going to nbcnews.com/whyisthishappening.
Tweet us with the hashtag #WITHpod, email WITHpod@gmail.com. “Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by the “All In” team and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to nbcnews.com/whyisthishappening.