Seth Meyers on the Forces That Made Him Funny

The people, books, music, and things that led this Northwestern grad to his own show on NBC.

Photo: Williams + Hirakawa/Corbis Outline

After seven comfortable years behind Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” desk, Seth Meyers is trading up to a bigger office: Jimmy Fallon’s.

The Northwestern grad and iO alum has tapped a coterie of Chicago writers to fill the Late Night with Seth Meyers writers’ room, including Alex Baze and John Lutz of Saturday Night Live and Peter Grosz of The Colbert Report.

So what else will the fresh-faced 40-year-old bring to his new NBC show? To get a hint, Chicago asked the comedian to share a list of his most formative influences.

 
A Woody Allen comedy album, Richard Pryor, Hunter S. Thompson, P.G. Wodehouse, and Conan O’Brien
Photos: (Allen) Casablanca Records; (O’Brien) Vince Bucci/Invision/AP; (Pryor) Ron Frehm/AP; (Thompson) Alan Hillyer/Picwr/AP; (Wodehouse) AP

People


Woody Allen

Woody Allen: Standup Comic was an album that my parents used to take out for me at the library. I loved Allen’s comedy so much because I knew I wasn’t quite smart enough to appreciate it. There were all these references that I didn’t know yet, but I loved his rhythm. He was the perfect combination of silly and smart. That was a thing my parents instilled in us: The best comedy is the smarter comedy.”

Conan O’Brien

“Early Conan was so exciting because there were so many Chicago [staff] writers. That’s been the biggest inspiration for me, the idea of having a lot of writers who are also really good performers with an improv background.”

Dennis Miller

“He’s very erudite. He had lots of points of reference that as a kid I didn’t quite understand, but wanted to. He was my introduction to ‘Weekend Update’ [on Saturday Night Live] and that sort of political comedy.”

My parents

“My dad [Lawrence Meyers, who works in finance] is the funniest guy I know. My mother has laughed at everything my dad has said for the last 40 years. My brother and I both learned that if you can make a beautiful woman laugh, you can do way better than you should be doing.”

Richard Pryor

“Pryor was such a great storyteller. No one made my dad laugh harder than Richard Pryor.”

Hunter S. Thompson

“I got into a real Hunter S. Thompson phase reading his essays on politics. He would always mention the Sheraton Wayfarer in my town of Bedford, New Hampshire [Meyers was born in Evanston, but raised in Bedford], and I remember thinking, Oh my God, I live in a place where all these very inspirational people stopped and stayed in a hotel for two months at a time.”

P.G. Wodehouse

“He was huge in my family. We used to go on skiing road trips and drive three hours just to get up to the mountain. We would listen to the Jeeves books on tape all the time. I still think P.G. Wodehouse is probably the most precise writer. His economy of humor is one that I still aspire to.”

 

‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ the cast of ‘Seinfeld,’ an illustration of ‘The Adventures of Tintin,’ and a Bob Dylan album
Photos: (Dylan) courtesy of Columbia Records; (Monty Python) courtesy of Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd; (Seinfeld) courtesy of Sony Pictures; Illustration: (Tintin) courtesy of Hergé-Moulinsart

Things


The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin, the Belgian comic strips from the thirties and forties written by Hergé, always made me want to travel. When I got the chance to live in Amsterdam for [the comedy showcase] Boom Chicago, that was my Tintin moment.”

Blood on the Tracks

“All of Bob Dylan’s albums have so many lyrics and so many words. I’m never blown away by how beautiful someone’s voice is, but the more stuff they can say in a song, the better.”

Locke & Key

“It’s this great horror comic book [by Joe Hill] about a family of three kids who move into their father’s childhood home. It’s just incredible storytelling, and it’s the only comic I’ve ever gotten my wife [Alexi Ashe, a lawyer whom he married last August] to read.”

Midnight Run

“My dad took me to see this [1988] movie. I don’t think either of us realized how bad the language in that movie was going to be. I remember my dad saying, ‘I think it would probably be best if we don’t tell your mom that we saw Midnight Run.’ It was so exciting to have a secret with him.”

Monty Python

“One of the greatest days of my life was a day I stayed home sick and my dad and I rented Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was crying [from laughter] harder than I’d ever cried just at the opening credits. That was very formative for me.”

Seinfeld

“I loved it because there were great small observations that built the stories. Each episode kept three story lines in the air, and the fact that [the writers] were doing it in just 22 minutes each week was amazing to me.”

Share

Advertisement

Comments are moderated. We review them in an effort to remove offensive language, commercial messages, and irrelevancies.

Submit your comment