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Monday, February 24th, 2014

What to Expect from 'Late Night with Seth Meyers'


Seth Meyers's iteration of NBC's long-running series Late Night starts up this week. While it'll be a traditional late night show in most regards, every talk show has its own unique flavor and regular segments, and early reports of Meyers's Late Night indicate that it'll stand apart from the pack by having a hip band led by Fred Armisen, featuring different kinds of guests from its competitors, and using regular characters more than any talk show with frequent use of SNL cast members, past and present, and Late Night writers on-camera.

Here's a rundown of what Late Night with Seth Meyers will look like:

A traditional format, with an experimental side:

Meyers's Late Night won't be breaking from the tried-and-true formula of other talk shows. It'll start with a monologue (Meyers recently met with Jay Leno in LA and "discussed the value of a lengthy monologue," though we don't know if Meyers is gonna take Leno's advice), followed by comedy segments, and then interviews at the desk. "I want it to look and have the framework of the classic late-night model, but this is real estate where you can try out everything," Meyers told USA Today. "Coming on at 12:37 at night, you have a little more rope to try that stuff." He said to Time, "I like that everyone before me has established this as a place to try things out." Despite the talk of experimentation, NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt says Late Night won't be "a shocking unveiling of something you've never seen before."

The house band:

Seth Meyers's SNL colleague Fred Armisen will be heading up the house band, serving as its curator and bandleader. "We had explored a couple of options, but hadn’t been able to settle on anything," explained Meyers. "We were talking to Lorne about it. And he said, 'What about Fred?'"

The rest of the band consists of Seth Jabour and Syd Butler from Les Savy Fav on guitar and bass, respectively, Eli Janney from Girls Against Boys on keyboards, and Kimberly Thompson, a session drummer who has played for Beyoncé. "Fred will curate and lead the band, and continue to run it even when he's off shooting Portlandia," said Meyers.

Armisen will also be writing Late Night's new theme song, telling us, "It's been a lifelong dream of mine to write a TV show theme."

The show posted this 13-second clip of Fred Armisen and The 8G Band (named after Late Night's 30 Rock studio) performing last week. SPIN described the clip as "a driven-but-drifty, bass-powered brand of terse post-punk."

More authors, athletes, politicians, and experts as guests:

Since Jimmy Fallon moved The Tonight Show back to New York, there'll be more competition for Late Night to land celebrity guests. In addition to celebrities, the show will also be featuring a more eclectic mix of guests including authors, politicians, athletes, experts, and newsmakers. Here's the first week of guests, which may or may not be an indication of things to come:

Mon., Feb. 24: Amy Poehler, Vice President Joe Biden, and musical guest A Great Big World.

Tues., Feb. 25: Kanye West, football player Russell Wilson, and author Robyn Doolittle (Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story).

Wed., Feb. 26: Kelly Ripa, Brad Paisley, and musical guest Brad Paisley.

Thurs., Feb. 27: Lena Dunham, Anthony Mackie, and musical guest John Mayer Trio.

Fri., Feb. 28: Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart, Sophia Bush, and comedian Michael Che.

Four new shows a week after the first month:

After the first month of shows, Late Night with Seth Meyers will shift from doing five new shows a week to four, running Monday through Thursday with a rerun running on Friday. Jimmy Kimmel Live is the only other network late night show that operates under this same schedule, but cable shows Conan, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report report also run Monday through Thursday, albeit without a rerun on Fridays.

Late Night writers playing "Weekend Update"-y characters:

Late Night with Seth Meyers has been running test shows for live audiences the past two weeks, and THR writes that, in said test shows, Meyers has been experimenting with having his writers play "Weekend Update"-esque characters who "either join him or interrupt him" for comedy segments. Meyers made frequent use of his writers on-camera in a recent series of Late Night promos and told USA Today, "I liked how Conan used his writing staff to play different people. We have a writing staff that has a lot of that range. They're great writers, but they're also really funny performers. We are going to try to use them as often as we can. In a weird way, the closest thing I'll have to a sidekick is my writing staff and the people they'll play."

Meyers's 12-person writing staff features a lot of people with performing experience, whether it be through improv, sketch, or standup. His head writer is Alex Baze, who also served as head writer on Meyers's "Weekend Update," and here's the rest of Meyers's writing staff:

- Alison Agosti, a sketch writer out of UCB LA who had a regular advice column at The Atlantic, was a regular contributor to NPR's Wits, and has a big Twitter following.

- Bryan Donaldson was working as an IT guy for COUNTRY Financial until he got attention from his popular Twitter feed, @TheNardvark.

- Peter Grosz, an alum of Chicago's Second City and iO theaters who spent four years writing for The Colbert Report. He appeared infrequently on camera on Colbert and has a recurring role on HBO's Veep as oil lobbyist Sidney Purcell.

- Andrew Law, a UCB NY alum who was a writer for The Jeselnik Offensive and recently played a recurring role on HBO's Looking.

- John Lutz, a longtime SNL writer and 30 Rock series regular who got his start at Chicago's Second City Chicago and iO theaters.

- Chioke Nassor, creator and director of the Above Average web series Chioke Nassor's Storytime and one of the writers of The Exquisite Corpse Project. He also wrote and directed the independent feature, How to Follow Strangers, a romance/mystery that comes out later this year and stars Broad City's Ilana Glazer.

- Conner O'Malley, a regular on The Chris Gethard Show and a performer at UCB NY who got his start at Chicago's iO and Annoyance theaters. O'Malley has received acclaim for his Vine videos (best of compilation here), in which he accosts wealthy strangers and cars as a demented weirdo.

- Seth Reiss, the former head writer of The Onion and a member of acclaimed, defunct NYC-based sketch group Pangea 3000, who had shows that ran at UCB NY for years. Reiss has written for IFC's Comedy Bang! Bang!, runs the Twitter account for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip character Matt Albie, and subsequently wrote a Studio 60 oral history.

- Amber Ruffin, an iO, Second City, and Boom Chicago alum who is a member of the video sketch group Robot Down and was a finalist for SNL during its all-black female audition in December.

- Ben Warheit, a writer for Seth Meyers's Hulu series The Awesomes and creator of the Above Average animated web series Waco Valley, which is in development as a TV show at Comedy Central. Warheit is an alum of UCB NY.

- Michelle Wolf, a standup who was formerly a writer/producer on MTV's Girl Code. Wolf is also a contributor to someecards and popular on Twitter.

 

Appearances from SNL cast members, past and present:

In addition to the writers, we'll likely see SNL actors, past and present, popping up from time to time. "The thing that's great is that all the SNL actors … are just a few floors away," Meyers said on Watch What Happens Live, though he added that Lorne Michaels, who's producing both shows, has cautioned him about relying too heavily on SNL characters and encouraged him to make Late Night its own thing.

Meyers does have Fred Armisen in studio, and you can expect to see him incorporated into comedy segments at some point. The host said, "I think eventually we'll see [character] stuff from Fred." He also added that his most popular "Weekend Update" character, Bill Hader's nightlife correspondent Stefon, will likely appear on Late Night. "Bill and I spoke during my last SNL, and we do think [Stefon] will turn up eventually," Meyers said on Watch What Happens. In addition to Armisen and Hader, Meyers had current SNL featured player Mike O'Brien on one of his test shows and has his former "Weekend Update" co-anchor Amy Poehler set as his inaugural guest tonight.

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