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Listen: Seth Meyers Talks Woman Late-Night Hosts, Lorne Michaels and ‘Material Monster’ Trump

Daniel Holloway

Seth Meyers became host of “Late Night” — the franchise that had, in previous iterations, been home to David Letterman, then Conan O’Brien, then Jimmy Fallon — in 2014. The first conversation he had with anyone about taking over the show was on the phone with executive producer Lorne Michaels, who called Meyers while the comic was touring on the road.

“When you talk to Lorne Michaels, oftentimes it seems like follow-up call to a conversation you haven’t had,” Meyers told Variety‘s “TV Take” podcast. “So he picks it up as if you’ve already talked about the possibility of you hosting a late-night talk show.” When the call ended, “I hung up the phone and I thought, ‘Wait, did Lorne just tell me that I’m going to host “Late Night”?’ But that is how a lot of news from Lorne comes — as if through a fog.”

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Meyers landed “Late Night” after Fallon move up to 11:30 p.m. to host lead-in “The Tonight Show.” A year later, a similar reshuffle occurred at CBS, where Stephen Colbert took over “The Late Show” from David Letterman and James Corden became host of “The Late Late Show.” With Jimmy Kimmel in place at ABC, late-night TV remains dominated by hosts who are white and male.

Despite the recent cancellations of female-led comedy talkers such as Michelle Wolf’s “The Break” and Busy Phillips’ “Busy Tonight,” Meyers pointed to NBC’s recent move to hire YouTube star Lilly Singh as a replacement for Carson Daly at 1:30 a.m. as a sign of progress.

“One of the sad realities is there haven’t been a ton of openings in the five years since” he took over “Late Night,” Meyers said. “I was certainly really happy that NBC decided to give Carson Daly’s spot to Lilly Singh. That struck me as the right direction. And even though Busy’s show didn’t work or Michelle Wolf’s show didn’t work, it’s wonderful to be in a time where they’re getting to try their shows.” Wolf worked as a writer and on-air contributor on “Late Night” before hosting “The Break” for Netflix. Meyers noted that the show has sought to provide a similar platform to female writers such as Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel. “Nothing would make us happier than, when the time came for one of those slots to be filled that it was someone from our family. So I certainly am optimistic that we will see better representation moving forward.

Meyers also discussed the effect that the political candidacy, then presidency of Donald Trump has had on the show.

“He is a material monster in that he just sort of spews out things that are unconventional all day long,” Meyers said. “With that said, we thought it was going to end after the election. Spoiler alert: This is not what I thought was going to happen. We just thought it would sort of go back to normal and we’d be doing things on politics, but not presidential politics. So yeah, I think our M.O. is to follow the biggest news of the day, and unfortunately it is that more often than not.

Seth Meyers photographed exclusively for the Variety TV Take Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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