Last Thursday, March 21st , SPEC Connaissance hosted another installment of its speaker series, but this time, the guest speaker was not the typical politician or business executive fare: Seth Meyers, comedian and head writer of Saturday Night Live, the longest running sketch comedy program on TV. Meyers kept the audience in constant laughter and revealed much behind-the-scenes info on the rapid pace of the six-day SNL workweek, which always includes an all-nighter or two. Sounds a lot like college.
Meyers also talked about his career path from college to SNL and all the performances in between. The Northwestern alum joked that his inability to makeup his mind about what he wanted to do after college was evidenced by his three-part hyphenated Radio/TV/Film major. The eight-man improv and sketch comedy group at Northwestern, Mee-Ow, didn’t recruit Meyers the first, second, or third time he auditioned, but persistence paid off when he finally joined in his senior year. The late start didn’t keep him from realizing that he had found his niche; since Mee-Ow was the one place he felt he truly excelled, he decided he would give a shot at being a comedy actor.
As a self-professed “comedy snob,” he grew up watching SNL and Monty Python, joking that, as a result, he couldn’t bring himself to watch shows like Full House. Among his favorite classic SNL sketches is “The Sinatra Group,” which he loved because “it’s just one joke after another.” More recent favorites include “Debbie Downer Goes to Disneyland” (his favorite part being when Horatio Sanz improvised wiping tears from laughing so hard with a pancake) and the long running celebrity restaurants skits (“Al Sharpton’s Casa de Sushi,” “Donald Trump’s House of Wings.”)
SNL frequently deals with politics, though Meyers joked that if someone is getting news from SNL, he or she is probably not very intelligent. Meyers, who wrote the famous Tina Fey-as- Sarah Palin sketches, lamented that it is much harder to write political humor about healthcare reform as opposed to the 2008 elections, which was a gold mine of material because “everyone was paying attention, so you could make fun of the minutiae of what they did or said.” He also mentioned what great sports Palin and McCain were when they appeared on the show, and noted his surprise that the so little was off limits to the writers. Comparing pitching ideas to these guests to deploying troops at Normandy, “You know those soldiers at the front aren’t going to make it, so you send the most [provocative] jokes to be killed off first and you can get away with a lot more later.”
When asked about the dynamic of bringing a different celebrity host in every week, Meyers said that surprisingly good guests and not-so-great guests are dealt with in stride, because there is simply not enough time to make many changes. Guests bring in their own unique talents and writers write to the hosts’ strengths: Meyers cited a particularly successful ‘Sex and City’ sketch written for host Christina Aguilera’s dead-on Kim Cattrall impression (Watch the clip here.) When asked to cite some of his favorite hosts, he included Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake.
Meyers shared his excitement about the upcoming MacGruber movie, which he worked on. MacGruber, for those who don’t watch SNL, is the popular skit created by Will Forte, in which the MacGuyver-like character tries to disable a bomb using only ridiculously useless household items- and inevitably fails. The character, according to Seth, comes from that special mix of comic genius and severely long workdays: “you don’t write MacGruber first thing in the morning, you write MacGruber after 24 hours of no sleep.” Definitely a creative process that your average college student can relate to, though, thankfully, SNL skits are infinitely funnier than any college essay.
-Iris You ’13