Seth Meyers' 'Late Night' debut suffers SNL overload

Left to right, Amy Poehler, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Seth Meyers are pictured during the...

Left to right, Amy Poehler, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Seth Meyers are pictured during the debut of Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:45 AM ET

About 30 minutes into the first instalment of Late Night with Seth Meyers, I got a text message from someone that simply said, “I'm SNL-peopled out."

Then a quick follow-up message added, “Yes, yes, Saturday Night Live people, you all love each other and you all think you're so hilarious.”

OK, that's part of what Seth Meyers is up against. And SNL overload was more acutely felt for his debut show early Tuesday morning on NBC and CTV, since Meyers' first guest was Amy Poehler and his band leader is Fred Armisen, both of whom, like Meyers, are former SNL cast members.

With another SNL alumnus, Jimmy Fallon, having moved up to The Tonight Show, I must admit, I'm pretty SNL-fatigued, too. And SNL is still on, for the love of God.

But as for Seth Meyers in particular, based on his first night, this is my “bad and good” evaluation:

Telling jokes, be it in the monologue or in pre-arranged bits, Meyers was way too stiff. He spat out joke after joke, as if he still were seated at the Weekend Update desk. He didn't really know what to do with his hands. He definitely needs to improve on that front.

But significantly, Meyers seemed totally at home interviewing people. Yes, his first guest was Poehler, who is a good friend of his. But Meyers was equally cool, quick, witty and in control when U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden came out for an interview.

In fact, Meyers already has the feel of being a better interviewer than Fallon, who obviously has other strengths but hasn't yet mastered the art of interviewing people calmly rather than frantically.

Meyers' monologue had a Canadian connection, when he quipped, “While celebrating Canada's defeat over Sweden in men's hockey, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford walked into a fire hydrant, injuring his groin. It's really saying something when this is the least embarrassing thing Rob Ford has done all year. It's almost presidential for Rob Ford.”

Armisen had a funny deadpan bit about having a new show called Recent History on the History Channel. The joke was, the show goes back only about an hour, and the History Channel airs it at a different time every day, based on “what else is on.”

Meyers' skit titled Venn Diagrams was a decent idea, but the jokes will have to be funnier if it's going to be a regular. And the Olympics' Wrap-Up bit had a funny premise with “Costas Vision,” referencing the fact that NBC sportscaster Bob Costas suffered pink eye in both eyes while on assignment for the Olympics in Russia, but again, the visual punchlines didn't quite live up to the premise.

At least Meyers and Poehler traded a couple of good-natured jabs.

Poehler said Meyers was going to be great hosting a talk show, because, “I have watched you for 13 years pretending to listen to people.”

To which Meyers replied, “We worked together for 12 and a half years, and you always said, 'If you want to have a conversation with me, get a talk show.' ”

Then when Biden arrived, it sort of added to the reunion vibe, since he has appeared with Poehler on her sitcom Parks and Recreation. The musical guest was A Great Big World, who chose a rather subdued song for an opening-night gig, I thought.

Moving forward, I'm interested to see how Late Night with Seth Meyers does when it isn't just a big family reunion. He'll get better at the monologue stuff. But I have to say, the ease with which Meyers interviewed his guests was a really good sign.

Every previous host of Late Night – David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Fallon – has put their own unique spin on it. Who knows, maybe Meyers' version of Late Night will wind up being more conversation-based than its predecessors.

Let the talk continue.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv


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