Seth Meyers (‘Late Night’): Democracy should ‘figure out the next step’ for Donald Trump [Complete Interview Transcript]

Seth Meyers has become one of the most respected voices in late night thanks to his talk show, “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Never afraid to comment on the troubles America is facing, Meyers used the same approach when hosting the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year, the first major award show after the Harvey Weinstein scandal. He and his “Late Night” team were nominated at the Emmys for the first time last year in the writing category, and now they are hoping to get their first nomination in Variety Talk Series in a few weeks.

Meyers recently sat down with Gold Derby managing editor Chris Beachum for a chat about “Late Night,” his feelings on Donald Trump, and his experience hosting the Golden Globes. Watch the exclusive video above and read the entire interview transcript below.

Gold Derby: Okay Seth Meyers, our annual discussion here. I wanna ask you first on “Late Night,” you just had David Letterman on, which I watched. You just seemed overjoyed and he doesn’t really do that kind of stuff. I talked to Stephen Colbert last year and he said that’s his dream guest so you got him before Colbert did.

Seth Meyers: Yeah, I guess it helped to be part of the “Late Night” franchise. It was a trip. I was so nervous about it thinking what kind of questions do you even ask David Letterman, and then the reality is, you have to do very little when David Letterman is a guest on your show because he knows so well what it takes to be a good talk show guest and so he showed up with stories, he was engaging and really funny, and mostly your job when someone like David Letterman is there is just to get out of the way and let David Letterman have as much of the road as he wants.

GD: He loves maladies and sickness stories or in your case a delivery story. He’s always loved those kind of things.

SM: I think it’s far more interesting to him that he and I are both fathers than it is that he and I were both talk show hosts. So he’d much rather talk about what our kids are like than what it’s like to host a show.

GD: We went to the FYC event with him and Jerry Seinfeld for Netflix and they were interviewing each other and Dave kept wanting to ask Jerry about his kids, and Jerry did not wanna talk about his family, so it was just over and over and over again.

SM: (Laughs.) Yes, and that was the other thing. Dave obviously showed up with some questions to ask me, more so than most guests on a talk show. One of the great thrills of my life was being a guest on his show so that was what was also really fun about having him on mine was it felt like a little of both.

GD: I felt all these years all these decades that talk show hosts are often the best guests, ‘cause they know what you’re looking for on the other side. They know to come with stories.

SM: Obviously there’s just less and less reason to go on talk shows but a few months ago I went back on “The Tonight Show” and it was so much fun, also just to know exactly what it is that you wanna bring to a party. When you host parties all the time, you’re like, “You know what I want? A nice bottle of wine. I don’t want chicken wings you got at Domino’s.” (Laughs).

GD: And those days leading up, “What can I talk about? What are my stories?”

SM: When you’re actively hosting a talk show, pretty much anything interesting that would be a good talk show story you’re telling on your show so it makes sense that we don’t cross-pollinate as much as people probably think we should.

GD: I was gonna ask you now that you did four shows a week, probably close to 200 a year, when anything at all happens in your life, is the first thought through your mind if it’s bad or good, “I get to tell this story now. I know tomorrow night’s show what I’m gonna say at the desk.”

SM: 100%. I’ve been so grateful to my wife for not only delivering a healthy son, obviously that’s first order business. But the fact that she did it in the lobby was so great. For a talk show host, no greater gift, ’cause again, hospital story, I already told one of those. I needed new stuff.

GD: You needed new material. What about, you had Jimmy Fallon on your show and he had not returned there until this year. What was that like?

SM: It was great. He was always a great talk show guest when he was a “Saturday Night Live” cast member, and again, he just has less reason to do it. I certainly feel this way as well, when you are a guest on a show and you just have to worry about the 8-10 minutes that you’re sitting at the desk talking, in our case, to an old friend, that’s so much more relaxing than having to worry about the head to tail one hour of a talk show. It’s a nice relief to have so much less to worry about and I think that’s what make us looser, better talk show guests.

GD: Because you are daily, what’s the typical day like? What do you do?

SM: We start early. We get in around 8:30 in the morning because so much of our first act is about the day’s news and the day’s news changes so much over the course of the day that we wanna make sure we get down a nice base coat early so we’re not building it from scratch. I feel similar to most talk shows in that we have a long day based on reading jokes and talking about the guests and trying to line up the next couple of days but it’s so scheduled it goes by really quickly and it ends with the best hour of the day from my perspective, which is going out to an audience that came to see the show and getting to actually show them the work.

GD: We got to come to a taping in October. You really have a lot interaction with your audience, off-camera.

SM: Yeah, it started as a necessity when we had a band. I would have to go into the audience to talk to see if they had any questions for me just because a band sometimes can be a longer setup. Then I just realized I really liked doing it, and I thought it was a nice way to thank the people. Obviously I’m thankful for everybody who watches our show but it would be very quiet and echo-y if we didn’t actually have the people who sat in those seats. So it was a nice way to say thanks and just to go up and see what they had to ask.

GD: Is there a question you would just as soon they’d never ask again, like one that comes up two, three times a week?

SM: “How’s Stefon?” I get asked, “How’s Stefon” all the time. And the person who asked it, God love ‘em, thinks they’re the first person who ever thought to ask me. You can see in their face.

GD: Right. That’s why we try on our interviews to come up with something that you’re not hearing 10 times that day. One thing you mentioned when you were just doing the Q&A with the audience, and I thought this was interesting, you don’t want Donald Trump, something to happen to him like a sickness or get impeached or something. You want him to have the humiliation of a defeat in an election.

SM: Well I shouldn’t say it’s about the humiliation. I think it would just be nice if this was a problem solved by democracy, as opposed to a twist of fate or a legal maneuver. Look, democracy gave us Donald Trump. I feel like it’s their responsibility to figure out the next step.

GD: He would have excuses and explain it away no matter what.

SM: Of course, that is the issue. Whether this ends in impeachment or the ballot box or he’s informed for the first time about term limits, he’s gonna have a lot to say about how unfair that is.

GD: And you hosted the Golden Globe Awards a few months ago. That’ll also be on the Emmy ballot in addition of course to “Late Night.”

SM: Oh. Will it (laughs).

GD: It’s been nominated several times. You know that ‘cause you’ve been up for writing on that.

SM: I know. I have, yeah (laughs).

GD: 75th anniversary, too, so I think whoever hosted there was a little more pressure, just more eyeballs and more of a historical moment. Ultimately once you got there and away from it what was it like?

SM: I’m glad you said it, ‘cause they’d asked me 70, I said no. 71 they asked, I’m like not big enough. No (laughs). I was really lucky to have been backstage working with Amy [Poehler] and Tina [Fey] the three years that they did it. For my money it’s the most fun show to work on and that’s because it’s probably the most fun show to be in the audience to watch. It was great. It was obviously an honor to get asked to do it. I was lucky enough to be near the very high bar that Amy and Tina set when they did it and I wouldn’t say that I hit their heights but I think I was hopefully in the ballpark.

GD: Because it’s a party and everybody’s at tables and drinking, are they even listening?

SM: They stay with you off the top. The nice thing about the Globes vs. other things I’ve hosted is most of your responsibility is off the top and if you put your business there, you get their attention for the 10, 12 minutes that you do a monologue and that’s where we put most of our efforts. You get ‘em there and the rest of the time, when the lights come up on you and you’re about to introduce two new presenters, it’s not like you’re offended that Tom Hanks wants to talk to Oprah Winfrey. I wouldn’t listen to Tom Hanks if I was talking to Oprah Winfrey.

GD: Sit down, Tom.

SM: Exactly (laughs).

GD: We’ve had different approaches, from Ricky Gervais and then Tina and Amy. How do you know that level of snarkiness vs. just pure funny? How do you know where to dial it?

SM: I mean, the biggest thing we were dealing with this year was obviously the first post-Harvey award show and we just had a lot of conversations about how to address that. We wanted to address it in a way that obviously took into account the thing we were gonna make jokes about caused a lot of people great pain so that was the balance and hopefully we hit the tone right. At the same time, you wanna do it in a way that doesn’t take away focus from the fact that all this good work was done.

GD: Back to “Late Night” for a moment, you’ve been up in the writing category at the Emmys recently. You’re doing an event with the Writers Guild tonight. You’ve been nominated by them, too, for “Late Night.” What does it mean to you, we would love to see the program get in, but what has it meant to you when the writers of all people are the ones recognizing you over and over?

SM: Oh, it’s great. I’ve always, based on my background at “SNL” and the skillset that I feel like helped me survive at “SNL” in the early years, I’ve always identified as a writer. The writing staff on my show are the ones I spend the most time with. They’re a group I’m really lucky to have on staff so it’s really nice because that honor is spread around to all of us equally. It was a real thrill last year to have that.

GD: And Larry David joined your writing staff.

SM: He was really good, wasn’t he?

GD: That was a great episode.

SM: He was fantastic.

GD: He’s great always on panel but to have that, too, where you shoot that in advance.

SM: We couldn’t believe he said yes, because Larry sounds like a person… Larry would tell you he’s a person that enjoys saying no to requests of his time.

GD: Yeah, I tried to take a photo with him and that didn’t work out. He took it, but it’s blurry as you would think it would be, ‘cause he wasn’t holding still.

SM: Right (laughs).

GD: Does he come up with a lot of that that he did? Did you help him?

SM: We wrote a first draft and then as you would expect, we tried to write as close to Larry’s voice as possible, but certainly no one does it better and knows it better than him, so for the guys who wrote that piece, they couldn’t have been happier when Larry came in and had his ideas and they got to collaborate with one of their heroes.

GD: Rip some of ‘em to shreds.

SM: Yeah, but it’s like, you would pay—

GD: It’s an honor.

SM: Yeah, exactly. It would be a good raffle item.

GD: Back to the Emmys, you hosted last time it was on NBC. Believe it not that’s four years ago now, ‘cause it’s rotating around again.

SM: Yeah, flew by.

GD: Surprised you weren’t this year’s host. What happened?

SM: I think I managed to dodge it by doing the Globes.

GD: Oh. They didn’t want them too close together.

SM: Exactly. How many are you allowed to host in one given year?

GD: Does that mean you’ll be back on the Globes next time?

SM: I don’t know. I couldn’t have asked it to be more rewarding than it was this year, so I don’t know. We’ll see what happens, but I’m looking forward to seeing [Michael] Che and [Colin] Jost. I think they’ll be great.

GD: What advice would you give them?

SM: I would just say to have as good jokes as possible off the top but those guys have that every week at Update. They’re gonna approach it via the same history that I approach it, ‘cause that’s all I had done by the time I was doing that, so yeah, I think they’ll be great.

GD: And they’ve got Lorne Michaels producing the Emmys this year.

SM: And he’s just gonna roll up his sleeves. I think he’s already writing jokes.

GD: He’s only done it one other time.

SM: Is that true?

GD: I was telling somebody really high up at NBC that before they ever announced and they were looking for a producer and looking for figuring out the host and then a month later they announced him, I thought, “Did they go back and look at the one I told them to look at?” He had a really inventive Emmys, late ‘80s. You can find some of it on YouTube.

SM: Shoemaker was there.

GD: Oh, were you on the writing staff?

Mike Shoemaker: I was an assistant, ’88. It was very inventive. It looked different. It was unlike any of the others.

GD: He had some reunions of older casts of things. I don’t remember which ones. But he also had Dana Carvey, who was on “SNL” in that moment, and Jane Curtin presented together. It was just nice little combinations.

MS: Gale Gordon. He wanted some real icons. I think it might have been another anniversary year.

SM: Oh, right. ’88. What’s this year of the Emmys?

GD: This is 70 so he might had done ’88.

SM: Oh yeah, so ’88 would have been 50! No, I’m wrong. ’88 would have been 40.

GD: Yeah, 40.

MS: And he had a designated accepter. He had Tony Danza.

SM: Oh right.

GD: Oh yeah, I didn’t like that (laughs).

SM: Well it kept going.

GD: There were several that weren’t there so it was like over and over.

SM: Crazy when you think. I feel like the Emmys these days, you don’t see that many people who aren’t there.

GD: No, there was a stretch, we were talking about the Oscars, like ‘70s, early ‘80s, where it was like a badge of honor not to go. So I think that was the case on some of the Emmys. If it was an Emmy star doing a movie for TV, there was just no way they were coming.

SM: Right.

GD: Well good luck with everything. I’m hoping to see you in some more categories for this year’s Emmys.

SM: I appreciate it, very nice of you to say!

GD: All right, thanks.

SM: Thanks. Great to see you again.

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