Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel Interview: ‘Late Night With Seth Meyers’ writers
“I really don’t feel like I’m doing good comedy unless I feel like I’m in a little bit of danger,” laughs Amber Ruffin, who alongside her writing partner and best friend Jenny Hagel are both nominated for their fourth consecutive Emmy for writing on “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” “I want to be a little bit uncomfortable and a little bit scared, or else who cares?,” she explains. Watch our exclusive video interview with Ruffin and Hagel above.
“Late Night With Seth Meyers” is the fourth iteration of NBC’s late night franchise, which premiered back in 2014 and is hosted by “SNL” “Weekend Update” alum Seth Meyers. While the show shares some of the same elements of many other late night shows on TV (sharp opening monologue, live band and celebrity guests), “Late Night” has thrived over the years by becoming more political, offering searing and hilarious commentary on the day’s biggest political news stories.
The show has yet to receive a Best Variety Talk Series bid, but has featured in the Best Variety Writing category four years running, so far the only Emmy nominations the show has received to date. Ruffin and Hagel admit that despite not having won the award yet, the nominations never get old, particularly because they feel so blessed to be doing their dream jobs together.
“It’s such a dream job and we always kind of joke about it, that I get to do a dream job with one of my best friends is truly not how I saw any of this playing out,” Hagel reveals. “Really, yeah you could not have predicted this outcome!,” Ruffin says. “You guys are going to work together every day and do only the goofiest things you can come up with and that’s your job,” she smiles, as Hagel adds that “it’s just the best. Every once in a while we’ll be backstage about to go on in the studio and then I’ll turn to Amber and be like ‘they’re paying us to do this!'”
Some of the show’s highlights are the segments that are written and performed by Ruffin and Hagel, who offer the kind of satire and biting social commentary that aren’t a feature of many of their contemporaries on other networks. For example, one of the most popular running gags in late night television is “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” in which they hit Meyers with a barrage of jokes and punchlines designed to skewer the understandable political correctness of the predominantly white, cis-male hetero world of late night TV, jokes that of course would ordinarily be off-limits to host Meyers.
Other segments include “Amber Says What?,” where Ruffin discusses her take on the big news stories of the day, and more recent pieces reflecting current events, like “Amber Ruffin Shares What Trump Has Done for Women” and Hagel’s hilarious video about how to properly wash your hands in the age of Covid-19.
For both of them, while they agree that the relentless 24-hour news cycle is probably not sustainable, it does provide plenty of cathartic fodder for them to poke fun of every night. “It is the world that we’re in,” Hagel admits. “It is exhausting, and boy would I love to not have this kind of pace for the American news cycle. I would love for the world to be relieved of this. But I feel like, for now, at least we have a way to process it and a place to put it and hopefully it provides a little bit of comfort to people who watch and hopefully it helps to distill it down for people who watch it.”