Seth Meyers performs stand-up in his new Netflix comedy special. (Photo: Netflix)
NEW YORK – Many Netflix subscribers click the “skip intro” button, a handy way to fast-forward through the sometimes interminable opening credits of TV shows or movies. Seth Meyers goes one step further: “Lobby Baby,” his first stand-up special for the streaming service, features a “skip politics” button, for those who are just tired of Trump jokes.
Clicking it, 40 minutes into the one-hour special, skips through a mere seven minutes of political humor, a staple of NBC’s “Late Show With Seth Meyers” that’s won him fresh relevancy (if not higher ratings) in the President Donald Trump era.
Instead, the one-hour special (now streaming) focuses mostly on Meyers’ marriage to attorney Alexi Ashe, who got food poisoning the day before their 2013 wedding; the “very dramatic” births of their two kids – son Ashe, now 3½, was “almost born in the backseat of an Uber,” while Axel, 18 months, arrived in the lobby of their Manhattan apartment building, prompting an emergency medical technician to whisper conspiratorially, “Guess you got your monologue for tonight.”
Meyers makes a big deal out of his literal stand-up act: At the top of the special, taped in Minneapolis last June, he tells the crowd that “most of you are probably used to seeing me wearing suits, sitting behind a desk,” so looking at his legs is “like kids seeing a mall Santa getting into a Ford Festiva.”
The former “Saturday Night Live” writer, Weekend Update anchor and comedian spoke with USA TODAY Tuesday in his “Late Night” office about his family, the pace of the Trump political era and what comes next.
Question: There’s a lot of attention over the “Skip politics” button in the special. How did that come about, and why did you want to use it?
Seth Meyers: I was aware certainly that it’s a far less political special than what I do here every day, and I thought it was a nice way to respond to those who would complain about people who do politics in their comedy. That’s a box we tick here every night, and I think it’s very hard to do comedy and politics with a four-month lead time.
Q: Yet there are only seven minutes of political material in the special. Do you think people are just growing weary of Trump jokes?
Meyers: Ultimately, most of the jokes in that seven minutes are jokes about my relationship to the current president, as opposed to jokes about the current president. … But a lot of people in my Twitter feed, people who are not fans of this iteration of “Late Night,” say they wish I would skip politics. So it is, in some way, a response to that.
Q: So instead, you spend a lot of time recounting the dramatic births of your two boys. Are you going to have any more kids to give you more comedy material?
Meyers: We thought we’d only have two, and we like them both a lot. We’re entertaining the idea of more kids, but then again, we need to wait ’til we get the numbers back from Netflix. If the Netflix algorithm says we should have more children, then …
Q: And how is parenthood going, four months later?
Meyers: When you have kids, you notice things. And when you talk about them, you realize that every single other person who’s had kids knew this before you. If you can say it with some flair, they enjoy hearing it. But you’re not informing them of anything.
Q: Back to Trump for a moment. How are you reacting to the pace of political news, and especially the impeachment hearings, when you’re working on a nightly comedy show?
Meyers: We’ll just keep doing what we do, which is trying to turn around ‘Closer Look’ (segments) three times a week that address the day’s news. And there’s no shortage of today’s news. The interesting thing to watch will be how often elected supporters of his will say, ‘Look, the important thing was he didn’t do this.’ And then we’ll find out from the testimony that he absolutely did that. And then they’ll say, ‘Well, yes, but the really important thing is he never did this.’ How many of those will continue to fall, red lines that never mattered?
Q: Is there a risk that desensitization to some of the more outrageous things going on makes it harder for your writers or the show?
Meyers: Because this administration keeps generating new things that are so unconventional, what we’re making jokes about changes every day, (and) new characters keep popping up. (With) the churn of characters, this has become an epic fantasy novel, where you’re constantly flipping back five pages and going, ‘Who’s this again?’
Q: In the special, you address the notion people have that the Trump era benefits you, that it’s like being a gravedigger in the Middle Ages. Is that something people continue to ask you, and how does it make you feel as a comedian?
Meyers: The fear I had when I started the show was, how do you fill an hour every night? And that is no longer a fear at all. But I think everyone who does a job like this would look forward to a new era where you would have to recalibrate what all these shows are. Because whether it would be a different Republican president or a Democratic president, it’s gonna be more normal than this. There’s no option out there for what’s next that seem crazier than what’s now.
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