By Curt Wagner
5:16 PM CDT, June 16, 2011
Yes, Seth Meyers and "SNL" character Stefon (Bill Hader) are supposed to be on their summer vacation together, but Meyers still has time for Chicago.
"You know, I'm thinking by June 18 we might need a couple of days apart," Meyers joked when we talked on the phone a few weeks ago.
In the season finale of "Saturday Night Live," Meyers signed off "Weekend Update," grabbed his backpack and told Stefon, the "Update" city correspondent who has a knack for presenting the creepiest tourist spots, "I think this is the start of a beautiful nightmare."
Meyers isn't feeling that way about his old Chicago haunts. The Northwestern and Improv Olympic alum is back in town this week, performing a sold-out show at the Vic Theatre Saturday as part of the TBS Just For Laughs comedy festival.
We chatted about hanging out in Chicago, his skewering of Donald Trump at the White House correspondents dinner, and his "'Update' heart." Amy Poehler.
Find the Just For Laughs 2011 schedule at Metromix.
Where will you and Stefon go?
I feel like I would go a lot of places you and I have never heard of. [Laughs.]
Tell me about your live show.
I have stand-act I’ve been doing at colleges for awhile. I talk a lot about politics. But I think the biggest difference between the “SNL” me and the stand-up me is just getting to talk about myself more. That would be indulgence on the show, but less so as a stand-up act.
Right. Are you hoping that Donald Trump is in the audience?
I don’t know if I need him to be in the audience now because I think people can picture his face if I were to tell a joke about him.
Do you have any of that worked into your act?
I haven’t decided. I haven’t sort of done, because after the correspondents dinner we had three straight shows, so I’m not sure yet if I’m ready to talk about Donald Trump and how he treated me.
[Laughs.] How he treated you. Right.
Exactly. You’re allowed to treat people a certain way if they say they’re going to run for president.
But he didn’t seem too amused by it.
He seemed the opposite of amused. I didn’t know—I couldn’t see him in the audience. I had no sense of the reaction until afterward. It was a really unfortunate angle, too, that dead profile. [Laughs.]
Were you nervous about working that room?
The only thing I was nervous about, which was enough to make me more nervous than I’d ever been, was the idea of following the President because he was great. I knew he’d be great, so that was the terrifying part.
When you’re mocking them on “Update” those folks aren’t in the audience, so...
Oh no, I’m well aware of that! [Laughs.] I’m well aware.
Obviously though, it didn’t stop you from throwing some sharp barbs.
I think there’s a line of how sharp the barb can be. I watched a lot of old correspondents dinners before I did it and I had to leave some sense of where the line was. With that said, I probably pulled 10 jokes on the fly while I was doing it.
You’re a smart guy like that, huh?
Yeah. I feel like every joke I told I learned a couple of things about the audience and it was like OK, you guys aren’t going for this. [Laughs.]
You used to live in Chicago and worked here. What are you planning to do while you’re here and you’re not on stage?
The nice thing about the festival is I feel like so many of my comedy friends are going to be there. Like Mike O’Brien, who writes for us, is a Chicago guy, a Second City guy, he’s going to be out there doing a show which I might do a guest spot on. But I’m actually [excited] just to be in Chicago more than anything else, especially Chicago in June. I’ve come out a couple of times. I’ve done a couple of shows at Northwestern, a couple of shows at Loyola, but it’s been a while since I’ve been out in this nice time of year.
Do you have any old stomping grounds you’ll visit?
Well, I was a waiter for years at the Twisted Lizard on Armitage and Sheffield, and I might have to stop in and give an inspirational speech to the staff.
An inspirational speech?
What would that consist of?
Just, you know, don’t let these tables get you down. [Laughs.] At the end of the day the only people you have to be able to look in the eye is the rest of the staff.
Or these a-holes coming in?
Yeah. There were a lot of a-holes back then. Or I could just shift and be one of the a-holes that goes in there. I haven’t decided yet.
Right. But if you did that then it would make news and that probably wouldn’t be good.
Yeah, not the right kind of news. I agree.
Do you have any targets in store that you’re going to talk about, like Chicago targets?
I will probably talk about my Northwestern days a fair amount, and certainly Rahm Emanuel is one of our favorite targets here. I wrote the Rahm Emanuel things with Andy [Samberg], which I always really enjoyed writing. Rahm is really a fun voice to write in.
Would you try to do him like Andy does, or would you just talk about him?
I think I’d just talk about him. I can do like three B-minus impressions. I did jokes about Arnold Schwarzenegger this week where I had to do Arnold’s voice and I was like, “I think I might do like the worst guy in America doing his voice.” It’s like, kids are born and that’s the second thing they learn, is how to do a passable Schwarzenegger.
Who can you do? Who are your B-minus impressions?
I can really do like a B-minus Hugh Grant. Is he in the news?
Well, he did turn down the “Two and a Half Men” gig.
That’s true. That’s a bummer for me; it could have worked.
I probably can do a B-minus Matthew McConaughey. My brother does like an A-plus Matthew McConaughey and an A-plus Owen Wilson, so I just do his impressions of them and they’re like B-minuses.
So four, really, because you do your brother.
I only do my brother doing famous people, so I don’t know if it technically counts.
Do you have any co-anchors you’d like to see on “Weekend Update?”
My co-anchor heart belongs to Amy Poehler and it’s very hard to imagine anyone else.
Do you kind of wish she was still there? Do you miss doing it with her?
I loved doing it with her. I do, I miss her a lot. I mean she was my closest friend here. So yeah, not a day goes by that I don’t miss having her around. I also like doing it alone; I think that’s fun, too.
Was it weird doing it alone at first?
Yeah. It was also weird because she had like a baby in the middle of the night the day before, so we weren’t really prepared for it.
Are we ever going to see Wolf Blitzer? He said he wants to come on “Weekend Update” sometime.
Well, I didn’t realize that. [Laughs.] Even after [Jason] Sudeikis’ Wolf Blitzer impression; I like it.
Do you find that most people you satirize kind of enjoy this?
I think they love it. I find that most people love it, yeah. There’s not many people that I feel like are angry about the impressions we do.
Right. So do you want to give me a taste of your Mayor Emanuel jokes, or maybe Blagojevich?
No. [Laughs.] Well, we did a bunch of jokes about Blagojevich, I remember, when he first got arrested. I think Poehler’s was, we were talking about how low his bangs were, it was like he looked like a Fisher-Price guy with the hair on backward. And the first time I saw him I thought he was walking away.
It’s funny, Blagojevich was like probably the most local Chicago story. It went national, but that’s probably as local as we’ve gotten in Chicago in recent years.
You guys have had a lot of Chicago-related stuff on “SNL.”
It’s nice when every other governor gets arrested. [Laughs.]
Have you gotten any better at collecting eggs from chickens?
I was so terrified of what you were about to say. [Laughs.] I haven’t; that was the last time I did it and I would say I’m exactly at that level.
The first and last time on a Martha Stewart special.
Also, like lifting up $3,000 hens. [Laughs.]
Is that how much they are?
I don’t know. I’m just assuming. Whatever the most you can pay for a hen is how much those hens were.
Martha probably has the best hens.
I do think she had the best hens around.
What did you think I was going to say? You said you were…
I don’t know. It’s just, like, there’s nothing more loaded than, “Have you gotten any better at…” It’s such a passive-aggressive way of asking a question. [Laughs.]
So who’s the funniest person you know?
I would say the guy that makes me laugh around the office the most is Fred Armisen. In a room full of comedians, he’s like the comedian’s comedian. So I’ll say Fred.
Alright. Anything else you want to tell me to pimp the show?
I don’t know, I feel like I’ve done a really good job.
You have, but anything else you want to add? Are you happy with the interview so far?
I feel like we did a great job. I feel like neither you nor I have anything to hang our heads about.
Great. I have one more question about Stefon. What do you think you guys have in common?
What do Stefon and I have in common? God, that’s a really good question. What do we have in common? I know this is not an answer to your question, but what I really enjoy is—Bill’s favorite thing about me with Stefon is how patient I am. Because in real life I’m like the most impatient person, and one of the things that I think he finds so funny about playing Stefon is how all of a sudden with the most ridiculous person you could ever meet I really always slow it down and give him another chance to do it correctly. He keeps letting me down.
Do you enjoy doing the live shows? And being able to talk about yourself?
I do. But it’s not it’s not going to be like an hour of therapy. It’s just a completely different experience. I will say I like—what I’ve realized is that the ESPYs and the correspondents dinner when I do live shows is it’s nice to do comedy standing. On the show I pretty much do all my jokes sitting down. At this point it’s nice to get on my feet.
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