Seth Meyers’ new Late Night talk show debuted Monday night and received the show’s highest ratings for a Monday in 10 years. The show drew a 2.6 rating, compared to Jimmy Fallon’s 2.3 rating in 2009. The new host had the benefit of having two strong guests, Amy Poehler and Vice-President Joe Biden.
Meyers is the fourth host of Late Night, following in the footsteps of Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, and David Letterman, who first hosted the show over 30 years ago. At 40, Meyers is the oldest to take over behind the Late Night desk, but he is also the most experienced. The Late Night’s new studio at 30 Rockefeller Center sits just about 20 yards away from Meyers’ previous gig at Saturday Night Live, where he joined the cast in 2001 and ascended to co-head writer/Weekend Update anchor in 2006.
Despite Meyers’ experience, he has some pretty daunting shoes to fill. Each of the three previous Late Night hosts has moved on to the coveted 11:35 p.m. time slot. Most recently, Jimmy Fallon, a fellow SNL alum, has had early success moving to The Tonight Show. Thanks to the lead-in of the Sochi Olympics, Fallon drew an average of 8.5 million viewers in his first week, the most The Tonight Show has seen in 20 years. Fallon’s success should translate into an advantage for Late Night.
Meyers began his first show by borrowing Fallon’s reoccurring “Thank You Notes” segment. He thanked the former host for moving to The Tonight Show, so Meyers could take his job. Meyers then promised to treat the show with “respect and dignity. And to only use it to do completely original comedy pieces…starting now.”
After the intro by bandleader and SNL alum, Fred Armisen, the audience finally saw the debut of Meyers’ new Late Night studio, which features sliding doors in place of curtains. Meyers exited the doors and greeted the audience by offering to shake things up by opening with a monologue.
As a former Weekend Update anchor, Meyers has the skills to deliver smart one-liners on current events directly to the camera. On the current Arizona legislation that allows businesses to deny gay customers based on religious beliefs, Meyers said that stores are already putting up signs that read, “Nice shirt. Nice shoes. No service.”
The new host also poked fun at a 101-year-old Florida man running for Congress, who Meyers said, “has a good chance of appealing to younger voters, since that’s all there is.”
It was fitting that Late Night’s first guest was Poehler, who was Meyers’ co-anchor on SNL’s Weekend Update until she left the show in 2009. Although Meyers did not display nerves, it helped that he and his first guest had such strong chemistry. Apart from being the vice-president, Biden also made for an appropriate guest, as he has appeared in Poehler’s NBC sitcom Parks and Rec.
Meyers is looking past the debut of his version of Late Night and hoping for the longevity that his predecessors enjoyed. “I’m really looking forward to mid-March. When we’ve been on three weeks,” he said. “It will be like looking at an ultrasound: Oh, I see its hand! Whereas right now we’ve got a heartbeat, but that’s all we’ve got.”
By David Tulis