Published Sep 29, 2014Though not really lauded as stand-up, Seth Meyers totally owned his early set, pacing the stage like a seasoned pro, armed with some really funny personal and observational material and sure, some obligatory stuff about Toronto and its notorious mayor.
There is no doubt that Meyers is one of the sharpest and funniest comedy writers around, but despite his memorable turn on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update desk (while also working as the program's head writer) and his current stint at Late Night, he is not really known for being a performer per se. Yet there he was, no novice tics or stand-up rust hindering his less-than-confessional, classic set-up/punch line work, augmented with the odd physical flourish.
For anyone who saw Dave Attell at JFL42 last week, things began, at the very least, suspiciously. Meyers drew out topical stuff about wishing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford well, mostly for the sake of comedy and thanking the beleaguered city for producing Doug Ford in his stead. "Such a beautiful city Toronto, such a beautiful city," Meyers said, loading up his first killer line of the night. "I definitely want to come back when you finish building it."
When Attell got his show rolling nine days ago, he said "I love Toronto you guys; whenever you guys are done building it, it's gonna be awesome." The similarities were scrutinized because twitter but, to be fair, Janeane Garafolo made virtually the same joke last year so, the truly questionable aspect of the bit is, why the fuck is Toronto under so much construction that comedians can make the same "it's-funny-because-it's-frustratingly-true" joke a year apart and still have it stick?
Meyers got into politics a bit, noting that President Obama simply doesn't care about his job anymore because he's disappointed in America, and that the fate of the European economy keeps Meyers up at night because Greece has "a yogurt-based economy" and it's number one tourist attraction is ruins. All of this could well have led him into more "Weekend Update" headline satires. But, as he often proves in his post-monologue desk pieces on Late Night, Meyers is a really remarkable storyteller.
When Meyers told us about living in Amsterdam, he punctuated the perils of legalized pot by busting out uncanny Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson impressions. He discussed gender dynamics and married life with sharp nuance and his story about "fighting" a guy in Vegas was priceless. And to end with a slew of too-racy-for-TV Late Night monologue jokes was really wise and rewarding.
Meyers is clearly a student of Jerry Seinfeld. He is not alone of course, but there were several instances where tags and physical moves to highlight absurdity (i.e., washing your face with a hand towel) and the aforementioned, old-school showbiz joke structure, clearly recalled Jerry more than most. Given that Seinfeld was regarded as the sharpest writer among his contemporaries, it makes sense that Meyers (who receives the same distinction today) might be subtly following his lead and it didn't diminish his show. In fact, sometimes that familiarity made his wise-ass sarcasm go down even easier.