TV Club

Why Seth Meyers rules late night.

Why Late Night rules late night.

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Amber Ruffin and Seth Meyers during a “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” sketch on Oct. 24.

Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Dear June, Willa, and Todd:

June, I wish I had any insight to offer about Longmire, but I haven’t seen it. I feel much more connected to my Canadian heritage when I recognize one of The 20 Canadian Actors who pop up in every show that films in Toronto or Vancouver: As soon as that one former Battlestar Galactica Cylon showed up as a supposedly American finance titan in the current season of The Girlfriend Experience, all the other bit players’ Canadian accents suddenly sounded a lot stronger to me.

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About the ball hairs, though, since you asked: American Vandal was such a clever, surprising triumph; the reverent devotion to using all the tropes of prestige true crime docs in the service of what is, for most of the season, an extremely silly story never stopped being funny to me. Doing dumb humor well takes smarts, as my fellow fans of Jackass well know; it’s a high calling.

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Smart humor also takes smarts, which is why, like Todd, I’ve been so grossed out by Saturday Night Live this year; in fact, after never having missed an episode in as long as I’ve been permitted to stay up late enough to watch it live, I quit a few episodes into the current season. I agree with Todd that Alec Baldwin’s Trump doesn’t display any insight into the character; worse than that, it’s not even good—or, rather, it’s just good enough that Baldwin’s version of Trump’s scowl-pout is as repellant as the real thing, which I also avoid watching as much as possible. Anthony Atamanuik’s impression is superior in every respect.

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I think Colbert is fine and watch most episodes because he gets marquee guests, but for me the standout in late night is … Late Night. Seth Meyers’s nearly nightly segment, “A Closer Look,” is always sharp, assiduously researched, and savagely funny.

As good as Meyers is at delivering Late Night’s topical bits, though, the show this past year has also made me wonder if he’s going to end up a footnote in the Amber Ruffin story: Ruffin, a writer on the show (she also wrote for and guest-starred on Comedy Central’s excellent sitcom Detroiters this year and has narrated a couple of Drunk Historys), has broken out this year as an on-air performer for her “Amber Says What?” segments and co-starred in “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” with fellow writer Jenny Hagel, supplying punchlines about black Americans, lesbians, Catholics, and Puerto Ricans—Hagel belongs to the last three communities—that Meyers, with his white male privilege, can’t get away with saying himself. Late Night also gave a launching pad to current Daily Show writer-star Michelle Wolf, whose first HBO stand-up special premiered this month; Meyers may be, superficially, just another white guy late-night host, but (a) he figured out a way to lean into it that also showcases hilarious women of color, and (b) being known as the guy whose show gives female comics their start is a pretty rad legacy—particularly as we’ve been waking up every morning to find out which man in the industry has been newly exposed as a scumbag. (Seth, please: Don’t do anything disgraceful before this gets published.) (Or ever.)

—Tara

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