Seth Meyers Explains the Upfront Joke He Didn’t Get to Make This Year

At Adweek's Elevate: The Future of TV, the Late Night host said he's in no hurry to return to his studio

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“It’s not particularly easy, but as a point of pride, I try very hard to be the most entertaining part of the NBC upfront," said Meyers. Adweek
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Key insight:

If NBCUniversal had been able to hold its annual in-person upfront presentation for advertisers as planned last month, Seth Meyers would not have held back on the jokes about his employer’s new streaming service, dubbed Peacock.

“My favorite part of Peacock is that the name was under wraps for 18 months,” the comedian-talk show host-producer said during Adweek’s Elevate: The Future of TV event on Tuesday. “They probably could’ve come up with it in one breakout session.”

He’s relieved, though, that he wasn’t called upon to perform as usual during NBCU’s annual May ritual for advertisers at Radio City Music Hall, which was canceled in March because of Covid-19.

“Every year, I dread doing it,” he said. “It’s not particularly easy, but as a point of pride, I try very hard to be the most entertaining part of the NBC upfront.”

There could still be a related upfront appearance for him in the near future, though, as NBCU announced shortly before Meyers’ Future of TV panel that it is reuniting the cast of 30 Rock to host its virtual upfront, in character, as part of an hour-long, ad-free event airing July 16 on NBC.

Meyers, who spoke to Adweek’s TV editor Jason Lynch during Tuesday’s Elevate: The Future of TV session (he also appeared on the cover of this week’s issue), said he might turn up on that one-time special, which will also feature talent from NBCUniversal’s 2020-21 content slate.

“Were I asked to do something in return for not having to do the physical upfront, I would certainly say yes,” Meyers said. “I’d feel ahead of the game.”

And on the subject of zeitgeisty reunions, Meyers didn’t confirm any specific projects but said “it would be a real delight” to get back together with his former Saturday Night Live colleagues from his 2001-2014 stint at the iconic sketch series.

Meyers, who has been filming Late Night in his attic during quarantine, said he’s in no real hurry to return to his 30 Rock studio while audiences are still unable to gather to watch a live show.

“It might seem less like a victory and more like a sad reminder of the time we’re living in,” said Meyers, who has been filming Late Night episodes at home since March. “We’d love to be back, but at the same time I don’t want to risk people’s health for the sake of me having better makeup.”

The host said he’s learned some of the rhythms of telling jokes without pausing for the studio audience’s laughter during the lockdown. “It turns out you need more content” to fill the time, he said, and he’s listened to fan feedback on Twitter about his delivery style so there are “less pauses now.”

He hopes some of the efficiencies he and his team have honed during the past several months will continue after physical production starts again.

Because it is filming remotely, Late Night wasn’t able to fully celebrate its 1,000th episode last week, but Meyers said he might not have made it a blowout bash anyway. “We were disappointed not to be in the studio, but I’m bad at celebrating milestones to begin with,” he said. “If I throw you a birthday party, it would be a bad birthday party.”

And though his long-form segment, A Closer Look, has turned into Late Night’s signature element—each new installment draws between 2 million and 3 million views on YouTube—it’s not likely to expand beyond its current two to three episodes a week. With scripts that start at 30-plus heavily researched pages, Meyers fears his head writer, Sal Gentile, “would drop dead of exhaustion” if the segment ran four nights a week.

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.