The NBC host explained why his show decided to address the charges of sexual harassment against the film mogul with a piece prominently featuring three of its female writers.
TV’s late-night talk-show hosts were criticized over the weekend by some online commentators for perhaps taking too long to respond to last week’s New York Times exposé revealing decades of alleged sexual harassment by film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Most of the prominent nightly hosts didn’t take up the Weinstein scandal until Monday night, even though the Times piece was published on Thursday. Still, the Times story was posted in the afternoon, just hours before many late-night shows taped that evening’s episode, and some programs, like ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’ Late Late Show With Stephen Colbert and NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers, regularly air reruns on Friday night.
Meyers, whose show did indeed air a repeat on Friday, on Tuesday addressed the criticism that he and his fellow late-night hosts took too long to weigh in on Weinstein.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of a PaleyFest New York panel with his writers, Meyers defended not addressing Weinstein until Monday, saying in part that it’s a sensitive issue.
“You know, it happened on Thursday, and we only had a show on Thursday [before Monday],” Meyers told THR. “And I was not prepared to talk about something as tricky as sexual assault in a way that I felt would be appropriate that quickly. I felt we responded to it as fast as we respond to anything else.”
When Meyers’ Late Night did take on Weinstein, it was mostly the show’s female writers who shared their thoughts about the film mogul’s alleged behavior and the developments in the wake of the Times story, including Weinstein being fired by his eponymous company.
Meyers told THR that he thought making use of Late Night‘s “diverse” staff would give them a “unique” take on the topic. And he clarified that writers of both genders worked on the piece.
“We spent a lot of time talking about how to address it. We’re really lucky to have a diverse staff. It felt like we knew we could have a unique take if we had them do it,” he said. “And it wasn’t as if we only had women work on the piece. We had our male writers work on it as well. Hopefully we came up with something that addressed a really tricky issue.”
Meyers also talked about how he, like his late-night brethren, have adapted to a faster news cycle, with President Donald Trump often making news right before or even at the same time as many late-night shows tape that evening’s episode.
“If it’s something you can make a quick joke about, we try to fit it in,” Meyers said. “But when we do things like [the segment] ‘A Closer Look,’ part of, I think, what makes them effective is we really try to explain an issue. So more often than not, because we have a show tomorrow, if we feel like it’s an issue that deserves a little bit of patience and observation to make sure we have a take that will not feel weird the next day, we try to just pass it off to that. We feel like our audience now has an expectation that if something big happens, if we don’t get to it, because again, they’re watching it at one in the morning or 12:30, I think if they don’t see it, they know it will happen tomorrow.”
Later, during the panel, Meyers and his writers recalled how they thought the election outcome would be the opposite of what happened and they had wondered how ‘Closer Look’ would work with a more conventional presidency not realizing that the election was just preparing them for the frenetic nature of the news cycle during the Trump presidency.
“What we thought was the World Series was our spring training,” said Meyers, later adding that he has often told “Closer Look” head writer Sal Gentile on a Sunday that the past two days were the “craziest weekend ever” in terms of news — and yet this past weekend may have actually been it, given Vice President Mike Pence walking out of an NFL game after players knelt during the national anthem, President Trump’s war of words with Sen. Bob Corker and the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico.
Meyers and his NBC colleague Jimmy Fallon both made quick jokes about Weinstein in their monologues on Tuesday night, while Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden all appeared to avoid mentioning the latest news about the disgraced mogul despite the Tuesday publication of a New Yorker exposé featuring three women accusing Weinstein of rape.
The PaleyFest panel was moderated by Colin Jost, Meyers’ successor at Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update” desk, and also featured writers Gentile, Alex Base, Jenny Hagel and Amber Ruffin.
During the nearly hourlong discussion, Meyers and his writers revealed the origins of “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” and shared more insight into making the show, including how they consider the audience when they craft a joke.
“Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” was Hagel’s idea. She’d written a ton of jokes about the movie Carol, she explained, but Base felt that they couldn’t tell any of them, so a couple of weeks later during a pitch meeting for a new segment, Hagel suggested to Ruffin that they do that segment as a way to get her Carol jokes in.
As for the audience, Base said they don’t think about viewers in Nebraska, for instance, when they’re generating material, but once it’s on the table, they consider how it will play in those areas.
“That’s why it’s great to have a diverse staff,” Meyers added. “Someone will have a different experience and point out something we don’t notice.”
Said Hagel, “It’s a fun thing to explore how specific can you get and bring everyone along for the ride.”
But ultimately, Ruffin pointed out, “Seth knows if the audience will get it or not.”