“I think anybody who said things like that, there would have been a reaction, based on the times we live in,” Meyers said Wednesday at Variety‘s Path to Parity summit. “We love reacting. Both sides of the aisle are very good at reacting. I can’t speak to whether or not it was gender-based. I’m just glad that there are voices on shows that can say what they’re feeling that are more diverse than there have been in the past.”
Meyers appeared Wednesday in a keynote conversation with Debra Birnbaum, executive editor, TV, for Variety. Birnbaum asked Meyers about the recent controversy generated by TBS host Bee’s joke in which she called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c—.”
“I’m supportive of Sam having a voice,” Meyers said. “I’m also supportive of her apology. My thought process is that Sam has spent more time thinking about this than I have and because I have so much trust in her process, I’m behind that. And I also feel that nothing I say will probably be as interesting as what she says tonight, because she has a new episode on tonight that I will look forward to watching.”
Meyers also discussed fellow comic Michelle Wolf’s turn as emcee of the White House Correspondents Association dinner. Wolf’s jokes about President Trump and members of his administration in April prompted an apology from the WHCA, though not from Wolf, a former staff writer on Meyers’ NBC show “Late Night,” and now the host of her own Netflix show, “The Break.”
“Anyone who has ever watched Michelle even a little bit knew that that was what she was going to do with the White House Correspondents Dinner,” Meyers said. “It was a little bit like, ‘Huh, did you hear what happened? We brought home a bobcat as a domestic pet, and it did not go well.'”
Meyers noted that Wolf “is absolutely fearless. She is unforgiving. It’s what makes her the perfect person to have a show, and it’s why I was on the edge of my seat when she did it.”
Meyers also slammed the WHCA for issuing an apology after the dinner. “I was very disappointed by that element of it. The crazy thing now is to be shocked by what people are shocked by. That’s going to happen.” Meyers, who hosted the dinner in 2010, said he wouldn’t host the event again, calling it “a terrible job,” one that he felt went well for him last time and that he wouldn’t want to tempt fate by trying again.
The “Late Night” host also pointed to Wolf and BET host Robin Thede as the leaders of a new wave of hosts bringing increased diversity to the late-night comedy field, which remains dominated by white men. “The only good news is that the trend line is pointed in the right direction,” Meyers said.
Meyers talked about working with the women writers on his staff. Late-night has long been known as an area where female writers have had trouble breaking into male-dominated rooms.
“In the beginning when you have women on your staff, you think, ‘Oh, can you guys please explain how you feel, and then I’ll tell everybody,'” Meyers said. “Then I realized, ‘Oh, or you tell everybody.’ That, I found, is a lot more effective.” He credited writer Jenny Hagel for coming up with the recurring “Late Night” segment “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” in which she and fellow writer Amber Ruffin tell jokes from a female perspective.
Meyers credited his time on “Saturday Night Live” more than decade ago for his perspective on working with women.
“When I came up at ‘SNL,’ not only were there women on the staff, but Tina Fey was the head writer, and you would have had to have a mental illness to hold the position that women weren’t funny,” Meyers said. He added, “When I started at ‘SNL,’ I wanted to be Tina Fey. I just wanted to have those skills. I wanted to write jokes that were that good. I wanted to deliver them with that strength. I came to a place where I was modeling what I wanted to be after this writer that I had so much respect for.”