Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum sat down with late-night television show host and “Saturday Night Live” alum Seth Meyers to talk about the women in his writing staff and the realities of being a television comedian in the age of the Donald Trump presidency.
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Meyers pointed to the outrage from the right toward Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner comedy set as expected, but he was surprised when the White House Correspondents’ Association apologized on behalf of Wolf.
“I was very disappointed by that element of it,” Meyers said. “Michelle said it great on ‘The View’ when she got asked about. It’s a terrible job as a comedian, and I say this as someone who’s done it. It’s a terrible room, you don’t get paid, you’re on C-SPAN the worst you’ve ever looked on camera. The least you would think the people who asked you to do it could do is have your back.”
Meyers said he doesn’t want to host another White House Correspondent’s Dinner, mostly because it’s less fun when the president doesn’t attend. Unlike previous presidents, Trump has not attended the dinner during his term. Meyers said the idea of a president sitting in the room and listening to comedians make jokes about him or her was the best representation of free speech.
“[Trump] hosted ‘SNL’ in 2004 and even then, [he had] just a real lack of a sense of humor,” Meyers said. “He has no internal judgement as to whether or not something is funny. But if people laugh, then I do think his brain processes an algorithm that’s like ‘Oh this is funny, I’ll keep doing this.'”
Meyers said he wouldn’t want Trump as a guest on his show. “I don’t think it would be pleasant or revealing, I don’t think anybody would watch it and have any grand satisfaction afterward,” he said.
Meyers also spoke of the four women who work on his show’s writing staff and how he’s been working to get those women on camera more often, most notably with the “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” segment.
“It basically came from Jenny Hagel who is both Hispanic and gay and she realized there were times she was writing jokes for a straight guy, that she would write jokes that would not be fun if I would say them, but would be a lot of fun if she would say them,” Meyers said. “It was great to come up with a way those jokes that were really good jokes could be delivered on a show hosted by someone like me.”
Meyers said the response to the segment has been great and has given a platform for Hagel and the other writers to do more commentary.
“There are women’s issues that I feel strongly about, things that happened this year, but I think often times it has more power coming from women,” he said. “So not only are they helping me say it in a way that will get the message across in the way I want it to, I can also turn it over to them.”
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