Seth Meyers’ ‘Closer Look’ segments are ‘Late Night’ staple

  • Seth Meyers at his desk during a taping of, “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” in New York. Meyers devotes up to 12 minutes of air time, three to four days a week, about the Trump Administration with a segment called A Closer Look. NBC via AP

Associated Press
Saturday, June 17, 2017

From “covfefe” to Sean Spicer’s press briefings, the Trump administration has provided a steady stream of material for late-night shows.

NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers now devotes up to 12 minutes of airtime three to four days a week with a segment called “A Closer Look”.

During these segments, Meyers and his writers take an element of news and do a deep dive. On Monday it was President Donald Trump’s efforts to discredit former FBI Director James Comey while also trying to bolster his own reputation. He asked Cabinet members to give him compliments in an on-air round table.

“Is there anything creepier than Trump making his staff go around the room and praise him? Even Kim Jong Il is like, ‘Dude, have some self-respect,’ ” joked Meyers in “A Closer Look” segment.

Meyers says his interest in current events and politics stems from his childhood.

“My parents are very much into reading newspapers, watching the news every night,” he says. “I grew up in New Hampshire, so presidential politics were on our front door every four years for six months.”

Late Night head writer Alex Baze says people are paying attention to politics.

“You can do your best work when the audience has a lot of information,” he said. “When you have to explain the whole story and then make a joke, it really loses steam along the way.”

Sal Gentile, designated writer for “A Closer Look,” says it’s “a lot of rapid-fire joke writing.”

“First you’re processing news and on top of that you’ve got to write jokes,” he says. “It requires speed and discipline.”

The “Closer Look” segment appears three or four times a week, and Late Night producer and showrunner Mike Shoemaker says it’s “the thing that excites us.”

“If you asked me a few years ago, ‘Do you think you’ll have 12-minute segments that will even go on YouTube much less get a million views by the next day,’ I’d be very surprised. ... People accept it at every length and sometimes even the longer ones do better,” he says. “We learned to let the segment run and figure out the rest.”

Meyers says there are no rules about “A Closer Look.”

“I think one of the great advantages we have over real journalists who wonderfully have higher standards than we do is, when you’re dealing with an administration that often doesn’t have a lot of respect for integrity, comedy shows like ours are kind of better suited to call them out,” he said.

He says the main goal of the segments is to entertain, but it’s cathartic for him as well. “It’s the best feeling to have a day where there are things in the news that are frustrating to you and stressful, but if you can go out and tell jokes, it is the best feeling. I’m very lucky. I feel very fortunate to tell jokes now more than ever.”