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Seth Meyers talks 'SNL,' family, more Moontower set

Dale Roe

Seth Meyers, the anchor of "Saturday Night Live's" faux newscast, Weekend Update, is bringing his stand-up act to the inaugural Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival tonight, which gave me the chance to speak with him about "SNL," touring and his childhood with comedically permissive parents.

Austin American-Statesman: Have you ever spent any time in Austin?

Meyers: I came down for SXSW for the film "MacGruber" which, I think, if you remember, went on to win a bunch of Oscars. I wouldn't check; take my word for it. I know you're too busy to fact-check everything I say.

Where are you from?

I was born in Evanston (Illinois). I kind of grew up in New England and then went back to school in Evanston at Northwestern (Illinois University). My parents had a great experience at Northwestern, and I wanted to go somewhere with a good film program, so it worked out.

Your brother, Josh, is also an actor. What was your childhood like? Were you funny kids?

Well, we had a really funny dad and a really beautiful mother, and we realized that making people laugh probably meant that you could date way above your station. But our parents introduced us at a very young age to stuff like "SNL" and Steve Martin albums and Monty Python and Richard Pryor — probably earlier than they should have. Comedy became sort of the currency in our household and making people laugh was really important. Then, by the time my brother and I were in high school we were sort of doing comedy nights together, and then he ended up coming to Northwestern as well. We've actually worked together a lot over the years.

So your sense of humor came from your dad?

It's funny ... even though we share a sensibility about what's funny, we all tried to find real estate that wasn't taken up yet. My father is an incredible storyteller; he sort of commands the room. So, Josh and I tended to be a little quieter in our comedy and developed the "quiet undercut" from those years.

You spent a lot of time training in and performing improv. Does that help you on Weekend Update?

The only time it helps is when you have a guest out, when someone like Bill Hader or Bobby Moynihan or Kristen Wiig, who also have improv backgrounds, are out there. You kind of know that if you veer away from the script a little bit they're going to be cool with it. But outside of that, when you're joke-telling, it's the absence of improv because we spend so much time getting those words just right that the last thing you want to do when you get out there is sort of let it curve a different way.

You've got a lot of acclaim for the way that you handle those segments with the guests.

It was fun. I had a nice revelation around my second year of doing it — certainly once Amy (Poehler) left, the only time I dealt with people was when those guests came out. I think a comedy move is often to be exasperated with people, especially when you're the straight man. (But) it kind of struck me that it would be more fun if, you know, I liked them. And so, even though not a single person ever comes out there and does what they're supposed to be there for, enjoying them has been so much more fun than wanting to throw up my hands at them.

Do you miss doing characters at all?

I really don't. I always felt like I did a passable job, but I felt like I was surrounded by people who did it better than anyone on Earth and I was often aware of being sort of in the bottom trench.

You're performing stand-up at Moontower. I guess the closest thing to that I've seen you do was your turn at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Is your stand-up anything like that?

It's certainly political. I would say half of it is about politics and half of it's a little more about myself. I think that's a fairly good indicator. I think Weekend Update is a fairly good indicator as well of my sense of humor. But, yeah, for those who haven't seen my stand-up act I think it's a slightly different version of me. People will see my knees for the first time.

Do you tour regularly?

I have been touring a fair amount these last couple of years. I've been doing colleges for years and years but I just started doing ticketed shows and it's been really fun.

There have been rumors of a mass exodus from ‘SNL' at the end of this season. You've been there a long time. Are you planning on staying?

I would very much like to stay on through an election year. For me, those are such exciting years.

Contact Dale Roe at 912-5923; Twitter: @djroe

Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival