Around the time The New York Times reported Friday that President Donald Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office that his firing of “nut job” FBI Director James Comey took pressure off of the Russia investigation, NBC’s late-night star Seth Meyers talked about the challenges of covering Trump on NBC’s Late Night.
Every day at 5 PM-ish – especially this week – when cable news networks brace themselves for that day’s NYT or WaPo bombshell, late-night shows also are steeling for that day’s gobsmacker.
“We have little bit more time,” said Meyers, whose show airs weeknights at 12:35 AM. “And the reality is we’re better at writing about the fallout than the actual moment. When Trump fires Comey… even if we get that at 6, even if we had another hour, we probably would not be able to pull together too much that would be as much fun as giving ourselves 24 hours to really pull it together.
“But we want to make sure we always mention things that happened in the last minute,” Meyers told Deadline in an interview. “That’s the challenge we’re up against. When news like that breaks, or news of the White House meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, you want to make sure you get it into the show so people go, ‘Oh!’
“It’s almost a way for us to say, ‘Tomorrow, on A Closer Look.‘ This week was a head spinner; I think I said that three times this week, which I’ve never had to say before.”
He continued: “It’s telling the audience what you are actually up against as a talk show. We’re living in a time where there is a bit of behind-the-curtain, as opposed to not letting audiences know what we’re going through. And so I think they want to hear, ‘Hey guys, we’re getting this as last-minute as you are.’”
Expect more live Late Nights, “but we want to make sure they’re events. I don’t want to think the week that just happened is going to be every week, going forward,” he said, hopefully.
“The election was pretty Trumpy,” Meyers continued. “And, you know how we’ve been saying we thought the election was the World Series and, turns out, it was spring training. So the election was just us loosening up and finding our swing and getting our muscles ready for the grind of the Trump administration.”
In Trumpworld, he said, “We need to make sure that that first 15-minute act of our show is as much about the day’s events as possible. That is what we want our contract with the audience to be; ‘You came for this; we’ll give you as much as we can before we move on to the less time-sensitive part of our hour.’”
Recently, Late Night has been putting its A Closer Look segment online before broadcast. “We had a few that we thought were really good ones and started asking, ‘Can we put this up early?’ And the digital team agreed; they were very happy to have it early to get it up. Then we realized, with the news moving as fast as it does, the sooner we get this up the better.
“It doesn’t seem to be eroding the ratings for the people who are watching it at night [on television],” Meyers added. “If there was erosion, we would hear about it.”