Each iteration of The Tonight Show’s mischievous younger brother has had its own unique flavor. David Letterman’s pioneering version was cutting-edge and unpredictable; Conan O’Brien’s was cerebral and absurd; Jimmy Fallon’s was goofy and YouTubey, and “wait, you remember the ’90s TOO?!”-y.
Late Night’s latest host, ex-SNL head writer Seth Meyers, will obviously try to forge his own path. That said, he also has a few things in common with each of his predecessors – and it’s easy to see a scenario in which he synthesizes the strengths of all three previous hosts (Letterman’s innovation, Conan’s surreality, Fallon’s knack for viral content) to create some sort of ultimate Late Night Frankenshow.
Something like that, of course, would only come with time. For now, let’s focus on what we’d like to see from Meyers’ very first Late Night, which airs tonight on NBC at 12:35 a.m. ET. First and foremost:
1. A bit of bite
Late Night’s most recent host is often cited as the ultimate millennial entertainer – Jimmy Fallon is unfailingly enthusiastic, obsessed with the recent past, and skilled at getting online buzz. He’s also pretty toothless, especially when it comes to guest interviews. This isn’t necessarily bad; being TV’s designated Nice Guy is Fallon’s thing, and he does it well. Meyers, though, showed a little more edge than Fallon ever did as Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update anchor – and it’d be great if he could do something similar when he takes over Late Night. Imagine an NBC talk show that asks celebrities interesting questions, and actually garners interesting answers!
2. Political comedy
Not a ton, mind you; Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert already have a sort of monopoly on the topic, and with John Oliver’s HBO show launching in just a few months, the market’s about to get even more saturated. But Meyers can be sharp when he takes on topics more serious than celebrity culture or weird news, and it would be nice to get his take on the political landscape on a more regular basis. Especially if he gets an assist from an old pal.
Remember that SNL sketch that cast Abraham Lincoln as a schlubby standup comedian played by Louis C.K., or that kooky-brilliant two-parter in which Zach Galifianakis filmed a public access cable show and kept making weird editing demands? Well, Meyers wrote both. They’re perfect examples of what can happen when he thinks outside the box, and bold bits like these are exactly what’s currently missing from network TV’s late-night landscape. (Kimmel, Letterman, Ferguson, and Fallon might make you laugh, but when’s the last time they really surprised you?)
4. Fred Armisen, but only in small doses
He’s already got his very own comedy showcase and cameos in, like, everything; he doesn’t need to dominate Late Night too. And if he ever puts on a dress, I am immediately changing the channel.
5. Amy Poehler kissing Joe Biden on the mouth
Seth must have picked them to be his first guests for a reason, right?