Seth Meyers is no stranger to live television. For years he anchored “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live.
Nor is playing host on TV an alien experience. Since February, he has occupied NBC’s Late Night host chair.
So Meyers isn’t sweating his new role as master of ceremonies when The Prime-Time Emmy Awards airs at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC.
“Butterflies tend to go away with the first laugh,” he said brightly, “so you try to make that happen as early as you can.”
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Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, where he was prepping for Emmy night, he reported, “We’ve written our first pack of jokes. But the best stuff [comes] later in the week.
“The monologue is the biggest thing I do,” he went on, “but they are leaving spots during the telecast where I can comment on things that are happening, and if we come up with something silly this week, we don’t have to go hat-in-hand and ask for a minute here, 90 seconds there. It’s built into the program for us.”
Even so, Meyers said he will honor an Emmys tradition of front-loading the program with comedy, when those gathered at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles are most likely to embrace it.
“The longer the night goes, the less joy there is in the room, because by then a number of people have lost,” Meyers said. “If it was the Golden Globes and the people were drinking, maybe they’d care less. But here, the host and the program are standing between them and the bar.”
Meyers is a TV veteran, but he said he also remains a TV fan.
“Even if I wasn’t in television right now, I would be watching the Emmys, mostly because of how good TV is right now,” he said. “I was really excited when the nominations came out, because most of them are shows that I watch.”
In a separate conversation, Emmycast producer Don Mischer praised Meyers’ ease on live TV and skill at thinking funny on his feet.
“But more than anything, he loves television,” Mischer agreed. “He really, really wanted to do this and he has really rolled up his sleeves. That’s what makes a difference.”
Like most viewers, Meyers has his favorites among the nominees.
In particular, he’s rooting for Amy Poehler, with whom he used to share the “Weekend Update” anchor desk. Poehler, who previously has been up for 10 Emmys but never won, is nominated this year as best actress for her NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.
“But here’s the good news,” said Meyers, surely wearing a grin: “No matter which way it goes, I’m very confident she’s going to be OK.
“I don’t want anyone to think I’m this incredibly selfless person,” he added with a laugh. He shared a 2011 Emmy for original music and lyrics on SNL, among the numerous nominations he has gotten for his writing. “The hard part is not when friends of mine lose an award, but when I lose. I like to remind them that they’re all winners, whereas, when I lose, I really feel like a loser!”
Meyers acknowledged that viewers can be tough with their postmortems of an Emmys telecast and its host. One reason: Different viewers come looking and hoping for different things.
“There are people in the audience who take these awards very seriously, while a lot of people don’t. No one’s right or wrong. But ultimately everybody will have a different take on what it is that I as host am trying to do, based on what the Emmys means to them.
“But the reaction will be very temporary,” he predicted. “This is a night about a year of television and, when it’s over, people move on.”
Meanwhile, Meyers will head home to resume his talk-show duties. But with Late Night in repeats next week, he'll have a few days’ break once the Emmycast is done. He plans to enjoy them.
“I might sort of travel around,” he said, looking past next Monday night, “and find my way back to New York very slowly.”