Seth Meyers has spent seven years anchoring or co-anchoring the Weekend Update desk on Saturday Night Live, spending the same amount of time as the show’s head writer. We know him, we know his smart and slightly smarmy sense of humor, but we don’t know what kind of show Late Night with Seth Meyers will be when it premieres on February 24th with Meyers as only the fourth host in the Late Night program’s 31 year history.
While that mystery figures to allude us up until showtime, Meyers’ staff has come into view over these last few months. Michael Shoemaker is continuing on as a producer from his time with Jimmy Fallon’s iteration of the show and Alex Baze is leaving his role at Saturday Night Live as Weekend Update Head Writer to take the same job on Meyers’ show. What we didn’t know was who would lead the band. In fact, up until recently, we didn’t even know if Meyers would have a band or some other kind of sidekick, but all of that changed yesterday when it was revealed that Fred Armisen – another Saturday Night Live alumnus – is joining Meyers’ show as the leader of the 8G house band. Yes, Fred Armisen, aka Roger Brush and band leader.
Though Armisen is known for his own lengthy stint on Saturday Night Live and for his work on IFC’s Portlandia (which he will do in addition to this new role), he also played drums in the 80s for Trenchmouth, a punk band. Armisen also plays guitar. Right now, it isn’t known if Armisen will play a role in curating which musical acts come on the program, but it seems pretty likely that he will do more than play the show’s opening theme song and play in and out of commercials.
What Armisen will do is serve as Meyers’ psuedo sidekick and his on-camera island – someone who can keep a joke going and someone that the host can relate to. Even the late night shows without defined co-hosts or chatty band leaders deploy some kind of similar device. Jimmy Kimmel has Guillermo, Craig Ferguson – who for years went completely solo – now has Geoff, his robot sidekick. With Armisen, though, there is hope that his presence will also be felt in the show’s sketch work, potentially giving Meyers’ show the most impressive sketch comedy player since Conan aligned with the Upright Citizens Brigade in the 90s.
Despite all the good that comes from this announcement (and by good, we mean possible canoe dancing and Roger Brush appearances), the lateness of this addition does seem a little odd since the show is less than two weeks from debuting. What was plan B if Armisen had said no, Horacio Sanz on backpacker guitar? There is also some justification to worries that this could be an 11th hour panic move by producer Lorne Michaels in response to something that he is seeing in the run-up to the show, but it could just as easily be a sign that it took awhile for Armisen’s deal to come together or that the announcement was strategically delayed to make a bigger impact just prior to the show’s premiere. It’s also entirely possible that the Armisen addition means that Michaels and Meyers are doubling down to help Late Night step out from Jimmy Fallon’s shadow and stand out in a crowded field.
Late Night with Seth Meyers premieres on Monday, February 24th @12:37AM on NBC