On to 'Late Night'
Seth Meyers hasn't forgotten his roots
By SUSAN CLARK
Sunday News Correspondent |
February 22. 2014 11:57PM
Seth Meyers, right, and Greg Henrichon celebrate after their 1992 graduation from Manchester High School West. (COURTESY)
BEDFORD - For many people, the name Seth Meyers sparks images of "Saturday Night Live's" Weekend Update news parodies and laughter. But for his friends and family in New Hampshire, Meyers is a successful hometown kid who never forgot his roots.
After nearly 13 years on "SNL,'' Meyers will take over NBC's "Late Night" program from Jimmy Fallon beginning Monday at 12:35 a.m. in New York City.
"It feels like an honor," said Meyers. "Not a lot of people get a whole hour to fill four nights a week. 'Late Night' has been the place for interesting, creative comedy since Letterman, and I can't believe they're giving me the keys."
Meyers' friends back home said he has always been funny and intellectual. His parents, Larry and Hilary Meyers of Bedford, are proud that he has been able to build a career on what he loves - comedy.
"It's been a thrill for us. We've been to the White House for the Correspondents Association dinner and afterward to a party at the French ambassador's house, and when all these officials and entertainers tell you what a wonderful son you have, it's just amazing," said Larry Meyers. "Every parent just wants their children to be happy, and if you love what you do, it's icing on the cake."
Seth Meyers, 40, always wanted to find a job that would complement his creativity, but never thought he would end up on "Saturday Night Live" or "Late Night," he said.
"My parents introduced me to a lot of comedy at a young age - Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, SNL and Monty Python. And David Letterman was the first late night host I had an appreciation for," Meyers said. "I missed Carson, but with Letterman, we would all tape it so we could recite the Top Ten lists on the way to school."
The Meyers family moved from Evanston, Ill., where Seth was born, to New Hampshire when he was in the fourth grade. Meyers majored in screenwriting at Northwestern University and started his career in improvisation. His first job was with Boom Chicago in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in the 1990s, with his brother, Josh. There, Meyers met his professional partner, Jill Benjamin, with whom he would perform sketch comedy with "Pick-ups & Hiccups.''
Meyers would soon rise to fame when an NBC talent scout discovered him during a performance of "Pick-ups & Hiccups" at the 2000 Chicago Improv Festival.
Meyers is also lucky at romance and married his longtime girlfriend, Alexi Ashe, on Sept. 1 on Martha's Vineyard.
"Alexi is a sweetheart," said Hilary Meyers, who is known to her students as Madame Meyers. Madame Meyers started the French language program in Bedford and taught at McKelvie and the Ross A. Lurgio schools for 27 years, retiring in June 2012 after a 30-year career.
Among the guests at Seth and Alexi's wedding were his friends, Dianthe Doldo and Greg Henrichon, both of Bedford. Henrichon says he took Meyers under his wing in the fourth grade, and they have remained great friends.
"We were both in Mrs. Zito's class," said Henrichon. "After a few weeks, I noticed that he wasn't starting off with the coolest crowd in the fourth grade. One morning before class, I intervened and told him that we need to start hanging out. We became best friends. So, I kind of saved him from a life of loserville and take credit for 20 percent of his overall success. At this point, I have not asked for any of his income.''
Doldo and Meyers became friends during their senior year at Manchester West High School, Class of 1992. She said Meyers has always been smart, funny and successful.
"We met during math class. Seth sat next to me the whole year. He definitely made a boring math class very fun," said Doldo, whose maiden name is Schroeder. "We didn't pay much attention to the teacher, and Seth would just tell me stories and jokes the entire time. Every night after "Seinfeld'' aired, he would come in and recite the entire episode to me. I am not sure how he remembered it, but he was even funnier than watching it the night before."
She remembers the first night Meyers appeared on "Saturday Night Live" like it was yesterday, and she will tune in to "Late Night" to watch her friend, who never let success go to his head.
"We all got together to watch his first show on SNL. We took a picture with all of us holding a big sign saying 'Live From Bedford.' It has been a lot of fun watching him over the years, and I look forward to watching his new show," she said. "Seth has never let his success change him. When I see him up on stage doing stand-up, it is like he is telling stories just the same way he does when we are hanging out."
Walter Lubelczyk, one of Meyers' favorite teachers at West High School, also stays in touch with the "Late Night" star.
"Not many students stick out as much as Seth. He deserves every success. He was just an outstanding kid," said Lubelczyk.
Meyers was in Lubelczyk's constitutional law class in high school, and they played racquetball every Wednesday. Lubelczyk said Meyers was a straight-A student and, of course, funny. During the high school's senior show, Meyers had a bit of stage fright, said Lubelczyk.
"Seth said, 'I don't know if any words will come out of my mouth.' I told him not to worry because everything he does is wonderful," said Lubelczyk.
Before Meyers was to debut on "Saturday Night Live," in 2001, he and his former teacher went out for pizza to celebrate. Then 9/11 happened, but Meyers kept true to his personality and came through with flying colors.
"You can imagine being on that show in the aftermath of 9/11 and doing comedy. Seth was brilliant as always," he said.
Henrichon said he and Meyers have always been like brothers, and sometimes that led to some classic fights over the years.
"One time at baseball camp, I dropped my equipment bag on him to wake him up (he had overslept three hours, missing all of the morning sessions). That led to him putting gum in my toothbrush and throwing my hairbrush out the window. We didn't speak for a month," said Henrichon. "Another time, an intense Scrabble battle led to me flipping the board over and leaving the house. For the record, I used to destroy him in Scrabble, and you are not allowed to use a dictionary before your turn."
Meyers has also stepped out of the New York scene to help his friends and community. In June 2012, he performed a stand-up routine to raise money for the Bedford Educational Foundation and has also comforted his friends.
"Seth has earned all of his success and handled it with tremendous grace. Two weeks after my wife, Ashley's, father passed away, Seth graciously invited us to a live show. Dave Matthews was the musical guest. He knew that Dave Matthews was Ashley's favorite musician. He not only set up an introduction between them, but had filled Dave in on the tough time she was going through. They had a great interaction at the after-party, which meant the world to Ashley, really helping her find some happiness during an extremely difficult period. This is one example of how Seth has remained grounded through this journey," said Henrichon.
He also said the Meyers' household was like a second home for him.
"Seth grew up in an amazing family environment, of which I spent much of my childhood," he said. "His parents are very warm and loving. I have fond memories of playing football with his dad or going to Marblehead during the summer with his mom. Seth's dad might be the funniest person in the family. His brother, Josh, is also hysterical and just a great guy. His mother, Madame Meyers, is the glue that holds it all together. Overall, it's a wonderful family and not a surprise that so much success has been a result."
Madame Meyers said she always knew both her sons would be successful.
"From the time Seth was a little boy, it wasn't just writing, but he also took cartooning lessons," she said. "I knew he wouldn't be happy doing serious acting and being other people. He has built his career on being Seth Meyers."
This week, Seth Meyers will continue to make history in comedy and has some special guests and a great show lined up for his fans.
"For the premiere, we have an old friend in Amy Poehler and a, hopefully, new friend in Vice President Joe Biden," Meyers said. "From the minute I was told I had this job, I knew I wanted Amy on first to help ease me into it. I promised her she would go first and we'd try and get a heavy hitter to follow her. As far as plans, I'm just looking forward to filling all that real estate every week. And guest-wise, the first week covers a lot of interesting ground for me - athletes, politicians, musicians and authors as well as actors. Should be fun."