Mom and I were leaving the NBC gift shop when a woman approached us. “Would you like to see Seth Meyers?” she asked.
“Um, what?” I said, very eloquently.
“We need people to participate in his monologue rehearsal. It’s just forty people or so. You’ll meet the writing staff and Seth Meyers – it’s very intimate. I have three spots left.”
“Is it free?” Mom asked, very practically.
“Yes! You can show up or not, it’s totally up to you.”
Mom and I exchanged a look. Her eyes seemed to say, please choose, I don’t know enough about what is going on. I answered the NBC worker, “Sure. Thanks.”
As we walked away, Mom asked, “Who is Seth Meyers?”
Huddled in the Rockefeller Center doorway, we discussed whether or not we wanted to return in two hours.
“You don’t look excited,” my mom said.
“She said it was ‘very intimate.’ Do you think that means we have to talk to him?” I asked.
“I was worried about that too!”
Ah, social anxiety. Somehow it doesn’t help knowing that it runs in the family.
We stared each other down. “It would be super dumb to pass up this opportunity, and I don’t want to let my anxiety to keep me from doing something awesome,” I finally said.
“Okay, let’s do it!”
We spent a slow couple hours meandering up to Central Park and back to Rockefeller Center. At 3:30, we returned to the NBC gift shop and allowed ourselves to be ushered to a door at the back of the room. We joined a line getting briefed on the increased security measures we would find upstairs. After the mean security guard finished laying out the rules, I asked the nice security guard why everything was stricter. “Hillary is the building,” he said. “She’s a guest on Seth Meyer’s show. It’s his 300th.”
Mom and I exchanged looks. We were (indirectly) creating history!
When forty people had gathered, we were led up a flight of stairs two by two. We went through a secret service security checkpoint, then congregated in the NBC Mezzanine. Digital pictures of Seth Meyers and guests appeared on the walls around us, and Mom fangirled a little bit when she saw Tom Selleck. After another fifteen minute wait, we were ushered into elevators to our final destination.
We stood outside the doors to Studio 8G and 8H where three interns (I kept picturing Kenneth from 30 Rock) joked us through the rules. We practiced silently screaming in excitement. Normally we could be loud, but SNL was practicing just one door away from us in 8H. Chris Hemsworth is hosting this week, SO I WAS PROBABLY ONE DOOR AWAY FROM THOR.
Eventually, two of Seth Meyer’s writers came out to entertain us. They answered questions about how many writers are on staff (12 or 13), how many jokes each writer is responsible for creating each day (60), and whether Seth contributes jokes as well (of course). Both women were hilarious, one saying that since we were all available in the middle of the afternoon, we were either tourists, homeless, or independently wealthy, welcome anyway. The other asked how many of us had come to see the tree outside Rockefeller Center, then asked our raised hands, “What’s wrong with you people? Don’t they have trees where you’re from?”
AND THEN, THE MOMENT OF TRUTH. We filed into Studio 8G. Mom and I sat in the first row, looking down at Seth Meyer’s desk and band stages. The man himself sat behind his desk in a zip-up hoodie, and he came to the forefront to greet us. Like, right in front of Mom and me. What a disorienting change in today’s plans! Although based on yesterday and today, I guess I should be used to unexpectedly being in the presence of celebrities.
Seth welcomed us to his show and explained that he was going to run through about a hundred jokes to see which ones would fall flat and which he would keep for the show. He introduced the writing staff, who would be tracking the success of their jokes. “This is the first time we’ve let them interact with other humans all day,” he said. “We’re trying to socialize them.” He also addressed his connection with SNL, assuring us that now that he has his own show, “Saturday Night Live is dead to me.”
Then he hopped behind his desk and ran through jokes. I worried about laughing out loud in public (because…I worry about everything) but it was so easy. He’s charming, the jokes were clever, and even when the reaction wasn’t great, Seth managed to keep the energy up. After stuttering through one joke that didn’t get any laughter, he deadpanned, “That was clearly a horrible joke that was in no way affected by my delivery.”
Although we were only supposed to see and react to the monologue, Seth and his crew also ran through two segments for us. We watched him rant about workplace Secret Santas and dissect the ramifications of white students suing schools for affirmative action.
Then we were ushered out of the studio, down the elevator, through the Mezzanine, and down the flight of stairs back into the NBC gift shop. Newly impassioned with love for Seth Meyers, Mom and I got in line to claim standby tickets to his show. After all, our laughter had affected the tone of it all, and it was going to his 300th! We got numbers 95 and 96, and I asked the intern how many usually got in. “Yesterday 19 people got in.”
That didn’t sound promising, so we left Rockefeller Center, content to return to our hotel later that night and watch Late Night with Seth Meyers and point out all the jokes we we had laughed into existence.
Unfortunately, the monologue we inspired is not on YouTube, but here is a funny story from the lady who necessitated so much security, and was somewhere in the same building as us!