GOP candidates for governor: Restricting guns isn't answer to school shootings

Seth Meyers isn't really skipping politics in Netflix special

Christi Carras
Los Angeles Times

Seth Meyers swears any promotional bump he got from media attention to the “Skip Politics” button in his Netflix special was completely accidental.

“I just liked it as a joke and then realized after the fact that it had actually secretly been a really good marketing idea,” he told The Times.

Seth Meyers arrives for the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

“Lobby Baby,” which debuted earlier this month, sees the “Saturday Night Live” alum in rare form, emerging from behind his desk — where he mainly comments on politics and news – to share stories about his personal life. Still, no Meyers set would be complete without some political humor.

That’s where the button comes in.

“I want to talk about politics for a second,” Meyers says in the second half of the program. “I also know there are people who don’t like jokes about politics, and because this is on Netflix, it presents us with a unique opportunity.”

On cue, a small “Skip Politics” rectangle appears in the lower right corner of the screen, much like the familiar “Skip Intro” option that accompanies opening TV credits on the platform. Should viewers choose to skip, they’ll arrive at the close of Meyers’ partisan piece, which includes a sort of reverse-cliffhanger to bait them into rewinding. If they do, joke’s on them.

In the days surrounding “Lobby Baby’s” release, the innovative choice spurred countless headlines, memes and think-pieces. Now that the fervor has simmered down, the “Late Night” host shared his thoughts on the special’s unexpected cultural impact, the late-night gold of the impeachment hearings, and the recent death of beloved NBC exec Rick Ludwin. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Q: What does your wife think of ‘Lobby Baby’? Did she help write any of the jokes toward the end where you imitate her?

A: (Human rights attorney) Alexi (Ashe) has always been a really good sounding board for material – particularly material about her. And the material at the end was really born out of this idea that she didn’t really get her say as far as how I laid out stories in which both of us were characters. So she very much was helpful in not just shaping the last 10 minutes, but the whole hour.

Q: Did you ever think the ‘Skip Politics’ button would become such a big deal?

A: No – I’m so bad at marketing. I just liked it as a joke and then realized after the fact that it had actually secretly been a really good marketing idea. The idea was really only born out of the fact that I was doing a special on Netflix, and I had been going back and forth as to how to deal with doing any political material in a special. As we see every day, it’s really hard to predict what political jokes will keep for four or five months.

It really was the “Black Mirror” episode “Bandersnatch” that made me think, “Oh, there’s some interactivity that’s available here that’s not available elsewhere, and it would be cool to find a way to play with it.” Unlike “Bandersnatch,” which, of course, you had to make multiple decisions, I am only smart enough to come up with one.

Q: Netflix was able to track viewers’ choices with ‘Bandersnatch.’ Do you know how many people used your skip button?

A: They have not shared any data with me. I am, of course, as fascinated about the outcome of that as anyone, and we will see if they will ever be kind enough to give me the answer to that question. They’re incredibly nice to work with, and as soon as your special comes out, it’s “New phone, who dis?”

Q: You and other late-night hosts gave touching tributes to Rick Ludwin on your shows. How did that segment come about on ‘Late Night’?

A: He was this really lovely, really warm guy, and I had seen him over the years. Not only would he come here, and we’d have dinner, but he was living in Cleveland in recent years, and if I did a show there, he’d come out and see the show. He was always so great to see. And when we heard the news, which is really sad, it just sort of immediately felt like the right response was to talk about him on the show because, as I said in the piece, he loved late night, and there was no more fitting place for a tribute to Rick Ludwin than at that time slot. I think he would have looked down his nose at a prime-time tribute.

Q: The impeachment hearings are all over late night right now. How do you make sure your material stands out?

A: We all watch them, and I think this will be our first – certainly for a long time. We’re going to have a four-“Closer Look” week because of the layout of who’s testifying when. And the “Closer Look” team has gotten really good at turning things around quickly.

These weeks are exhausting, but there’s an excitement to them, as well, because we know we have a vague idea what’s coming. With our monologue joke writers, they all write 50 jokes a day. If three of them have the same punchline for something, I then assume that one of the other hosts will, and we don’t do that joke. So you just try as much as you can to write in a way that’s unique and hope that there’s not a ton of overlap.