‘Late Night Seth Meyers’ Interview: On Corrections and the Writers

Meyers and executive producer Mike Shoemaker tell IndieWire about the growing “Corrections” fandom, the joys of a versatile writing staff, and…bees.


Welcome to It’s a Hit! In this series, IndieWire speaks to creators and showrunners behind a few of our favorite Emmy-nominated television programs about the moment they realized their show was breaking big.  

TV award historians can fact-check this, but “Corrections” might be the first gift to be Emmy-nominated.

The segment started last spring as simple way for “Late Night” host Seth Meyers to tell jokes to his longtime friend and producing partner Mike Shoemaker. From its online-only humble beginnings, the show has steadily grown its viewership and taken on its own mythology of winding, nested callbacks. The “jackals” — a name given to the collection of good-natured pedants who swoop into the comments section of “Late Night” YouTube videos to correct everything from pronunciations and pluralizaions to biological classifications to the history of German Expressionist cinema — now even have their own official merch.

But at its heart, “Corrections” is up for Outstanding Short Form Comedy, Drama Or Variety Series largely because it’s stayed a simple weekly bit, delivered as a present from one buddy to another.

“If you look at ‘Corrections,’ Seth is a lot of the time talking to his right, which is me. We’ve instructed that no one gets in our eyeline because it’s fake talking to me,” Shoemaker said with a big grin during a recent Zoom interview.

Meyers and Shoemaker have other reasons to smile, including the fact that “Late Night” broke through the Variety Talk Series category for the first time in its almost-eight-year history. That nomination is born in part from a show that has Meyers’ name on it, but takes plenty of time to spotlight dozens of other people who help it run on a nightly basis.

The producing pair spoke with IndieWire recently about how the show has found a balance and a rhythm, even amidst a roller-coaster year.

IndieWire: Knowing when your show was a hit doesn’t 100% apply to “Late Night,” but given that the show has gone through a few audience reintroductions, was there a point when you knew you were back in that mode?

Seth Meyers: If you’re asking like when it felt like we were back in the swing of it, I am very happy to say pretty immediately. October was the big one. We were dragging our heels with the idea of having an audience back. Both out of safety, and also because we really enjoyed the journey our show had taken over those 20 months. We were a little worried that it would feel super different once we got people back. And it was so thrilling to walk out and realize they were the same people who’ve been watching the shows in the attic and in-laws and the empty studio. The first time [“Late Night” cue card guy] Wally [Feresten] got an applause break, I realized, “Oh.

Mike Shoemaker: We both wanted to do it. But also, we were afraid we would lose something that we were really enjoying. But we realized that at some point, the audience was going to come back. We also felt like, “If we don’t like it, we can bail.” But immediately, Seth recognized that they knew what the show was. We didn’t necessarily always feel that in the first six years or so.

SM: I am bummed that there wasn’t a moment I can tell you about where Shoemaker kicked in my office door and said, “It’s official. Have you seen the overnights? I just got off the phone with Nielsen. We’re a hit!”

You mentioned the Wally applause break, and I wonder how much of that comes from “Corrections” taking on more of a life of its own.

SM: “Corrections” was born from the pandemic, And then — never by plan, it should be noted — we did realize when the audience came back, there is this one thing that we also built, where we can hold on to what the show felt like when we were doing it in an empty studio for the crew. It was more dumb luck than anything. But it has been very special to have a thing that every week reminds us how fun it was.

MS: Every day, Seth does a Q&A for about five or six minutes. And now every day somebody does ask about “Corrections.”

SM: More often than not, they also ask, “Will you ever do it for an audience?” And it’s really fun to just shut it down and say, “No.”

MS: We had one celebrity who wanted to stay for it.

SM: It was Ben Stiller. This is FYC. Let’s make this a double #FYC for Ben Stiller as well.

MS: We’re big “Severance” fans.

SM: Would the man who made “Severance” stick around for corrections if it wasn’t Emmy-worthy?

LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 1246 -- Pictured: Cue card guy Wally Feresten during a sketch on January 20, 2022 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC)

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

It’s definitely the only place on TV where someone can mention Pol Pot and Mac Tonight in the same breath and it makes perfect sense, somehow.

SM: The funniest thing is choosing which corrections to submit. It’s like choosing the middle three words of a run-on sentence. I’m realizing how quickly I sound pretentious when you start explaining “Corrections,” but they are all genuinely connected somehow. And sometimes our callback is to five months ago or a full year.

MS: We’re comic book nerds. It’s like when you pick up a comic like “X-Men 277” and you read it and you say, “Oh, this is for me. I can look back and check all the others. But also I could jump on now. There’s clearly a lot of shit that’s been going on, and I think I’ll pay attention now.”

SM: Ideally, if you watch one, you realize, “I didn’t get that. But I do get a sense I will be rewarded if I pay attention to this episode. While I might not understand the crops in the field, it does seem like they might be planting new seeds.”

You recently had the “Corrections” 50th episode celebration “Specjackular.” Did you want that to feel like an entry point for the show so that if people scroll through and see you in a tuxedo and watch for the first time, they could still get that same feeling?

SM: At its core, I definitely wanted it to still feel like “Corrections.” But that’s the most planned it’s ever been. The curtain was the longest lead time.

MS: The planning that he does on a weekly basis, talking to graphics and ordering sound effects and shit like that: It’s all news to me. People come and ask me questions all day long. That’s basically what I do. I just stand there and answer them. For “Corrections,” I can say, “Nope, sorry. You gotta go ask him.”

SM: Shoemaker deserves credit because I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t so delightful to try and make him laugh and surprise him.

MS: He’ll put in a Destiny’s Child/Kelly Rowland joke that’s just for me.

SM: Put the word joke in quotes. At best, a sort of lazy wordplay. But that’s the “joke” for me, that Shoemaker knows I only did it for him. The really funny thing is I never write any of it before Thursday. The last thing I have to do is meet with the segment producers to discuss last night’s guests, and sometimes I’m behind the eight ball on “Corrections.” I remember once, they were filling me in on the guests. I have an old typewriter in my office, and I was typing a fake letter from E.B. White, that I then had to distress by dipping into tea. Also, not to throw shade on an old-timey typewriter, but…deafening. The sound of those keys are deafening.

MS: Our offices are next to each other.

SM: As stipulated by our contract.

MS: We literally could not get any closer. But I can hear him takka takka takka takka takk on the other side of the wall. That’s when I know it’s a Thursday.

Like “Corrections,” “Surprise Inspection” has been another newer recurring segment that, like everything with Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel or “At This Point in the Broadcast,” seems to find new ways to highlight that this is a team effort. 

SM: The other thing that “Surprise Inspection” brings to the table that we have less with other things, is just not knowing how it’s gonna play. Because some of them really just stink as jokes. The reason they’re not in the show is they’re so confusing as to elicit no reaction from an audience, not even groans.

MS: Also, there’s no prep for that. [Head writer Alex] Baze just picks a pile of clunkers. We say we’re gonna do “Surprise Inspection.” He’s like, “Oh, don’t worry. I got plenty of bad jokes.”

SM: I should note that “Surprise Inspection” wouldn’t work half as well if the audience thought I actually was mad at my writers. I think that another thing that came out of the pandemic and how they got to spend time without other people in the room is realizing that there is a level of ball-bustery that comes from friendship.

MS: No matter how bad the jokes are, it’s not a problem for anyone’s job. It’s almost more job security.

SM: It should be noted, I’ve texted her multiple times, that Ally Hord, almost to a “Surprise Inspection,” has the jackals jumping to her defense and saying that hers was better than a lot of jokes that made it.

MS: There was a bit that we did for a while, and “Surprise Inspection” kind of took it over, which is “One of My Writers Explains a Joke.” Someone writes something so ridiculous we would make them come out and explain it. Everything was unscripted, which is the best part of it. But and I feel like both [Matt] Goldich and [Mike] Scollins played into it.

SM: They wanted that tap on the shoulder.

MS: So now I think there’s a little bit of that, but we still keep them guessing.

SM: The thing we keep finding that people liked the most and we like doing the most, so there’s no reason to ever stop, is those real, authentic moments. A little bit of “Here’s how the sausage is made.” I think even when we tell a “Surprise Inspection” joke that doesn’t get a laugh and then in the explaining of it, I also don’t get a laugh, as a performer, I think to myself, “I don’t know if we can keep doing ‘Surprise Inspection.’” But then what you hear from people is how much they enjoyed watching that unfold.

LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 1313 -- Pictured: (l-r) Late Night writers, Ally Hord, Jenny Hagel, Amber Ruffin, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson and host Seth Meyers on June 27, 2022 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC)

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”

Lloyd Bishop/NBC

That also seems to make it easier to have moments like after the Dobbs decision, when Amber and Jenny and Ally took the lead on a conversation with Alexis McGill from Planned Parenthood. 

SM: It’s also really nice that when it’s time to give the floor to those writers, people have also seen them having fun. I think it’d be really unfair to take people who were only behind the scenes on the day when something horrifying happened. But they know Amber and Jenny from Jokes Seth Can’t Tell. They know Ally from numerous sketches over the course of her time on the show. So it has more weight to it, because our viewers know that these are really deeply funny human beings who are also using this time to speak to the gravity of the situation.

MS: Seth doesn’t just name check them to call them out for something. There’s a reason for it. And it builds the mythology, the backstage of the show. I remember watching “Letterman” and seeing people and then trying to figure out who they were and realizing, “Oh, that guy’s a stagehand.” Those things really enhanced the enjoyment of the show, because you felt like you were there.

SM: Also, I hope people can see it’s not that I just like them because they’re my friends and that they’re very talented writers. I like them so much on days like that, when they’re helping us solve a problem. More often than not, we don’t even have to go and say what the problem is. Everybody on our writing staff is very aware. They can tell what day their bat signal is up. And they answer the call.

MS: Before we ask.

One of the biggest additions to the show in the past year has been Jeff Wright. After seeing his aliens sketch early on in quarantine, it’s been exciting to see him get the chance to grow the pre-taped part of “Late Night.” 

SM: Credit to Shoemaker, who’s the one who saw him on TikTok.

MS: And that sketch, in particular, you can see that he had to work that little jewel box and fit it in this amount of time. It has beats and an ending and and then that TikTok thing how you have to be able to wrap it back around almost to the beginning. It was just like, ‘This is writing. This is real.” And it’s hard, never mind that it was performed perfectly. The God one is so great. When he’s God, and then God is mad at Jesus, and then Jeff is Jeff, those are really three different personalities.

SM: Jeff wrote a great Roe v. Wade piece. Having seen what he can do, you have this really tricky thing to talk about. But this guy has figured out a way to do these. Now he’s working with our director, Mike Karnell, and he brings a lot to it. But the most fun thing about any Jeff video, be it on TikTok or be it on our show, there are always just three very subtle, little acting choices that make you just sit back in awe of a guy who, again, just taught himself how to do this. We just talk about him all the time, those little tiny moves under his breath. One of the best under-the-breath actors we have today.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the show’s clear singular achievement of the year so far: “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario, and One with Bees.” What goes into the show deciding when the time is right to add in something like that? 

MS: I feel like we had to stall it a couple of times. Seth had a cold and it really required him to talk straight through and then get that crazy look in his eyes. But it was a script that we barely changed a word of, I think.

SM: Whimsical isn’t the right word, but when you do things like that, it’s fun to be like, “Yeah, this is the right one.” Every time you do something like that, I think it’s a reminder to try to do more like that and at the same time, not overdo it. But when it was over, I think we all thought, “Yeah, we also do things like bees.”

“Late Night with Seth Meyers” airs weeknights at 12:35 a.m. on NBC.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/08/late-night-with-seth-meyers-interview-corrections-writers-1234749782/ ‘Late Night Seth Meyers’ Interview: On Corrections and the Writers

Lindsay Lowe

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