Scott D. Pierce: Seth Meyers will try to liven up Emmys

First Published      Last Updated Aug 25 2014 02:27 pm

Seth Meyers is hosting the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys on Monday (6 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5). He wanted the job.

Why he wanted it is anybody's guess.

It's a rather thankless position. You're the face of an unwieldy three-hour-long (or more) telecast that almost inevitably bogs down into a big bore.

To his credit, the host of "Late Night" isn't going to try to reinvent the wheel. He's going to get up onstage at the Nokia Theatre LA LIVE and try to be funny.

"Well, I'm limited by the fact that I can't sing or dance," Meyers said. "So I have to tell jokes, and the monologue is the best place to tell jokes."

Because the monologue comes first.

"That first 10 minutes is the best time to get the audience to laugh," Meyers said. "Because as the night progresses, more and more people are disappointed."

"Fills up with losers," interjected "Late Night" executive producer Mike Shoemaker.

That's funny because it's true.

"So you want to be out there when it's hopeful and optimistic, telling jokes," Meyers said. "As opposed to coming out sort of in the last hour and saying, 'Hey, I want to try some new material now that you guys are bummed out and want to be drinking.' "

He compared hosting the Emmys to taking over a late-night talk show, when he was constantly asked how he'd do it differently when it was more about doing it well.

"I think you have to give the best version of yourself, figure out what is the kind of show we're going to build for my skill set," Meyers said, "and just try to be entertaining in a really old-school way that celebrates TV in the same way it's been celebrated forever."

What makes it hard on Meyers — on all Emmy hosts — is that, while it's easy to make a bad show worse with bad jokes. it's hard to make it work when all the rest — the presenters, the winners, the in-memoriam tributes, the musical numbers — are completely out of his control.

"Having a humorous approach to everything and keeping the show moving and paced really well, I think that's really the key," said Emmys executive producer Don Mischer. "It's got to move quickly. I think that people at home sense that. And I think that when things start to go well, it just really begins to jell."

He's paid to be optimistic.

Meyers feels like he's had on-the-job training. Like he's ready.

"I'm happy I hosted the ESPYs a couple of times," Meyers said. "I'm happy I did the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Because I think the way we approach this, my skill set is always going to be in the monologue and telling the jokes and the understanding of how much work you have to put into getting a really good monologue to open a show like this."

Good luck, Seth. You're going to need it.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.