Seth Meyers’ brand of comedy is not one that makes people hunch over as they hold their gut or kick their legs up in disbelieving glee or one that sparks with absurdist, energetic theatrics — yet it is a brand of comedy that is deeply enjoyable on the level of smirking and nodding in appreciation of the utmost care that goes into each sentence or punch line. Whether one enjoys the subtle wit or even prefers it to the more in-your-face slapstick is a matter of personal preference, but it is undeniable that the former “SNL” star and current “Late Night” host has mastered the wry-humor craft.
In a stand-up performance Friday night at the Palace of Fine Arts as a part of the “Citi Presents Seth Meyers” event, Meyers successfully entertained with sarcastic sleight of hand and was able to weave together stories that did not solely contain a single ultimate climax in the form of a punchline but rather meandered on with slight side jokes that propelled his performance forward and gave the audience continuous delight instead of building them up only to drop them and then do it all over again.
Like any good comic, Meyers appeared to be acutely aware of his audience and location: San Franciscans sitting in a theater in the middle of San Francisco. A significant portion of his set discussed politics with a definite lean to the left, hitting on topics such as Obama’s merits in the kingdom of cool, Bush’s merits in the kingdom of oblivious, gay rights, climate change and gun control — at one point he said there could be a tornado that picks up every gun in the country and starts firing them down on people and conservatives would say, “It’s because you let gays marry.” These moments of Bush impersonations and topical witticisms seemed when Meyers was most at ease as the news commentary coincides with his stint as the “Weekend Update” anchor and his nightly monologues on “Late Night.”
Rather than spastically prancing around stage, which is entertaining in its own right a la Jim Carrey or Dane Cook, Meyers relied on relatively even-toned punches that shifted the audience’s logical expectations and turned his sentences on their heads, such as, “I lived in Amsterdam for two years after college. It wasn’t because of what you might think. It was because weed is legal there.” These little one-liners were sprinkled within larger stories that, besides the political commentary, also delved into more personal matters such as his marriage and life anecdotes like burying his family’s dead rabbit and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a Cubs game.
This storytelling method was abandoned in the last few minutes of the show, which featured some of the most memorable jokes in the set. He pulled out notecards and asked if it would be OK if he shared some jokes NBC had previously rejected for the air, to which the audience let out an obvious “of course.” Suddenly, he took on his psuedonewscaster voice and read quick one-liners that were inappropriately hilarious — “The voice actor of Tony the Tiger died recently. His family has yet to comment because they need time to grrrrrrieve.”
Despite not causing numerous instances of rambunctious laughter, Seth Meyers accomplished a more complex feat: thoroughly entertaining a crowd for more than an hour with the mere strength of his brainpower and clever insights.
Taran Moriates is the assistant arts editor. Contact him at [email protected].