In this increasingly detached and impersonal world we live in we could all use a friend. The explosive growth of social media shows just how hungry for friendship we all are, though we sometimes have to pause and ask ourselves, how many Facebook friends does it take to change a light bulb? The answer, sadly, is that you could have infinity plus one Facebook friends and still have to change the light bulb all by your lonesome. Facebook friends never help you move, even if you offer to buy pizza afterwards. Twitter or Facebook friends are only slightly more tangible than imaginary friends.
Speaking of imaginary friends, there is another category of imaginary friend, and that is television friends. No, I’m not talking about the show Friends that lives on in syndication, Ross pursuing Rachel in perpetuity, then the writers finally running out of any other viable story arcs and having all the characters hook up until every possible combination and permutation was tried. Or Gilligan and the castaways just never getting off the island and not even realizing that they can never get off the island — that were they to get off the island then the show would not exist, and, therefore they would cease to exist, so their existential dilemma is like that of Sisyphus endlessly pushing that rock up the hill only to have it roll down the other side. Or Back to the Future, where he violates the Prime Directive and interferes with his mother and father meeting and starts to fade out. Sit Com friends are a form of imaginary friend, but I meant Talk Show Hosts. And what I am looking for in an imaginary friend Talk Show Host is someone who is witty, well read, clever and urbane — A Charlie Rose in the streets but a Charlie Sheen in the sheets — and yes, that metaphor needs work, but what I mean is that he must be smart, but not wear his brain on his sleeve, not throw in Agamemnon references on Monday Night Football, not sound patronizing, pedantic, or didactic, but also, if a guest wants to talk about a deep and profound topic, not to challenge them to a water fight, or take the most inane and childish aspect of what they are saying, like Craig Ferguson interviewing Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and lower the level of discourse to several stages below the lowest common denominator. Wait a minute — a Ken Jennings on the streets but a Kendall Jenner between the sheets! Ka-ching! Metaphorical Jackpot!
Jimmy Fallon is a perfect Talk Show Host in many ways, but he is functionally illiterate. The poster boy for ADD. He might have six books on his nightstand at any given time but he never finishes any of them. He confessed this once and I wasn’t in the least surprised. He is gifted musically and comically, however, his mercurial, effervescent mind would never sit still long enough to finish War and Peace. If Jimmy Fallon, through some inconceivable and admittedly physically impossible accident of booking ever interviewed Tolstoy he would have to confess to not finishing the first page all the way to the end and would no doubt challenge him to a Water War. Then he would giggle uncontrollably like a little girl when he saw Tolstoy’s hairy nipples through the soaked white fabric of his peasant blouse.
Compare and contrast with Seth Meyers who clearly had read and enjoyed A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara; and furthermore, discussed and empathized with the difficulty of getting a 700 plus page book published nowadays when the editor is demanding that you cut it by a third. Seth agreed with her that every word was necessary. Seth was the Head Writer for Saturday Night Live, and though he was also a performer, he refers to himself as a writer and often offers an insider’s perspective on the craft and techniques of writing. I think Seth is doing a great job, with a few awkward lapses; and as his Television Pal, I am compelled to offer constructive criticism:
One time he made a joke about the Pope, and then did a very bad Italian accent impression of him. I tweeted him that Pope Francis is from Argentina. He tweeted back that I was right. Or had his assistant tweet me. Whatever. His concise and succinct answer was not only humble, but extremely generous. I was touched that he would take the time to reply, and henceforth noticed a marked improvement when he tangoed with the little old Pope from Argentina in his monologues. Another time I had to call him on the carpet when he talked about going to a musical based on Doctor Zhivago with his parents. He said his mother got the tickets and he went with them to appease her, though he knew nothing of Zhivago. This kind of arrogant ignorance does not become you, Seth Meyers. You should have known that the Russian Poet Boris Pasternak was persecuted by Joseph Stalin for writing Doctor Zhivago, as it was highly critical of the Soviet regime. The book was banned in Russia, and Pasternak faced possible exile to Siberia, or even execution. The manuscript was smuggled out of Russia and published in several translations, even being made into a highly successful Hollywood film starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, and Geraldine Chaplin, directed by David Lean. The fact that you didn’t know this is not the issue — you’re no Ken Jennings — but did you have to brag about it? There are already plenty of smug simpletons littering the television landscape. Hey, if my mom wanted to see a musical based on Doctor Zhivago, I would have googled it at least, if only to uphold my end of the conversation post-film over the inevitable cappuccino and gelato, which you would pay for, Mr. Fancy-pants Television star whose parents are retired teachers on fixed incomes, but that’s just me. What do I know?
Another lapse that perplexed me was the time that Brian Williams was a guest and your mic levels were so low that I couldn’t hear a word. This was a lapse of your technical staff, I know, but are standards so lax on the Meyers set that such an egregious error could be made with impunity, and no one even bats an eyelash? I hope someone was fired over this. You seem like a nice guy but maybe a little too nice? Orson Welles, when he directed Citizen Kane, was very young and inexperienced. It was the first film he directed. He worried that he wouldn’t be taken seriously by the crew. He had a friend hired for the express purpose of screwing up so he could fire him in front of everyone, thereby winning the respect of the staff. Worked like a charm, and he never had any problems after the first day. They had a big laugh about it later. You might want to try that if conditions don’t improve. Post a sign like they did on the pirate ship:
The Beatings Will Continue
Until Morale Improves
If you can’t do it, maybe hire an enforcer. Bad cop to your good cop. Or just try harder. Less Kristen Bell, More Christian Bale (thanks and a tip of the hat to Kevin Kwan).
Oh, Seth, I feel like we go way back. Not just Weekend Update on SNL but your dramatic film debut in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist where you made out in the backseat of Nick O’Leary’s Yugo with that chick, thinking that the Yugo was a taxi. Great supporting role. You had more lines than Kevin Corrigan but he stole the show. Still, they should have billed you above the gum? The drunk girl you were making out with was Lorene Scafaria, the screenwriter of the film. I guess you really do like writers, and also, she wrote in a part for herself to make out with you, Seth Meyers, so the feeling is mutual.
Why don’t you have Kat Dennings on as a guest? It would be fun to catch up with Norah Silverberg. Have Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) on, too. Is it because Two Broke Girls is on CBS? Is NBC so weak and defensive that they won’t promote a show on another network? Also on CBS: The Tonys. I know that you were torn between the Game of Thrones finale, The NBA playoffs, and The Tonys. What no Tivo? Good title for your life story: The Basketball Diaries. Staircase humor. L’esprit de l’escalier, as the frogs say. You suddenly thought of a joke, calling such a conflicted individual a “LeBronie” which was a good pun that caught not only some assonance with “Throne” and “Tonys,” but also combined the word “Bronies,” or bros who are fans of The Little Ponies cartoons, with fans of LeBron James, the basketball player. To really pull off a joke like that you would require a graphic.
Had you instilled the fear of god in your staff by pulling an “Orson” on them, they would have anticipated the joke, had the graphic at the ready, just in case, and let you think that the joke was your idea. You wouldn’t question the fact that they could provide said graphic instantaneously, because you would be too wrapped up in your bubble of self-importance to even notice. Besides you, I can think of at least one other conflicted individual who follows both Sports and Broadway Musicals. Do you know Ben Yagoda?
How about if next time you make a joke about LeBron, you combine it with the Brontë sisters? Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë? Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. LeBrontës is at least as funny as LeBronies. I know that nobody else would get it, but we’d get it. But, oh yeah. The Tonys. Did you see Kat Dennings with Josh Groban at The Tonys? They look like they are in love. Are they dating?