Seth Meyers set to skewer sports world

Updated: July 13, 2011, 5:04 PM ET
By Lynn Hoppes | Page 2

ESPYs Seth IllustrationSeth Meyers of "Saturday Night Live" returns to host the ESPYs for the second consecutive year.

LOS ANGELES -- The Miami Heat and post-"Decision." USC and Reggie Bush. Michael Vick's re-emergence. Auburn and Cam Newton. Brett Favre's retirement. Ohio State jerseys.

All are fair game for Wednesday's telecast of The ESPYs awards show at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.

And host Seth Meyers returns to skewer the sports world.

"There always is something new that pops up that's appropriate for us to make fun of," said Meyers, head writer for "Saturday Night Live." "I'm not worried about lack of material."

The ESPYs -- short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award -- recognize individual and team athletic achievement during the past year. The first ESPYs were awarded in 1993 and are voted on by fans. This year's nominees include Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas Mavericks, Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers and a host of others.

And Meyers and his team of "SNL" writers are back. After two years of actor Samuel L. Jackson's hosting, Meyers debuted last summer to a roaring success.

With crisp writing and pinpoint delivery, Meyers took several shots at Tiger Woods and his relationships as well as the Kardashians and their involvement in sports. Mostly, he took shots at LeBron James and his "Decision."

"Did it really need to be an hour?" Meyers said. "Somebody time me. Miami. How long did that take? A second."

With that, ESPN showed that it can see levity in itself even at its own awards show.

So what will happen this year?

Page 2 had a chance to talk with Meyers about his "Decision" to return.

Page 2: Are you nervous?

Meyers: I was nervous last year. That's because I had never done it before. But this year, it's a different kind of nervous. I'm nervous that it's not going to be as good as last year. I got so lucky last year with the timing of "The Decision." It was a great linchpin for the show. But the good news is sports happens every day. Who knows what will come up?

When did you start writing, and when do you finalize your script?

We have the same guys as last year, a lot of the regulars from "Saturday Night Live." We started a couple of months ago. Obviously, the pretape stuff is done. But last year we didn't have the monologue set until the afternoon of the show. It's the same way as we do on "SNL" on "Weekend Update."

Last year's show has some racy moments. Do you need script approval?

We were not coy with ESPN about showing them stuff. There were a couple of things last year that we changed. They were never insistent on anything. They just made some suggestions. They said some of the jokes didn't historically work at the ESPYs. Going back, I do understand what they meant. They were right. They only give advice to make it a better show.

How do you deal with jokes that don't work?

At "SNL," we have the benefit of the dress rehearsal. We trust them. Sometimes, we can fix the jokes. It's a lot better to do jokes in front of people to get a sense of whether it works.

Are you going to use jokes that you've told before?

For the last two months, I don't even tweet a joke that I can use at the ESPYs. It's tough because you're trying to make a decision for 99 percent of the people who didn't see it the first time instead of the 1 percent who say you're using old material. The hardest thing about being a comedian is you can't reuse a joke. If you're a musician, people get mad if you don't play their favorite song. You can't do that as a comedian. If you do stuff at the ESPYs, [White House] Correspondents Dinner and even Weekend Update, it doesn't really work a month later.

Speaking of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, how was that?

It was super nerve-racking. I'm really glad I had done the ESPYs beforehand. It's a completely different audience. The ESPYs were kind of the only other thing even close that I've done. It's like comedy sitting versus comedy standing. It was great, but I'm glad it is over.

Would you agree to speak again?

No, I would not do it again. Mostly it's because I was so happy how it went. I wouldn't want to sully that moment.

Are you a bigger sports fan after doing the ESPYs?

The interesting thing that happens at "SNL" and the ESPYs meeting athletes is that as you get older, not all the players on the team you love are guys you love. And not all players on teams you hate are guys you hate. I'm a huge Steelers fan. I was crushed at the Super Bowl. But when I worked with Packers B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews for a spot for the ESPYs, I found them both to be really nice guys. I, over time, have gotten to the point of not judging people by their uniform.

So do you think you were a bigger fan as a child?

Definitely not. Thank God. If I spent as much time thinking about sports now as when I was 13 years old, I wouldn't have a job or a girlfriend or even an apartment. I'm of the age today that you could spend 12 hours a day reading sports online. In my day growing up, it was all about the newspaper and the sports page. The sports page was finite, and you got through it and went on to other things.

So, are you ready for Wednesday?

It's the second time around! It's like going on a run. I've seen the same terrain. And it's kind of like making that run again. The weird thing is it's hard to feel anything until you have all the material in front of you. When we met weeks ago, some of those jokes have gotten stale. Some of our ideas have been rendered irrelevant. I'm trying to do my best to adjust for the audience. With "SNL," Correspondents Dinner and ESPYs, the DNA is the same. I'll do my best.

Lynn Hoppes is senior director for Page 2 and Commentary. He can be reached at

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