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Talking Politics With Late-Night Host Seth Meyers


Seth Meyers is back with us. He is host of "Late Night With Seth Meyers" on NBC. And we have been talking with him occasionally during the course of the presidential campaign about politics, sort of lightening the mood a little bit and just getting the view of all of this from the "Late Night" stage. Seth, thanks for coming back in.

SETH MEYERS: It's my pleasure to be back here.

GREENE: And we should say you are from New Hampshire.

MEYERS: I am from New Hampshire. And I do want to say to the New Hampshire listeners right now what they're going - they're going to go through something. They're going to feel joy today. Because all these people are out of their state, and the signs will start coming down, and they'll start getting their lives back. But then, in a few days, depression will set in because they'll realize no one is going to ask, what's New Hampshire thinking? There's not - you know, the CNN truck, they're going to start realizing, isn't going to be pulling up anytime soon.

GREENE: No one's paying attention anymore.

MEYERS: Nobody's paying attention anymore.

GREENE: It's kind of like after your wedding is over. It's - you're like, everyone's...

MEYERS: Yeah, at first you're like, oh my god, thank god my aunts and uncles and my cousins are all gone.


MEYERS: But then you realize, oh, it's not my special day anymore.

GREENE: Right.

MEYERS: With that said, there is no state better than New Hampshire to be left alone. And so I think that ultimately, two weeks from now, they'll remember that they like being left alone more than anything else.

GREENE: Okay. I want to play a highlight reel from New Hampshire. We heard a lot of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump yelling at each other. They did it on a debate stage. They did it on the airwaves. Let's just listen a bit to this.


DONALD TRUMP: Jeb wants to be - he wants to be a tough guy. He wants to be a tough guy. A lot of times - a lot of times, you - let me talk.

JEB BUSH: He wants to tear down - how tough is it to take away property from an elderly woman?

TRUMP: Let me talk. Quiet. A lot of times...

BUSH: How tough is it?

TRUMP: Jeb Bush is a stiff who you wouldn't hire in private enterprise, OK? This is a stiff.

BUSH: American heroes - calling them losers. Donald Trump, you're the loser.


MEYERS: First of all, I want to give Jeb credit. But when he says - when he calls people a loser it does seem like he said it in the mirror a hundred times that morning to psych himself up. It does not roll off his tongue. Insult does not roll off his tongue the same way it is so natural to Donald Trump.

GREENE: His mom was coming around New Hampshire with him. Maybe she, like, you know...


GREENE: ...Like stood with him and helped him develop that line.

MEYERS: He would say, you're a loser. She'd slap him.

GREENE: That's right. Right.

MEYERS: He'd say it again. She'd slap him.

GREENE: Come on, son. Come on, son.

MEYERS: Yeah, exactly.

GREENE: Let me play a little game with you if I can. I want to call it "He Or She Would Have Won New Hampshire If."


GREENE: Let's start with Hillary Clinton. She would have won New Hampshire if...

MEYERS: Is If outsider candidate wasn't from New England maybe?

GREENE: OK, that's a good one. That's a good one.

MEYERS: Yeah, yeah.

GREENE: OK, Ted Cruz would have won New Hampshire if...

MEYERS: If New Hampshire was less secular. At the end of the day, it's a very hard state for someone with that Ted Cruz sort of evangelical platform.

GREENE: It doesn't have western Iowa in - somewhere in there.

MEYERS: We do not have a western Iowa. Yeah.

GREENE: Okay OK, Marco Rubio would have won New Hampshire if...

MEYERS: Marco Rubio would have finished third - which is a win for Marco Rubio, which we know. He treats a third-place finish like a win.

GREENE: He did in Iowa. OK, yeah.

MEYERS: I think if he had done better at that debate.

GREENE: The debate really hurt him?

MEYERS: I think it really did.

GREENE: Last one. Beyonce would have won New Hampshire if...

MEYERS: She had just showed up. I mean, I think that's (unintelligible).

GREENE: Maybe sang the song from the halftime show at the Super Bowl again.

MEYERS: I don't even - I think people remember it. I don't think she would have had to sing it again.

GREENE: Just stand there and do her thing.

MEYERS: Like, good, you guys remember that.

GREENE: You guys remember this? Just do this.

MEYERS: Yeah. Remember how I saved a halftime show? I turned this country around.

GREENE: Yeah (laughter). Ben Carson did not do all that well this week. You talked about Ben Carson on a show recently, talking about his now-infamous entrance at the debate where he did not hear his name called.


GREENE: And let's listen because you were pretty mean.

MEYERS: Well, hey.


MEYERS: The night began with the precision of a kindergarten holiday pageant led by Ben Carson who somehow missed his cue to take the stage.


MEGYN KELLY: Dr. Ben Carson.


MEYERS: Is Ben Carson really a brain surgeon? Or did people start calling him that sarcastically to just - oh yeah, that guy's a real brain surgeon. What was it like to have him as a doctor? Your surgery will begin any moment. We just need to get Dr. Carson in here.


GREENE: That's rough.

MEYERS: It was a rough moment. You know, I will concede, he probably didn't hear his name.


MEYERS: But then a lot of other stuff happened.

GREENE: Right.

MEYERS: They should have given him a heads up that he had missed it.

GREENE: Do you ever feel guilty at all after you crack a joke like that?

MEYERS: Not like that because I think that is so within the realm of silliness. We have a lot of discussions as far as, is this too far, is this too mean?


MEYERS: And about half the time, we decide it is too mean. About a quarter of the time, we decide it isn't too mean. And then a quarter of the time, we decided it is too mean but we're going to do it anyway.

GREENE: We're going to do it anyway.


GREENE: Where do you draw the line?

MEYERS: You know, Lorne Michaels always impressed this upon us, which is never tell a joke about someone.

GREENE: And he's the man behind "Saturday Night Live" and works (unintelligible).

MEYERS: And the executive producer of our show, yeah. And he would always say, like, if you saw that person at a party, never tell a joke that would make you want to leave the party instead of being able to stand there and say hello because you don't want to, you know, live the rest of your life sort of hiding in corners at cocktail parties.

GREENE: Like you're doing with Donald Trump now after the White House Correspondents Dinner from a number of years ago?

MEYERS: Well, even - I will say, you know, the White House Correspondents Dinner, I did see Donald Trump the week after that, and I did go over and thank him for being a good sport at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

GREENE: And you actually were thinking about Lorne's name when you were...

MEYERS: When I walked over to say hello to him I'm like, you know what, I feel like everything I said was in bounds and was not as mean as the meanest things Donald Trump has said. So he should be able to roll with this, and I will go over and say hello.

GREENE: You know, the "In Memoriam" moment at the Oscars?


GREENE: So we wanted to remember the candidates...


GREENE: ...Who we have lost so far in this campaign.



GREENE: Mike Huckabee.


MIKE HUCKABEE: Folks, it is a long way from a little brick ranch house on Second Street in Hope, Ark. to the White House.

GREENE: Scott Walker.


SCOTT WALKER: We need new, fresh leadership, the kind of leadership that knows how to get things done, like we've done here in Wisconsin.

GREENE: Martin O'Malley.


MARTIN O'MALLEY: For the story of our country's best days is not found in a history book because this generation of Americans is about to write it.

GREENE: Chris Christie.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: I have spent the last 13 years of my life fighting for the people of the state of New Jersey. And I'm now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America.

GREENE: Carly Fiorina


CARLY FIORINA: If you believe that it's time to declare the end of lowered expectations then join us.

GREENE: Lindsey Graham.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: God bless our fighting men and women, and God bless America.

GREENE: Rand Paul.


RAND PAUL: We have come to take our country back.

MEYERS: No Chafee? How can you do Lincoln Chafee like that?

GREENE: I guess we might have to redo this (laughter).

MEYERS: He didn't even last long enough to make the "In Memoriam."

GREENE: Any candidates you haven't had on yet?

MEYERS: Yeah, a few. I mean, we haven't had Jeb or Marco. We haven't had Trump. I would love to have him. But I will say, like, some candidates are very much come on a talk show with, like, back-pocketed jokes that they are going to use no matter what - sort of what I would call stump speech jokes, which get sort of polite laughter when you are doing them at a rally full of your rabid fans. So it's funny because some politicians are that and others are very interesting. Ted Cruz was probably the most interesting politician we have had on this time - very quick on his feet, very smart guy. And so, you know, people like that are really fun to have on the show.

GREENE: Well, I really appreciate you coming on and not using a single stump speech joke on our show.

MEYERS: Thank you. Next time I'm coming, I'm going to have, like, three ready to go.

GREENE: You should do that. Seth, always great to see you.

MEYERS: All right, thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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