Really Seth? Really?
Seth Meyers has become one of the best late-night hosts, largely thanks to his political humor, which has been uncompromising during the Trump era. His “A Closer Look” segments have rivaled “The Daily Show” for sharpness and cleverness, and they don’t just pass by in the night; they’ve gotten more than 265 million YouTube views this year alone. In the well-researched pieces, Meyers is impassioned, sincere, bemused, and charming.
Late-night Seth is close to the one we first got to know on “Saturday Night Live,” where he sat in the “Weekend Update” anchor chair for years. But there are other Seths, including stand-up Seth, who, it turns out, has plenty to say about marriage and fatherhood. His new Netflix special “Lobby Baby,” named for the location of the birth of his second son, is primarily a series of nicely structured bits about Domestic Seth — his fickleness, his role as husband, the near-disaster that was his wedding.
It’s an hour of adorableness — or wait, make that approximately 53 minutes of adorableness, with seven more of Trump humor, including a joke about how Trump is not a religious man as some claim, and how he’d hate church: “Can you imagine,” he says, “Donald Trump sitting for an hour in a room where someone talks about the glory of someone who is not Donald Trump?” The seven minutes of Trump riffs are on the broader side, since specifics don’t work when you’re filming months in advance of release.
But “Lobby Baby” arrived this past week with an option to “Skip Politics,” in the same way Netflix offers an option to “Skip Intro,” for when you don’t want to rewatch the title sequence while binge-watching a series. If you feel as though you can’t handle some of Meyers’s put-downs of the current administration, you can click the button, which appears approximately 40 minutes into the hour, and jump ahead to the end of the political comedy. You might be tired of Trump jokes, or you might be a Trump supporter, or you might just think, strangely, that comedians and other entertainers shouldn’t talk about politics; and “Lobby Baby” doesn’t want to trigger you.
I dislike this option very much. Meyers has explained his reasoning, and it has been a little confusing. He told USA Today, “A lot of people in my Twitter feed, people who are not fans of this iteration of ‘Late Night,’ say they wish I would skip politics. So it is, in some way, a response to that.” So he’s adapting his work to make it more welcoming to some viewers? But then he told CNN that the “Skip Politics” button is “another joke in the special,” and, indeed, he does treat the option lightheartedly in “Lobby Baby.” He points to the button while he’s onstage in Minneapolis. And, after the “Skip Politics” jump, when the opted-out viewers return to the stand-up, they hear Meyers saying, “So I guess my point is, I misjudged him and I do think he’s a very good president.” It is funny.
No matter what the reason, the development that is the “Skip Politics” button gives me the willies. Of course Meyers has staked so much of his career on politics, it’s hard to imagine him wanting to enable denial, or pandering to snowflakes, to use the word that plays like a shuttlecock on Twitter.
It’s hard to imagine him further splitting up a country already choosing to watch very different versions of every story.
So I’m not screeding against him — although I’d rather he just tell those viewers who don’t want the politics to just fast-forward — so much as I am against the advent of the button itself. The opportunity to select which topics you prefer — particularly in a stand-up performance — cheapens the whole endeavor, makes it less of a creative dish served by an entertainer and more of a buffet.
Will the future Netflix offer Republican and Democratic versions of the same narratives? It’s absurd — I’d like to see that sketch on “Saturday Night Live” — but it’s not too, too far from “Skip Politics.”
The button reminds me of the “Bandersnatch” episode of Netflix’s “Black Mirror.” It’s an interactive episode, so the viewer gets to control the narrative, as if it’s a video game. We choose what we’d prefer to see, not what the storyteller is giving us. As technology allows this kind of development, I fear we’ll see more of it on streaming services. Let’s keep “on demand” to where and when you watch your shows, and not their content.