Seth Meyers delivers TV’s sharpest monologue, does sidesplitting impressions and books guests that wouldn’t even be allowed on loading docks at most talk-show studios. But his greatest contribution may be discovering Amber Ruffin.
The 42-year-old Omaha, Nebraska, native has been a “Late Night with Seth Meyers” staff writer since the show premiered on NBC in 2014. But in the past few years she’s become so much more.
Regular viewers are already familiar with recurring bits like “Amber Says What?” and “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell.” In both, Ruffin tackles controversial issues with a singsong delivery and contagious smile.
Part Mary Poppins, part Howard Beale, she’s mad as heck and not going to take it anymore.
But the budding star really gets her chance to shine in “The Amber Ruffin Show,” a weekly program on Peacock that’s as smart and thought-provoking as anything her male counterparts are doing on network TV.
The show, which premiered last September, tapes from Meyers’ set without any interviews, although each episode features celebrities like Ava DuVernay and Busy Philipps handling signoff duties. Instead, Ruffin fills each half-hour interacting with fellow writers and offering up viewpoints — and emotions — that you won’t see in many other places.
Her voice may sound like she’s a cousin of the Smurfs, but this is grown-up commentary on voting rights, economic anxiety and police brutality. One of her most powerful monologues dealt with how the term “uppity” seems only to apply to women of color. In a segment on hate crimes against Asian Americans, she had a hard time holding back tears.
Most of these messages are served with spoonfuls of sugar, or what she calls “silly stuff.”
Her small staff seems to have spent at least half the budget on wigs. Prepare to groan at corny puns.
There’s a recurring bit in which she converses with a pup- pet mail carrier that might have transferred from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” although I don’t recall Mr. McFeely ever chastising one of his customers for whining about her late stimulus check.
And then there’s the musical numbers, sometimes as many as three per episode.
So far, there’s been a “Ghost- busters” parody song on gun laws, a ballet celebrating vaccine shots and an adaptation of Etta James’ “At Last” in honor of Derek Chauvin’s incarceration. For a piece on gun laws, Ruffin and sidekick Tarik Davis sent up James Brown’s “Livin’ in America” with star-spangled costumes and “Soul Train” choreography.
Most episodes end with Ruffin sitting on her desk, swinging her legs and sipping a salted margarita as she shares a lullaby.
It would be the ideal nightcap every weekday night.
That’s a real possibility.
Ruffin already made history by becoming the first Black woman to write for late-night TV. She could mark another milestone if NBC gave her the regular 12:35 a.m. time slot being vacated by “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” (the network is already airing “Ruffin” late Friday nights).
Singh’s show never quite worked, in large part because the host wasn’t a seasoned stand-up comic. Bringing the laughs won’t be a problem for Ruffin. Falling in love with her won’t be, either.