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How A Closer Look "Changed Everything" for Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers' popular political segment has been a beacon in unprecedented political times, and Meyers credits writer Sal Gentile.

By Christopher Rudolph

"A Closer Look" has become one of Late Night with Seth Meyers' most popular recurring segments, providing hilarious commentary on the day's biggest political stories. But the first iteration of "A Closer Look" didn't air until July 2015, over a year after the program first premiered with Seth Meyers as the new Host.

How to Watch

Watch Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC weeknights at 12:35/11:35c and next day on Peacock.  

In the early days of the show, Meyers had assumed that having to cover politics on a regular basis would get old. 

"We actually thought, 'Imagine having to do long form politics everyday... They'll be fun to do once in a while,'" he recalled in the show's 2024 video special, 10 Years of Late Night with Seth Meyers: A Brief Oral History.

Executive producer Mike Shoemaker noted in the special that "A Closer Look" was inspired by Meyers' "Really?!?" bit as an anchor on "Weekend Update." When Meyers brought on supervising writer Sal Gentile to pen the segment, it began to assume the form it takes today.

"Seth wanted to, on his own volition, start doing more desk pieces that were specifically about politics and current events," Gentile said in A Brief Oral History. "I think he felt like I was especially well suited for that, even though I was a segment producer. At some point he started calling me into his office just to ask me for help."

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Seth doing his monologue on Late Night With Seth Meyers episode 1439

"This was before we ever even labeled anything 'A Closer Look.' We used to give these desk pieces their own little titles," Gentile continued. "I remember the title of the Greek debt crisis explainer was ‘Up Sh*t’s Greek.’ We were definitely in need of a recurring name for these pieces.”

It was eventually Shoemaker who suggested the name 'A Closer Look,' and a segment was born.

The 2016 election marked a turn for A Closer Look

As Gentile explains in the special, the idea for the segment "started with our interest in doing long explainers on dense news topics that weren't related to Trump, or even necessarily US politics — so we already had an appetite for doing longer explainers."

"We sort of had the architecture in place when [Donald] Trump showed up," explained Meyers. "I remember when I started this show, the fear was, 'How do you fill an hour every night?' And then, in 2016..."

"From then on it's been... We never have enough time," Shoemaker added.

Gentile called Trump's surprise election "a comet from a completely different universe." It became clear that "we wanted to keep up with the chaotic, frenetic pace of the news, and try to make sense of it as much as possible for the people who were watching."

"This team formed that did not have this education in how to do this, and it's been fascinating watching them learn how to build this centerpiece on our show," said the Late Night Host, who also noted that he was "really surprised" by the response to "A Closer Look."

RELATED: Is a New "A Closer Look" on Late Night with Seth Meyers Tonight? Watch the Latest Segment

"I will say the amount of positive feedback was markedly different than anything else we'd done on the show so far," he added.

A showcase for Seth Meyers' impressions

"The longer we've done [the segment], the more we've given ourselves permission to take tangents and do fun things and it's become really silly," Meyers told Samberg during their April 15 Paley Center event. 

And as "A Closer Look" has grown into itself, it's become a space for Meyers to have fun with impersonating a wide range of politicians, from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

So what's Meyers' favorite among his repertoire? 

“I do enjoy yelling really loud, like Bernie Sanders. I do enjoy doing Lindsey Graham. Those are two of my favorites,” Meyers told NBC Insider in April.

Of his impression of Rudy Giuliani, "somebody said something very touching,” Meyers added. “They go, 'this is both the worst and the best Giuliani. It doesn’t sound like him, but it grasps him.'”

"“I love it when you do Giuliani. It’s unhinged," Samberg added. "It gets at something.”

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Why A Closer Look's January 6th, 2021 segment aired live

At the Paley event, Meyers also told Samberg on that one of the most unprecedented days in politics, the January 6th insurrection against the Capitol in 2021, Late Night knew they had to do things differently to meet the moment.

"On January 6th, we were gonna tape our show at four in the afternoon, and we realized, 'oh, we can't tape now. Like, we don't know what's gonna happen — any jokes we make, anything we say now might be so historically dated in seven hours," Meyers explained.

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Thus, "we waited until 12:37, and [Gentile] wrote 'A Closer Look' that was basically, 'let's not forget what happened today.' And it was so beautifully written."

"It was just one of those days where you just feel so lucky to have a show to be able to say those things," Meyers said.

Watch new installments of "A Closer Look" on Late Night with Seth Meyers every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 12:35/11:35c on NBC, streaming next day on Peacock. 

Additional reporting by Grace Jidoun.