As she launches a late-night show in the middle of an election season.
If you’re a fan of Late Night With Seth Meyers, you’re already familiar with the razor-sharp writing and onscreen charisma of Amber Ruffin. A writer on the show since its inception (and a regular face on the popular segment “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell”), Ruffin was the first-ever Black woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the U.S. Now she’s getting her own talk series, The Amber Ruffin Show, premiering September 25 on NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, Peacock. And because we’re still in a pandemic, she’ll be live from 30 Rock, performing to an empty room.
Ahead of The Amber Ruffin Show launch, Ruffin spoke with Vulture about the challenges of producing a show during a global pandemic, what’s making her laugh at a time like this, and how she’s feeling about being the namesake and host of a brand-new late-night series.
You have a new show coming out — it is literally your show, your first and last name. How does that feel? It feels crazy, but it also feels like a rumor. It’s not like there’s a building with a room in it with a poster that says that, you know? It’s just me in this kitchen and I’m like, “Well, that’s what I heard I was supposed to do.”
It’s not like you’re going to 30 Rock. You’re going to 30 Your Living Room. I am going to start going to 30 Rock in a little bit, but it’ll be just me. Because all of our writers are in L.A., we don’t need any space. I have a desk. The end.
So you’re currently in production on the show right now? I guess you could say that’s true. Yes? We’re having a lot of meetings via Zoom.
What is it like preparing to launch a TV show during a global pandemic? You do miss the audience. We’re about to launch this whole show with no audience, and we will have never written for an audience. Because I had worked for Seth for six years, when I got Ruffin Show, I looked back and was like, “All these jewels that Seth didn’t like, I’m going to take and do on Ruffin Show,” and there are so many audience bits. Not anymore.
Can you get away with more of what you specifically want to write about as opposed to what the audience might be looking for? Definitely. I said this to someone else when we started working from home [on Late Night With Seth Meyers]: When there’s an audience, you write the jokes and then you say them to the audience. And they laugh or they don’t laugh, and based on that, you choose your jokes. Now it’s, Do I like it? Does Seth like it? End of list. Seth is a weird person, and so am I. So things have skewed crazy. Which is great because now we see our audience can handle quite a bit of craziness. Things are taking a turn for the weird.
Do you have any goals in terms of what you want to do differently than other late-night shows? We are going to talk about the news, and we are going to be doofuses, so hopefully it’ll be a nice mix of the two. We will be like, “Well now this crazy thing is the law. Let’s examine what that might look like in a puppet show.” God, it won’t be a puppet show. Sorry I said puppet show. In a song or whatever. So hopefully we will do something like a monologue and maybe that’ll cover the topical news and then maybe a sketch and a song. Girl, I don’t know. Any ideas for structure, please mail them to me.
Have you encountered any challenges in terms of launching a late-night show during a contentious election season? I love it, but also it doesn’t feel contentious to me. It doesn’t feel like there are these two crazy sides against each other, because I’m a Black person and I don’t know a lot of Trump people. It feels more like us normal folks and then stories you hear from people who know people who are crazy — it’s those two groups. So I can’t imagine someone fixing their face to say to me, “Oh my God, I love Trump so much and I want to talk about that with you.” I would die. Sorry. Actually, I would be perfectly fine because my legs work and I would walk away.