It was impossible for Seth Meyers to do a bad job Saturday night when he entertained a near-sellout crowd at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts. He routinely commands a national audience as host of "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live," of which he is also head writer.
Attached to one of comedy's premier institutions, he is enshrined in a legacy that has fostered the careers of Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Dennis Miller and Tina Fey, to name a few. And he is popular, to boot, both with the ladies and their gentlemen.
Meyers is a comedian for everyone, a pleaser to all and a provoker to few.
Which makes his stand-up routine all the more intriguing. It was not unfunny. There were no crickets. And only one heckler, whose comment about a joke's intellect landed without dent in this audience of loyal viewers.
It was not a bad night.
But it wasn't what you'd expect from the senior comedian of the country's coolest playground. It was just about normal.
In his hourlong set, Meyers spoke of politics, relationships and his own awkwardness -- one of the holy trifectas of stand-up comedy. He parlayed his "Update" character's traits -- boyish guffaws, charming winks and a nervy hope to get away with those juicy, crass jokes -- without much of a stretch, showing how close our image of Meyers is to his reality.
The political material was topical, playing up the boring tone of this year's Republican presidential debates. Rick Perry, he said, was "George W. Bush .5," equating him to the disappointing opposite of a successor. Later, he joked that Bush was more fun to write about because, unlike President Obama, Bush lacks the self-awareness that makes mocking him fun.
This is the insight of a network TV head writer we could have heard more of. His set-ending trail of NBC-censored "Weekend Update" jokes was the proven goldmine of the night, and it was, appropriately, held for last.
The expected college-campus material about marijuana and silly girls was good, too, if chartered territory. Talking about two post-collegiate years spent in Amsterdam, he mused about the pitfalls of returning stateside, abundant with innate arrogance.
And then, of course, the pot jokes.
"After a year in Amsterdam, you turn into Matthew McConaughey," he said, pulling out an SNL-approved impression of the famous stoner. "Then Owen Wilson: 'I'm gonna go throw a Frisbee with a dog on a beach.' "
This is comedy of mainstream variety. It isn't comedy from pain, or quirky observational perspective. It is American humor about American people, which, frankly, has never failed to make America laugh.
Those laughs come with plenty of flirtation, which might just be his cross to bear. He is cute, and he giggles, but that doesn't mean he's off his mark. That is exactly his mark. If his audience's laughter was rapturous, it was also flirtatious. They wanted any slice of him they could get, and he was happy to oblige.
One bit about his own failure to stand up to a brutish "bro" at a Las Vegas bar was true to his form. His physical recounting of his own debut punch, at an undisclosed but likely grown-up age, was both comical and totally believable. If you've been in his shoes, you know the comedy in his torture.
His stand-up is the kind of performance most cannot pull off without appearing disingenuous: the comedian who just wants to laugh with you. He's your hilarious brother, your witty roommate, your really funny friend who can riff on that ridiculous thing that just happened better than anyone else who witnessed it.
In this way, he is closer to his followers than anyone else who has sat on the comedy throne he now occupies. Because no one forgets a friend like that.
Saturday night in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts on the North Campus, Amherst.