March 26, 2022 / VOLUME NO. 202


Knowing What Jokes You Can't Tell

Seth Meyers knows a lot about writing a funny sketch. Before hosting NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, a job he’s held since 2014, he was head writer at Saturday Night Live and hosted the show’s "Weekend Update" segment. But he knows there are some jokes that he shouldn’t tell — even if he thinks they’re funny.

"The delivery system matters,” Meyers told journalist Terry Gross recently on Fresh Air, NPR’s long-running radio program. His show’s diverse writing staff includes Amber Ruffin, a Black woman, and Jenny Hagel, a lesbian with Puerto Rican roots. Sometimes, these women write jokes that won’t work when delivered by Meyers, a 48-year-old white man. That led to a recurring bit, “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell.” Meyers sets up the jokes; Hagel and Ruffin deliver the punchlines.

Meyers’ writers can write a good joke, even if it’s not the right one for him. They turned that into an opportunity for comedy gold. Last year, Meyers’ show was renewed until 2025, and beat out the competing show hosted by James Corden for that season. And since 2020, Ruffin has hosted her own eponymous show on NBC’s Peacock service, with Hagel as head writer.

Diversity can be a winning combination, whether on stage or in bank boardrooms. In Bank Director’s 2021 Governance Best Practices Survey, conducted early last year, 39% of respondents reported that their board had three or more diverse directors, based on race, gender or ethnicity. And 59% believed that greater diversity improves the performance of a corporate board.

Yet, I often hear directors bemoan that their boards will be forced to sacrifice skills for diversity. That’s not the case at all. Boardrooms need a variety of skills — but they also need varied perspectives around the table that reflect the demographics of a country that’s becoming increasingly racially and ethnically diverse. They can have both. 

In a 2014 interview with Salon, Meyers said that he “tried to hire as many people as I could find that were funnier than me,” resulting in a diverse writers’ room. 

Almost a decade later, he’s found that they’re not just good writers. Their honest feedback has “saved us from making a lot of mistakes,” he told Gross. "So much of it is about being lucky enough to have someone step in and say, ‘Hey, just FYI, here's how someone like me hears that joke.’ … Once I have that knowledge, I have no interest in telling that joke.”  


Cutting those jokes hasn't made his show worse, in Meyers’ opinion. “If anything, it's made the show better,” he said. 

Emily McCormick, vice president of research at Bank Director


Margin With a Mission

Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams has an unusual background for a bank CEO.

“The continuing and growing racial wealth divide is not sustainable … I’m proud and pleased that corporate America and the government is stepping up and saying we’ve got to do better.” – Darrin William, Southern Bancorp

• Naomi Snyder, editor-in-chief at Bank Director


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