Amber Ruffin is in it for the long haul. In a late-night TV show landscape dominated by white men, the multi-hyphenate talk-show host, comedian, and writer easily stands out. Now with a third season of The Amber Ruffin Show underway, Ruffin, who hosts her Peacock series in front of a live studio audience with occasional celebrity guest interviews, is a tour de force – and she knows it. In a Q & A with EBONY, Ruffin discusses her approach to late-night and why she’s loving every moment of it.
EBONY: Coming from the late-night space as a writer on Late Night with Seth Meyers, can you talk about your approach and some of things that you were able to do on your show that probably would have never seen the light of day on Seth’s show?
Amber Ruffin: I always thought it’d be so much easier – having my own show. Because writing, when you're a Black person, and you write mainstream anything… you are writing comedy but it's kind of like you are have weights on. Your very first thought might be The O'Jays, but what you have to say out loud is Kenny Rodgers. You know what I mean? So like you have to take your idea and make it understandable for a white audience. But on our show, I f---ing sang a song to a bonnet. Like there were no rules, you know? And it was so fun to be able to do that and then to have all my writers there and you could watch them do it. And you realize you're very first thought is valid. You don't have to translate it and you don't have to change it. Your instinct is right. And it's your instinct that I want. I don't want you to have to change it in any way.
And talking about writers, since you’ve been in a writer’s room before can you talk about the significance of having an abundance of Black writers—and how that helps to change the dynamic of late-night and comedy?
It was so fun to choose your writers. The whole deal is very, very fun. But to fill a room with people who you think are hilarious is… on a whole different level. Because… what all of The Amber Ruffin Show writers have in common is: I like them. So no matter who they are they have a trait that I also have. You know what I mean? So it's like all of those people can bring out the very, very best in you because they're you, plus something different.
As the only Black woman with a late-night talk show currently on air, did you feel a sense of responsibility or pressure when launching this show—and how do you feel now taking on your latest season?
Oh, my gosh, yes. I wake up every morning and I call on the ancestors and they go, "Leave us alone." No, I don't ever feel like I have to, you know, do a good job for all of Black people. I feel like I am such an odd duck and such a weird guy that once you get an eyeful of me and once I start talking, I think people are like, "This is something different." You know, this isn't a Black lady stereotype. This isn't an anti-Black lady stereotype. This is just a little weirdo. And so I think that my oddness earns me -- not earns me -- but gets me a lot of grace. Because you can't pin me down. You know what I mean? Like once second I will be singing a cute song about, you know, how I hate hearing bad news. And then the next second I will be full out cursing out a racist a-- bully and wrecking a person. And I hope that people respond to me being both things. Like no one does one little thing. Everyone is gentle. Everyone is kind. Everyone is weird. Everyone is mean. You know, you should be able to be all those things.
Well fans can't get enough of you. Since this is more of a weekly show, are you interested in transitioning into a daily format or would that be overkill for you?
I could do daily. I could do it. If had a daily format, I would have to have guests to talk to because, like to do our show, to do a half-hour of sketches, and monologues every day would be difficult. Now could we? Absolutely. (Laughs) It would be so hard. We would be so sad. We would definitely need to have guests. I mean, more guests than we've been having.
And talking about the guests, you've had some great ones. Second season, I watched you have this natural chemistry with Cynthia Erivo, obviously Vanessa Williams, so on and so forth. So talk about just some of the people that you find the most intriguing or interesting and would you to interview.
The best guests are who I am currently in love with in that second. Like these three guests [Cynthia Erivo, Vanessa Williams, Jaquel Spivey] were all people who I had just fallen in love with and then they just decided to do the show. If we get to do more of this show, then I would love to keep falling in love with people and then asking them to be on the show.
And before we go, what misconceptions do you feel people have about you that you’d like to clear up? Or, do you feel the get you and are accepting of Amber Ruffin in this late-night space?
I think that people think I'm a lot younger than I am and I don't ever want to clear that up. (Laughs) No, I feel like people have been so kind and so welcoming and so nice to me. I'm telling you, it's an abundance of great experiences. And it's an abundance of great people. And I've just been very lucky to be in, like, this hurricane of sweetness where everyone's making room, but holding it tight. It's just the best feeling over here.
New episodes of The Amber Ruffin Show are available to watch on Peacock.