The Amber Ruffin Show – Amber On Air
Fast Company|Summer 2021
Late-night TV host and groundbreaking comedy writer Amber Ruffin explains what can happen when you think like a performer.
By KC Ifeanyi

The segments Amber Ruffin performs on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers—“Amber’s Minute of Fury,” “Amber Says What,” and “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell”—showcase her infectious energy and ability to satirize hot-button issues. They also earned the 42-year-old her own weekly half-hour of TV, The Amber Ruffin Show, which debuted last fall on Peacock, NBC’s streaming channel. She’s using the opportunity to be as off the wall as she wants, and she thanks a new generation on social media for that. “I can sneak my weirdness in there, and there’s a cover for me because there are people doing weirder things than I am,” she says. She’s also co-writing Broadway’s Some Like It Hot for 2022—and loving it. “When you are in a happy, nice place to create, you go wild.” Here’s how she’s building that environment for others.

When did you decide that you wanted to have your own show, and how did you begin that process?

I didn’t start sniffing around for other opportunities until I had been at Late Night for like three years and felt like, Okay, I’ve cut out a place for myself here. I’m adding to the show. What I want is to have my own show. Can I get good at that here [at Late Night]? If I write up a script [for my own show], I can pass it to [Late Night writer] Jenny [Hagel] who’ll pass it to [another Late Night writer, John] Lutz, and they’ll all go over it. Everyone will take it very seriously and take it home with them and write up notes. That environment is like nowhere else. People taking your creativity seriously is how I got here.

Did you always have a vision for it?

I still don’t feel like there’s a crafted shape. Sometimes there’ll be two songs on the show. There is no reason for me to be singing one song, much less two. But sometimes there’ll be two funny songs. I’ll be like, “We gotta do them both.” I like to treat us like idea fountains and the fountains go on literally forever.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FAST COMPANYView All

THE ASCENT OF SARA NELSON

ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS PRESIDENT SARA NELSON HAS BECOME THE MOST PROMINENT LABOR LEADER IN AMERICA. NOW SHE’S POISED TO HELP THE ENTIRE LABOR MOVEMENT TAKE OFF.

10+ mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Making investing accessible for everyone

APEX IS LEADING A MOVEMENT AIMED AT DEMOCRATIZING PERSONAL FINANCE

2 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Forging a path to carbon transparency

HOW LOGITECH’S LOW-CARBON DESIGN STRATEGY IS TRANSFORMING AN INDUSTRY

2 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Devil's Bargain? Not Anymore

Artists need brands for func=ding. Brands need artists for authenticity. Here's why selling out has lost its stigma.

6 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Bearing fruit with groundbreaking marketing

INNOVATION IS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND AVOCADOS FROM MEXICO BRAND’S MARKET PENETRATION AND IMPRESSIVE GROWTH

2 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Planet Airbnb

The home-rental giant was already at a crossroads—both financially and spiritually—when COVID-19 brought travel to a halt. Now it’s looking for new purpose (and profitability) in a post-pandemic world.

10+ mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

6 Creative Ways Workers Are Taking Back Power

When workers align with local constituents to fight for shared goals, it strengthens their campaign.

8 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

The Amber Ruffin Show – Amber On Air

Late-night TV host and groundbreaking comedy writer Amber Ruffin explains what can happen when you think like a performer.

6 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Dance Dance Revolution

Ballet principal James Whiteside has expanded the audience for his art by pushing its boundaries.

5 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

Hiring Heroes: Why Veterans Make Great Tech Employees

Military veterans come with the soft skills employers value most, and many have backgrounds in technology

4 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021