Long before we knew her as the queen of Late Night, Amber Ruffin found herself living in the heart of downtown Denver. Take your first race with an improvisation group second citythe comedian and writer spent a year in Mile High, giving Ruffin his first taste of success.
“Denver was the best time I’ve ever had. We were all just getting these real full-time comedy jobs,” she said. “It was the first time I really thought to myself: ‘Wow, that’s how not to be terrified, I wouldn’t do rent.'”
Now writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers and host of his own The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock, Amber Ruffin will return to Denver this Sunday with SeriesFest for a screening of her show at Red Rocks.
Born and raised in Omaha, NE, Amber Ruffin began her acting career improvising at local theaters. The comedy would eventually take him across the country, performing everywhere from Chicago to Los Angeles to Denver, even spending five years in Amsterdam with Boom Chicago.
In 2014, Ruffin got the call every comedian dreams of – to audition for the infamous Saturday Night Live. Although she didn’t get a spot on the show, this audition would be the moment that would launch the rest of her career.
“I auditioned for SNL and found out I didn’t understand. It was awful. Seth [Meyers] called three days later, and I thought he was calling me to say, “Hey, sorry, you didn’t understand”. I didn’t think he was calling me to offer me a job,” Ruffin said.
Meyers offered him a writing job on NBC Late night with Seth Meyers, making her the first black woman to write for a late night talk show. This stance eventually led to his own recurring segments on the show, including “Amber Says What?”, “Amber’s Minute of Fury”, and “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell”. Ruffin’s background in improv left her well-equipped to transition into late-night songwriting, a skill she found quite natural.
“Short improv is the best improv you can do. I’m the only person alive who thinks that, but it’s practical when you’re writing,” she said. they’re screaming something like ‘lemon’, you better make a joke containing the word ‘pucker’. You need to instantly find a joke and they are waiting for you. Here, you read a headline and you have all day to let it touch you as it touches you. It’s like a luxury in comparison.
Ruffin’s work both behind the scenes and in front of the camera caught NBC’s attention, earning her own late-night talk show on Peacock in 2020.
“I never thought this would happen – I’m still kind of shocked,” Ruffin said.
Broadcast every Friday, The Amber Ruffin Show presents the host’s point of view on the week’s news through monologues and sketches. The show is a brilliant display of his comedic talent and undeniable intelligence. Unlike many late-night shows, Ruffin isn’t afraid to escape the levity trap. She uses her platform not just for comedic relief, but to open up the conversations the media often avoids having.
“I’m really tired of nobody saying anything,” Ruffin said. “Remember when the news wouldn’t call racist shit racist, and it drove everyone crazy? That really got to me. I realized that it was actively doing damage, and it needed to there’s an adult on TV saying ‘uh oh, this bad thing is really bad’… The sad truth is that’s where we are.
Alongside his lighter sketches, Ruffin dives headfirst into hard-hitting subject matter with confidence and determination. Segments such as “How Did We Get Here” explore racism, politics and gender inequality, giving Ruffin space to speak out against the injustices she sees in the world around us.
“I just tried to tell the truth about my feelings. I don’t understand the part of this work where people feel compelled to report what’s going on without any feeling. I am an actor. Feelings are the thing, so I might as well go into detail about that,” she said.
Yet despite the weight of the topics she covers, her show is far from heavy. Ruffin managed to strike the perfect balance between comedy and conversation, always finding his way to the humor within it all.
“That’s how we all are. Bad things happen to black people all the time, and you have to laugh about it so you don’t lose your mind. That’s how you learn to manage things. Especially with the really bad times in America recently, everyone started to feel that. You can’t help but laugh about it – it’s our way of coping,” she said.
Ruffin will return to Mile High on May 8 with SeriesFesta Denver-based festival dedicated to showcasing creators through workshops, panels, live readings and premieres.
“[SeriesFest] asked, ‘Do you want to show an episode at Red Rocks?,’ So I said, ‘Fuck yeah.’ The whole time I was in Denver, I never went to Red Rocks, and that really bothered me,” Ruffin said.
Flagship event of the festival, Ruffin will take over the amphitheater for the screening of his favorite episode of The Amber Ruffin Show, followed by a performance by an alternative rock band Diving in the street of the lake.
“The public can expect a lot of fun. No one loves me more than me, so at least one person will laugh,” Ruffin joked. “It will be a really fun and really happy time. The night is capped off with Lake Street Dive, and that’s exactly what you want to do. You want to laugh, and then you want to be extremely loud. So it’s going to be a very good evening.
Amber Ruffin is a writer, comedian and host of Peacock’s”The Amber Ruffin Show.“Ruffin will partner with Series Festival: Season 8 for a special screening of his talk show at Red Rocks Amphitheater on May 8. The event will be followed by a performance with Diving in the street of the lake. To learn more about SeriesFest or to purchase tickets for the screening, click here.