Look to an earlier post to see how I got here, but on Wednesday (12/6/06) my best gal Heidi and I went to a taping of The Colbert Report in New York City. The studio itself is on 54th Street between 10th and 11th, around the corner from the studio for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
I’ve been to tapings of TV shows before, including The Late Show with David Letterman and Comedy Central’s The Night of Too Many Stars, but this one was different and, I daresay, better. Part of that may be because The Colbert Report is my favorite show on TV, but I think even more may be because the show is still young and fresh and vital and the people who work there seem excited to be doing so.
WALKING THE LINE
The show recommends that you show up around 4:00 to be let in at 6:00 for the 7:00 taping. Heidi had checked the blogs and found out that if you want to be first in line you have to go earlier than that, and since this was the reason for our trip, we HAD to be first in line. We showed up around 2:15. Mission accomplished. It took about 15 or 20 minutes before the next people showed up, and another 15 minutes before the next. The eight of us waited alone until sometime after 3:30, when the line started its natural growth. While we were sitting around, I headed off to DeWitt Clinton Park to use their bathroom, and on my way back I swung by the Daily Show building and saw Jason Jones doing a “walk and talk” outside. Back in line, I saw that the VIP line had started.
At 6:00 we were let into the waiting room, sort of a dank place full of IKEA chairs and two single-occupancy bathrooms. The ticket to the show also said not to bring cameras, but we had cameras and no place to put them. I was a little worried going through the metal detector and bag check, but we threw the camera into Heidi’s purse and got through no problem. As requested, we didn’t take pictures while inside. Other blogs say that if they catch you taking pictures they just come up to you and delete them. On our way in, we got tickets that said what number in line we were: #1 and #2.
INSIDE THE STUDIO
So then they let the VIPs in. Does that mean they get the prime seats? As it turns out, no. We learned that our waiting paid off. They say the studio only fits about 100 people, split between two sets of bleachers. The VIPs were sitting in the back rows of the first set of bleachers, and we sat down at the absolute best seats in the house: front row, in front of the desk, with a great view of the interview set. I guess this is the point where I'm supposed to say the set is smaller than it looks on TV, but it was about the size that I expected.
The warm-up comedian came out and he wasn’t bad. He found out I was first in line and let me get up and touch the desk. Which I did, right above the embedded monitor. Kind of a geeky thrill, but a thrill nonetheless. The warm-up guy became fixated on my Christmas sweater, which he liked, and also this guy in the audience who looked like a male model (not me), who he hated out of jealousy and spite.
Then Colbert bounded out to greet the audience, running across the front row slapping high-fives to everyone and taking questions before he got into character. I don’t remember any of the questions, but I do remember his responses were sharp and quick. I didn’t ask a question because I already had my chance when I interviewed him for Strangers With Candy on the wonderful film blog GreenCine Daily.
Before returning to his desk to start the show, he encouraged us to give him more of that false enthusiasm and clapping. We did, and he turned to me and compared our audience to an audience at a Nazi rally, as though he is fascinated by and maybe even fears he will be consumed by the right wing persona he plays on TV.
Most audiences for The Colbert Report don’t get to see “the throw” that happens at the end of The Daily Show, where Stewart asks Colbert what’s coming up on his show. Because The Daily Show was running late, we were lucky. When the satellite connected, we could see Stewart, but the audio wasn’t working. Colbert was testing it by saying things like, “You totally sucked up to John Kerry,” and other insults. Finally the audio connected and Colbert admitted to saying unkind things about him.
The banter between Stewart and Colbert was really funny, and felt as though it could have been a scripted bit. Then they went into the scripted bit, where Colbert grabbed a stopwatch and timed himself saying the 50 states… as a way to test the stopwatch (it always takes him 22.3 seconds, and this stopwatch was .1 second off). We didn’t notice at the time, but he kicked himself after the bit for getting through almost all of it before flubbing ‘Wisconsin.’ Stewart didn’t notice either, or else he would have made fun of him for it, I’m sure.
Then the show started.
Funny stuff, as Carson used to say. When heading over to explain the difference to the interview set (they’ve added the life-sized Nativity scene for the holidays, with a space reserved for Baby Jesus and an offer to bumb Deepak Chopra if Baby Jesus wants to be in the show), Colbert flubbed the name of one of the three wise men. They stopped tape, found a cut point, then picked it up again. He flubbed a line again after the Tek Jansen cartoon, so we did that one again, too.
Who was the guest? When we heard that it was the President of New York University we weren’t all that excited. But it turned into a spirited debate about the dangers of “truthiness,” with the NYU President warning about discounting facts in favor of just going from your gut. Colbert disagreed about it being dangerous. Needless to say, Colbert won (because he felt he won).
Another interesting thing about seeing the show live is hearing the music that plays during the commercials. As he meets with his head writers, the music changes from his theme song to alternarock like Green Day and Pearl Jam, played at loud volume, presumably to keep himself pumped up and to keep the energy up.
Watching the show on the Jet Blue flight home, it was cool to see my Christmas sweater visible in the front row on the aisle. Proof positive that I do, indeed, show up on TV.