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OK, thanks to my incredibly lazy birthday yesterday, I’ve been playing catch-up all day and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and finally write what happened last night at the Daily Show taping.
I’ve been to dozens of talk show tapings. On my own, I’ve been to The Daily Show twice, The Colbert Report, The Martha Stewart Show (as part of an all-blogger audience), The View, Live with Regis and Kelly (as part of an all-pregnant audience), Late Show with David Letterman, as well as sitting in on an almost private Barenaked Ladies concert for a Fox 5 morning show. And I’ve been a paid audience member for The Queen Latifah show and a few others. But last night was by far the most fun I’ve ever had as an audience member.
We got to the VIP line (it’s good to know people!) at about 4:20, and about 15 minutes later were brought through a metal detector into a waiting room, which had no chairs but at least was inside. A ton of people were still outside in the cold, not knowing whether or not they would be able to attend the show. About another hour passed, and then we were let into the studio. Even though I had been to The Daily Show once before, ten years ago, I had never been here – this was a new studio. It was bigger than the old one (which is where The Colbert Report currently tapes) and had room for about 250 audience members. There were two seating areas: a big one directly across from Jon Stewart’s desk, and another to the left of his desk but much closer. We were among the first people in (our numbers were 18 and 19), and we were seated in the front row of that closer section – really the most kick-ass seats we could have gotten. We were about 12 feet from the set.
After the initial group was let in, there were still a ton of seats to be filled so we settled in and got to know our neighbors while we waited. On our left was a really nice couple who looked about as different from us as possible: my husband was wearing a suit (he had just come from work), and was seated next to a guy in jeans, a sweatshirt, and suspenders, with a big bushy beard, and his wife to his left. We all got to know each other pretty well. Once the audience was full, the warm up guy came out, a really funny comedian named Paul Mecurio.
With almost every talk show taping you get a free comedy show. There’s almost always a guy who comes out and warms up the crowd, getting them in the mood to laugh and instructing them on just how crazy they’re supposed to get during the taping. Paul was easily the funniest warm-up guy I’ve seen. He zeroed in on a few different audience members and got huge laughs. It wasn’t long before he set his sights on my husband and the guy to his left, asking The Ass “What, did you come with the guy who fixes your house?” After finding out he was a financial lawyer, a few lawyer/economy jokes followed. Eventually it was time for Jon Stewart to come out and Paul wrapped up.
This is a good time to explain to you why I was holding a big manila envelope for Jon Stewart. Last year, for my husband’s birthday, I surprised him with tickets to The Colbert Report. I picked him up from work in a chauffeured Mercedes, gave him a WristStrong bracelet, and told him where we were going, and he was of course thrilled. If you watch Colbert then you know that he has a running joke where, in an attempt to show that he doesn’t just pal around with white Christian men, he shows pictures of himself with his black friend, his Jewish friend (it’s Jon Stewart), etc. So, I had a graphic designer friend of mine Photoshop a picture of Stephen Colbert with his arm around my husband’s shoulder, handing him an unabridged copy of the Koran, with the caption “My Nonpracticing Muslim Friend.” I was going to try to get Mr. Colbert to sign it.
It turned out that there had been some very serious threats against Mr. Colbert, and nobody was allowed to approach him or ask him to sign anything. We were warned that we would be ejected if we did. I tried to get it to him after the show, with no luck. So, fast forward a year, and I thought, what did I have to lose by asking Jon Stewart to get it signed? At this point, he was my closest link to Stephen Colbert. My husband thought that this was just about the worst idea he had ever heard, and tried to talk me out of it. But I’m shameless and stubborn so there was no way I wasn’t going to try.
So, when Jon Stewart came out, he introduced himself and asked if anybody had any questions, and my hand shot up. Since I was in front he saw me immediately and I told him that it was my birthday (figured it couldn’t hurt), and explained what had happened last year when I had wanted to get a picture signed by Stephen Colbert, and I took the picture out of the envelope. He said “Oh, so you want me to sign something?” and started walking over. With what my husband said was perfect timing, I said “No.” Mr. Stewart threw his microphone on the floor, stomped off the stage and out of the room, and the crowd cracked up. I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.
He came back in and walked over and said something about not believing that we came to his show just to get something signed by Colbert, and that he himself was the one who had been making the threats so he would be able to approach Stephen, and he took the picture from me and chuckled as he looked at it. That bears repeating: a concept that I came up with made Jon Stewart laugh! He walked back towards his desk and then turned around and said “You know, Stephen isn’t here, so how-” and that’s when I held up my envelope and said “I brought a self-addressed envelope so he can send it back to me!” I don’t remember what he said to that – I was laughing too hard at the face he was making at me – but he finished it with “Can I do anything else for you? Do the two of you need a ride home?” By this point my husband was a shade of red I’ve never seen and my stomach hurt from laughing. But he kept the picture and took the envelope and we’ll see what happens. I’ll let you know if I ever get the signed picture back.
The show started a couple of minutes later. The actual taping of the show was the least exciting part of the whole thing. Without exception, the shows I’ve been to have been much more interesting and funny when I watched them later at home. You don’t go to tapings to see a great live version of the show you know and love so well. In person, it’s more difficult to hear; you’re very conscious of the fact that you’ve been ordered to laugh way louder than you would normally; there’s often a camera right in front of you, so you end up watching on an overhead monitor; not all of the graphics are there yet, so you don’t get some jokes; different camera angles and close ups add a lot to the show, and you’re not seeing that; and you’re not on your couch under a blanket, nice and comfy. But even with all that going on, the show was hilarious. The part about the crazy lady on Fox was classic. (You can watch the whole episode here.)
But watching the shows get made is really fascinating, for me anyway. I’m always amazed at how these hosts are able to do an entire episode without flubs and reshoots. It took way less time to shoot last night’s episode than it took to air last night’s episode, because Jon only stopped for about 30 seconds at the commercial breaks. I was surprised by how close the correspondent (in last night’s case, Jason Jones) stands to Jon’s desk. I always knew they were in the same room, but Jason Jones was standing litterally two feet from Jon’s desk.
After the episode was done taping, Mr. Stewart asked us all to stick around so that he could tape the intro for the international version of the show. Apparently, when The Daily Show airs around the world (“in 30,000 countries” according to Mr. Stewart), it’s preceded by a special intro each week: a few jokes and then “Enjoy this week’s shows.” He told a few jokes about India launching its first unmanned spaceship, and then that was done. He thanked us all for coming, and ended with “And if anyone has anything they’d like Stephen to sign, please let me know.”
We walked a few blocks and then found an Italian place to have dinner. Not long after we got there The Ass got up to use the bathroom. On his way back, someone at another table stopped him and said “So, do you think Cobert will sign the picture?” Hilarious! For a couple of hours, in a very small area of Midtown west, we were famous. [My husband just reminded me that the couple also referred to him as my father. I don’t know how I forgot that part.]
UPDATE: We got the picture back, signed, less than a week later. Jon Stewart is awesome.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom
If you like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, you’ll probably like my huge collections of signs from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.