New York TV Show Tapings
April 12, 2005 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever watched a television show from the studio audience?

Which one? What was it like? How did you get tickets? Was it worth it? Would you do it again? What would you change?

I'd have to get standby tickets, but on Thursday I'm in New York anyway, some time to kill. I like the Daily Show, sometimes Conan. Even Regis and Kelly is funny if I've been up all night. Los Angeles seems to have more going on. Stories from anywhere are good.
posted by airguitar to Media & Arts (33 answers total)
Yes. Letterman. Fun. Called and picked up standby tickets. Yes. Yes. Would probably call earlier and plan ahead instead of dealing with the standby stress, but tickets seem to be easier to get nowadays.
posted by anildash at 10:27 PM on April 12, 2005

Day off from camp, my friends and I stood around in line and got on TRL. The only amusing part was the fact that a few of them were Israelis, and were allowed in/got free tshirts just on account of that.

And TRL was, well, as stupid as I presume it is on TV. Mini-Me was the guest star, and Carson Daly was an ass. Go figure.

Maybe if it was for a show I actually liked, I'd do it again, but idunno, it wasn't all that thrilling.
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:28 PM on April 12, 2005

I was in the audience here in L.A. for The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn about a year and a half ago when Paul Weller was the musical guest. The whole thing was weirdly fun. There were maybe 80 or 100 (max?) of us -- I'd always heard that audience and sets are much smaller in person than you get the sense of them being when you see the show on TV, but I was still surprised how kind of teeny everything felt when we were in there. You're instructed to clap and laugh and cheer like insane people whenever you get the cue -- so much so that my hands were actually sore the next day from the endless hyper-enthusiastic clapping. There was also a guy keeping the audience "up" during commercial breaks, etc. -- asking where tourists were from, tossing out Halloween candy (this was in October), etc.

My friends and I all expected it to be very cheesy and planned on being sort of stoic and cool and immune to the whole "clap, fools, CLAP!!!!" vibe going on, and yet it was strangely infectious (even given how irritating I find Craig Kilborn). Also, because Weller is a cult fave here in L.A., the studio was packed with fanatics who didn't actually need any prompting to be loud -- we were on the verge of hysteria, which Kilborn as well as Ted Danson and Darryl Hannah (the other guests), both commented on (Ted Danson said rather dryly at one point "I'm just Paul Weller's opening act today."). In fact, we were so loud that after they were done filming our show, they recorded us clapping and cheering on cue to dub into the other show they'd recorded earlier in the day, since that show's audience was (alledgedly) lame. All-in-all, it took a couple of hours, tops (filming a sitcom can apparently go on twice that long, sometimes). I'd do it again for someone I really wanted to see.
posted by scody at 10:39 PM on April 12, 2005

I saw Comedy Central's Crossballs taping in LA this past summer. I hated it.

1) TV is TV for a reason. I'd *much* rather watch a show compiled into 23 entertaining minutes then sit there through multiple takes etc.
2) As opposed to scody, I didn't find the clapping thing infectious. I found the whole experience digustingly fake. I hated laughing when being told to laugh etc. But then again what should I have expected?
3) I also thought it was funny how they arranged people in the audience depending on colors you were wearing (brights in the front, darks in the back)
4) The whole thing, including waiting etc, took almost 2 1/2 hours.
5) You had to ASK to go to the bathroom, and they would only let you go in small groups.

I love live music, so the only exception I might ever make is sitting through all that bs to see one of my fav bands, but even then I'm not sure if it would be worth it just for one or two songs.

NYC is awesome. There are much better uses of your time. Concerts, shopping, people watching, sight-seeing etc.
posted by gtmcknight at 11:38 PM on April 12, 2005

I've been to a taping of Who's Line Is It Anyway? (the American version) and it was hilarious. They film enough for two or three episodes and there's a ton that doesn't make it onto the air because of profanity. The musical routines they do always take a really long time because not everyone's very good and coming up with lyrics on the spot, which the editing wouldn't lead you to believe, but if you're like me, it actually makes the musical routines more tolerable because you can see the cast isn't fond of them either. The routines they do air are out of order, which is why everyone might look tired in one segment and refreshed in the next. The "next" one might have been filmed an hour earlier. I sat in a back corner and everything still seemed close. They handed out cards to the audience before the taping to write things down that would be used as ideas for routines later and I think you could bring props for that one thing they do with random junk props.

I've been to several tapings of the Tonight Show to see various musical guests I really liked. In addition to Leno not being funny, as usual, there's this guy that comes out before the taping and gives the same spiel every time. I think he's the director but I don't remember properly. Anyway, he's not funny either and seems like he's probably a pretty big prick. There's the cues to clap and laugh, which are lame. I decided a while ago not to go anymore, regardless of the musical guest. If you wait in line all day, the best you can hope for is sitting second row, because if you're in line all day, you probably aren't looking your best, and the front row is for the pretty people. Or maybe they're just "pretty" VIPs or something. Basically, since I was only ever there to see certain musical guests, everything else about the show was grueling, except the band that they have play during the commercial breaks is actually pretty good.
posted by DyRE at 12:13 AM on April 13, 2005

I saw some sort of talkshow thing in NY on a day off whilst I was doing Camp America. (Montel somebody? I'd never heard of them...) The hostel we were in had instructions on how to get tickets, which if I remember correctly just involved turning up and queueing. It was totally cheesy and great fun.

(And I saw University Challenge, which required having a friend in the team. Which was great fun and made me realise that Jeremy Paxman is REALLY TALL. But you probably didn't need to know that.)
posted by handee at 1:13 AM on April 13, 2005

I saw Leno this summer. The guests were boring and the actual taping feels awfully short for a day spent queuing. Leno did come out before the show and took questions from the audience - I wish I'd thought of something to ask in advance. That's about the only interesting thing. Even though the studio is quite small the action is still surprisingly far away and hard to see - don't expect to get a better view than you do on TV.
posted by cillit bang at 3:19 AM on April 13, 2005

When in Chicago in the early 1990s, a good friend at Northwestern had a job recruiting studio audiences for talk shows. I ended up going to more than I care to remember, but the most memorable was a 'Jenny Jones' episode (yes, yes, I know) that featured a young gay man who was secretly sleeping with his girlfriend's father. Evidently the father was a whiz with Nyquil and drugged the family with 'special cocoa' when the boyfriend would visit, so that the two of them could retire to the truck (!) and fool around.

I'll never have those 2 hours back.
posted by yellowcandy at 3:35 AM on April 13, 2005

I've not been to any show taping, but you may be interested to hear this which is a bootleg of the taping of a British Sitcom - I'm Alan Partridge. It is a classic British sitcom, though you wouldn't necessarily know it from these MP3s.
posted by chill at 4:37 AM on April 13, 2005

I saw a taping of The View in NYC about three years ago, and it was fun! For whatever reason, I didn't expect them to retape sequences that needed another go-through, but they did that once. In "commercial breaks", the stars came out and chatted us up - we were there when Barbara Walters was co-hosting, and she seemed very warm and gregarious - I suppose she has to, considering her job.

I don't know how easy the tickets were to get - one of my friends ordered them from online many moons before.

I've also seen CNN's TalkBack Live in Atlanta, and loved that. And once in LA (I think it was LA but it might also have been NYC), ran into quite a few people trying to give away tickets to see the New Family Feud.
posted by cajo at 4:54 AM on April 13, 2005

I've been to two tapings of The Daily Show, and both were a lot of fun. Stewart does quite a bit of audience interaction beforehand, as well as during the commercial breaks. Also, it's really funny to see the correspondents "on location" standing two feet away in front of a green screen.

It's fun and funny, but if you're going to be here through a Sunday, going to UCB is better.
posted by saladin at 5:34 AM on April 13, 2005

I took Moondoggie to see the Daily Show a couple of years ago. It was really fun. Jon Stewart is QUICK! He doesn't do very many re-takes at all. It's just like watching him on TV. The tickets are free and I had to call a couple of weeks in advance if I remember correctly. Lots of fun. Hopefully you'll go when it's warm because the waiting queue is outside of the building.
posted by SheIsMighty at 5:36 AM on April 13, 2005

I've also been to a Daily Show taping. They were in Boston for the DNC and I stood in line for 3 hrs to get in. My love for Jon Stewart grew exponentially that day - as SheIsMighty noted - He is quick. And small.

A comedian came out before they began to warm the audience up. He was pretty funny, but once Jon and the correspondents started I couldn't stop smiling. My hands were bruised the next day from clapping so hard.

I had also, up until that point, not felt much towards Rob Cordry. For whatever reason, seeing him in his hometown endeared him to me.
posted by Constant Reader at 6:20 AM on April 13, 2005

I was at a taping of a Comedy Central roast a few months ago. It was a pretty loose affair, lots of retakes, but nobody minded because the audience was plied with wine and beer the whole time. As was the talent, which might explain the sloppiness.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:28 AM on April 13, 2005

As I think about it, I have been to quite a few TV show tapings over the years: the Daily Show, Inside the Actor's Studio, Hard Rock Live, the McLaughlin Report, Arsenio (woof woof), and a short-lived talk show the name of which I no longer remember. In every case I endured long waits--usually two hours, sometimes more. The tapings themselves were universally fun, though. Regardless of the setting, there is an element of live performance that is exciting and enjoyable, particularly when music is involved.

There's also a nice touch of reality. The stars are right there, and in tight quarters their natural personalities emerge. At my Daily Show taping, an audience member made fun of Jon Stewart during warmups and left Stewart laughing at himself and speechless; at another talk show, I saw Marvin Hamlisch pick up the show's theme from a commercial break and play it note for note on a piano, mid-taping. These are fun takeaways that you don't get on TV and make the visits worthwhile.
posted by werty at 6:40 AM on April 13, 2005

My wife and I attended a taping of Letterman last June. We were in NYC for a conference I was attending and my wife tried all week to get Letterman tickets by calling the number posted on the door. She had no luck.

Then, on Thursday, a buddy of mine at the conference came in after a smoke break and said a girl was standing outside our hotel trying to give away tickets to Letterman. (The hotel was a block from the Ed Sullivan theatre.) I went outside and sure enough, there was a girl standing out there trying to stop people on the street and give away tickets. Most of them would not even listen to what she was saying. Personally, I would have assumed she was trying to sell something and ignored her had I not known better. But, I asked if I could get a ticket for myself and my wife and she gave me a pair.

We lined up about an hour before the taping (maybe a little less). It was a little confusing because they want you to line up in a certain order and a lot of people ignored the order.

The taping was fun! Yeah, we were told to laugh hard and clap hard, but it didn't really feel that weird. Andy Dick and Bob Woodward were the guests. The Top Ten that was read did not make it to air that night for reasons I can't understand. It didn't suck or anything, must have been a time constraint. Also, since the Pacers were in the NBA playoffs, Dave taped a special Top Ten that was supposed to be shown on the Jumbotron at the game over the weekend. The card that Dave was reading from had different lines than what was shown on our monitors. Nevertheless, Dave didn't reshoot it. It (the blooper) was pretty funny.

Also, we were seeing the Friday night show which was taped on Thursday after the Thursday show is taped. So, before our show we were standing outside the backstage entry watching people come out. We saw Darrel Hammond and Blink 182 come out. After watching "the fans" yell at the celebs and feel entitled to autographs and pictures, I personally have a little more empathy for celebs.
posted by achmorrison at 7:34 AM on April 13, 2005

I agree with saladin. I've been to a few Daily Show tapings, though never on stand-by, and tickets are VERY hard to come by these days. I saw an SNL rehearsal on stand-by about 15 years ago (they do a dress rehearsal earlier Saturday evening). The problem with a TV taping is that it effectively takes up an entire day. If you're on stand-by, odds are that you won't get in unless the guest lineup is thin. That wouldn't be a problem in a lot of places, but it's a complete waste of time if you're in NYC, where there are a zillion other things to do. Like UCB.
posted by mkultra at 7:56 AM on April 13, 2005

Back when Conan was first on the air a few friends were walking nearby the studio at Rockefeller Center and they were literally begging people to come in off the street and fill up the audience. (This was back when the CW was that he wouldn't last more than a few weeks). Anyway, said friends and I went back a few times, at least 4 or 5, during the mid-90s. Basically it involved calling up and asking for tickets a week or two in advance. It was undeniably fun, but I don't know if I would still enjoy it as much today. And I'm sure it's much harder to get tickets these days.

The only other TV taping I've been to - around the same time - was "The State," which was an absolute blast. I don't recall how I got tickets to that, probably from a phone number in an ad somewhere.
posted by thirdparty at 8:08 AM on April 13, 2005

He's not funny either and seems like he's probably a pretty big prick.

Somebody I knew who briefly did set design work in LA once got me into the studio audience of some cable stand-up comedy show, the particulars of which I can't recall (this was 12 years ago). Mostly, that's what I remember: my reaction to the MC.

Also, I once found myself in the audience of It's Academic with my high school's marching band and pom-pom squad (although I wasn't a member of either) -- that was way back during the Nixon administration and probably not the kind of program we're interested in here.
posted by Rash at 8:16 AM on April 13, 2005

I once went to a taping of Mad TV. It was years before I could turn on a television again.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2005

I went to a taping of The Tony Danza Show a few months ago. The show is live in NYC, so the taping was over promptly at 11. It was fun- we got a cookbook. And a Pepsi Edge. He gives away stuff everyday, and sometimes it's good, so I'd recommend Tony.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've been to way too many tv tapings. For the most part, I'd recommend you stay away. Remember, the producers aren't really concerned about your (being the live audience's) enjoyment -- you're there to give energy to the performers, serve as cut-aways while the show goes to a commercial, and perform as a mini-focus group determining whether or not a bit is working.

Or, you're being paid to clap for the newest Billy Mays invention.

This being said, if you're up for attending a taping, here's some advice for maximizing your enjoyment of the experience:

1) go to a taping of a talk or variety show. Stay away from scripted fare (a dying breed, but still...). Scripted shows can take *forever* to tape. Seriously. I've been at some tapings that took 10 hours to film 22 minutes of material. Not fun.

Talk shows usually do everything in one take (though when I saw Jerry Springer they shot the "surprise" moment at least three times). And if you get the right talk show, they parade out a couple of dynamic stars or interesting musical acts.

Variety shows are very similar. "Mr. Show" used to shoot every sketch twice, then move on to the next one. Great for the audience. "Mad TV" shoots every sketch twice, and that's typically painful for the audience.

2) dress warmly. It is very cold on set.

3) If you have any sort of connection to the show -- old friend from college, know a person at a local radio station -- use it. Otherwise, the show may make you wait hours in line for the privilege of having to wait on their set while they reshoot something. Added bonus -- VIP audience members get to go to the bathroom whenever they want, whereas the folks who came in off the street may have to wait for designated bathroom breaks.

4) If you happen to be in Los Angeles during pilot season, avoid attending a pilot taping at all costs! They take forever to shoot. The show likely won't even make it to the air, so you won't be able to see the thing at home, and when you tell your friends about your experience they'll have no idea what show you're talking about. And even if the show makes it on the air, pilots are usually reshot anyway -- so the pilot you sat thru probably won't be the one that makes it to the airwaves.

And lastly...

5) Chances are, even if you attend a taping for a show that airs, you're laughter isn't the laughter they use on the audio track.
posted by herc at 9:08 AM on April 13, 2005

My wife and I attended a taping of the Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks in the 80s. We called the studio and got reservations for a show try-out. We were selected as alternates and told to come to the taping for that week (5 shows taped in one session). We were in makeup and 5 minutes from airtime for the Wednesday show when the "real" couple showed up, so we didn't get on the show (which was probably good, cuz it was an all-maternity show and we weren't expecting). We did get a set of genuine Ginsu knives as a gift, though.

One thing we found out is that they actually play the theme music in the studio and record it as part of the taping; that seemed kind of odd to me. They get the audience "up" for the show by telling some of the raunchiest jokes I've ever heard (wholesome Bob Eubanks wasn't so wholesome). Going to the taping was a lot of fun. The whole thing was very kitshcy, but in a good way. Some of my single coworkers got on the Dating Game during the same period and had a blast. One of them was Bachelor #2 and was picked by the girl. They dated for several months afterward.
posted by Doohickie at 10:24 AM on April 13, 2005

A few years ago my wife and I attended a taping of Just Shoot Me (TV Tome entry on the episode) down in L.A. We ordered the tickets (free) via a website (I think I found the site via an article about attending tapings -- can't remember the URL). We arrived early to wait in line as the ticket didn't guarantee entry.

Overall it was a great experience and one I'd definitely recommend to others. It was a fascinating look behind the scenes of how these shows are put together (just seeing how the set was laid out was quite fascinating -- doorways that appeared to be in completely different parts of the office were actually right next to one another. It's all about filming things from the right angle to make the space look bigger than it is). We also lucked out because the episode we saw taped was a sequel to one of our favourites and guest-starred David Cross.

Perhaps because we attended a show that had a few seasons under its belt, things moved along very quickly. The taping lasted maybe 4 hours at most and there was very little down time. Most scenes were only shot twice, with only a couple of scene requiring more takes. Because there were two pre-taped flashback scenes this may have been atypically short.

Another interesting thing was seeing how the audience's reaction actually affected the show. There was a joke that just absolutely fell got no reaction at all: pure silence. After the take, the director and some of the writers huddled for a few minutes and brainstormed some new material. I think they did two more takes, each with a different joke than before, until they got the reaction they wanted.

Although it was a lot of fun, I'm not sure I'd do it again. Or at least, I wouldn't do it again unless it was a show that I liked. Seeing TV being taped just for the sake of seeing it is pretty much a one-time thing. My advice would be to try to see a show that you'll enjoy the memory of seeing (something that, when the reruns air 10 years down the road, you can point the episode out to people and say "I saw that being taped").
posted by filmgoerjuan at 10:46 AM on April 13, 2005

I went to a taping of Conan O'Brien and it was great fun, though as mentioned, without tickets WAY in advance it eats up a whole day. It was worth it to me because the guests were Mr. T and Christopher Walken, and for my money that can't be beaten. You can hear me laugh at one point in the episode because hardly anyone else laughed at the joke (which I don't remember anymore) and that pleased me greatly. I probably wouldn't do it again, but it was pouring during my short stay in New York so it didn't feel as much of a waste of a day.
posted by pikachulolita at 12:25 PM on April 13, 2005

I went to letterman as well. It was fun, but the thing I remember most -- believe the freezer jokes. It was like a meat locker in there! Wear a sweater. and bring a jacket.
posted by mileena at 1:11 PM on April 13, 2005

I have been to several tapings here in LA, including the Jimmy Kimmel show, The Best Damn Sports Show Period, and others. My advice, unless you know an insider that can get you in and out quickly, is be early and expect to be there for hours. Mileena also has good advice, usually the studios are at least cool, if not cold.

Unless you are a fan of either the show itself or the guest star(s), it will be a tedious outing (long lines, endless takes, bathroom breaks are few and far between.)

Last time i checked (January), Daily Show tickets were "sold out" (can free tickets "Sell Out"?) until Mid-July, but good luck.
posted by schyler523 at 1:34 PM on April 13, 2005

My advice would be to try to see a show that you'll enjoy the memory of seeing (something that, when the reruns air 10 years down the road, you can point the episode out to people and say "I saw that being taped").

Those are my thoughts exactly. In fact, it's been just about 10 years since I saw an episode of Friends being filmed. (It was the one where Ross and Rachel kiss for the first time.) Every time I see an ad for that episode I think, "Yep, that's my episode."

It's also interesting to see how much they have to cut out to fit into the time slot. The episode I saw had an entire scene that took place in a pet shop, none of which made it to air. (Pity too; I remember there being a lot of laughs in that scene.)
posted by llamateur at 1:39 PM on April 13, 2005

I saw Talk Soup with John Henson in LA. It was fun. I remember there were a lot of girls trying to get Henson's autograph. Why? It's basic cable and he wasn't (then and isn't now) a true "celebrity." (I was actually hoping for one of their infamous guest hosts like Shatner or somebody like that.)

The best part, for me, was that I got to do the station identification/bump. "You're watching E! Entertainment Television." That was really cool. I was surprised that the camera guys ok'd it and that it actually aired. It's not like I knew anybody there, or anything. Definitely go to least one to a taping--just find a way to make it memorable.
posted by Jim Jones at 2:23 PM on April 13, 2005

I went to a taping of Kids in the Hall in the early 90s. The band (shadowy men on a shadowy planet) played between most sketches on a tiny stage built above the audience, which I thought was a great touch.

Dave and Bruce came out to chat with us while we waited in line, they were very charming.

There was about an hour of material, and a third of it was prerecorded sketches that we provided the laugh track for. There's a sketch about an overzealous bike messenger where I can be heard laughing like a donkey at a joke the rest of the audience didn't like as much.
posted by yorick at 2:27 PM on April 13, 2005

I once went to a Mike Bullard taping.
Mike Bullard being a terrible Canadian talk show host. I went on a dorm floor event; CTV is down the street from where we lived, I don't think we waited more than a few minutes.
It was kind of interesting; they just shot everything once and it went to air that way later that night. It was cool because we could see ourselves on the TV.
It was also kind of horrible. They had Joan Rivers on and she was obviously drunk and/or drugged and she made a joke about HOW UGLY THE (THEN NEWLY-LIBERATED) AFGHANI WOMEN ARE. And Bullard was totally charmless and kind of mean, just like on TV, and smoked like a chimney through EVERY commercial break.

I think it would have been fun had it been a show I liked. Like yorick. (Holy Jealous. I would have been too young when Kids was on, but I would have loved it.)
posted by SoftRain at 5:46 PM on April 13, 2005

Been to Letterman around 6 times, only one complaint: the warm-up guy stinks! Seriously!
posted by greatgefilte at 6:21 PM on April 13, 2005

One other experience I just remembered (eh, eleven days later, maybe someone will see this): For the first episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Coldplay was the musical guest and the stage for the band was setup on a section of Hollywood Boulevard that had been blocked off to traffic just for the event. I don't know if they've done this since but, basically, there were two audiences: One for the show, the other for the band. Some friends and I were part of the latter and waiting around in line all day wasn't that bad, as we could leave a couple people back at our place in line and wander off for food or whatever for a little while. Basically like being in line all day for some huge band's general admission area. There being two audiences was also cool because it meant we were waiting all day with people who were there for the same reason.

The MC that was supposed to, uh, entertain us, I guess, after we had moved in front of the stage and were waiting for the band was very much not funny. I can't remember the guy's name now but he has a website that, while it gives you a clue about how obnoxious he is, doesn't quite do his full irritating self justice. I mean, I guess if the point of him was to annoy everyone, then maybe he was just what they wanted.

Anyway, when the show started, we got to listen to the audio of it. Then the host and guests came out to some chairs on the stage while the band came out and performed. I don't remember how many songs were broadcast but the band continued to play a few more after that, which was cool, because it was clearly just done for those of us who were there.
posted by DyRE at 1:53 AM on April 23, 2005

« Older Wikipedia: Yes or No?   |   What's an A4 size frame? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.