Why refuse us entry just because we want to satisfy our curiosity?
June 23, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Just went to the filming of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in New York yesterday. While waiting to enter the studio, the staff told us that if we took any literature from this particular old man standing on the sidewalk, that we would not be allowed in to the filming. What's the full story there?

Yesterday (June 22) a few friends and I went to the taping of the Daily Show on 11th Ave in Manhattan. While the crowd was queuing up to enter the studio (around 4:45pm), the security staff pointed out an old man standing on the sidewalk and told us in no uncertain terms that if we took any of the pamphlets that he was offering, that we would not be allowed into the studio. Security made it seem as though the man was often there.

The man was probably 70 years old or older, portly, and wearing a suit. He had been standing there for a good 20 minutes, not saying anything or offering any literature until the security guy pointed him out and made his announcement. At this point he started quietly and not aggressively trying to hand out pamphlets saying, again quietly, "First amendment--safe sex alternatives". That was it--not loud or yelling, not getting in anyone's face or anything like that, barely even noticeable.

My group assumed that he was promoting abstinence or something of the like, which is fine, whatever, just another right-wing propagandist, albeit an unusually quiet and respectful one. But I'm wondering if anyone knew the story of why the Daily Show studio people were so adamant that we not take his literature, threatening that we would not be allowed into the filming. Has he caused violence before? Does his literature promote some kind of violence against Jon Stewart or any of his crew?

Lastly, one of my group tried to argue that it has got to be illegal to refuse us entry to the show if we took the pamphlet. I argued with him that it can't be illegal. My argument: It's not a public space we're entering, we have no 'right' to be there, we didn't pay any money to see the show, and the staff gave us the choice of taking the pamphlet or entering the show, so how could be it illegal? My friend argues that by taking the pamphlet, the staff assumes a certain political/religious affiliation, refuses entry based on those assumptions, and thereby the taker of said literature is some kind of protected class being discriminated against. Just curious if there's any kind of precedent there, but that's really just a side-note.

But mostly I'm just curious about the history between the studio and the old man that makes him such a threat.

Anyone know what the deal is?
posted by greta simone to Grab Bag (37 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Really, it just sounds like a security guard exercising some authority, just because he can.
posted by COD at 12:10 PM on June 23, 2011

Couldn't you take a leaflet on the way out? If it were me I'd go back there another day and grab one just to see what it was.
posted by missmagenta at 12:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what the guy is doing, but I can assure you that there is no political affiliation protected class. Furthermore, even if it was some kind of discriminatory policy, you are going to have a hard time fitting the Daily Show into a bucket that lets you sue them. Public accommodation really wouldn't work, I think.
posted by Lame_username at 12:12 PM on June 23, 2011

Alternatively, it could be some guy who keeps trying to send them unsolicited material, and they don't want it entering their building at all and then being used in some sort of bogus discovery ala "my joke was found in your building, pay me" kind of way.
posted by nomisxid at 12:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: COD: It wasn't just the security guard. There were also some studio/production people agreeing that this was, in fact, the case. But again, it raises the question of: Can they do this?
posted by greta simone at 12:13 PM on June 23, 2011

Perhaps his pamphlets are anti-semitic?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2011

Most businesses can reserve the right to refuse to business to anyone, anytime, for no reason. It's private property.
posted by proj at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe it's a gambit to discourage the guy and others like him from bothering the folks in line? Dozens of people lined up for hours in New York are a good opportunity for proselytizers, but that target is less juicy if it's made clear that queuers will be penalized for engaging. It's not like they can ban him from the public street, so that's likely their best bet for keeping him away. Sort of like a "don't feed the pigeons" for canvassers.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [48 favorites]

It's their show. They can refuse you entry on their private property for any reason. The tickets probably said that on the back of them or some fine print somewhere. It's not analogous to refusing you service at a restaurant for gender/religion/ethnicity.

Honestly to me this sounds like a psychological experiment.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: MissMagenta: He wasn't there when we left. We were hoping he would be, though.

Lame_username, proj,, OnTheLastCastle: I agree that the studio is allowed to refuse us entry, for any reason. I think my friend was just all up-in-arms about it that he wants to believe it's not legal somehow. I was all 'get over it dude'.
posted by greta simone at 12:17 PM on June 23, 2011

Notice he didn't start doing anything until the security guard made his announcement. C'mon guys, you are being played for a study.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:17 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Seconding Rhaomi, I think it's just to discourage people hassling those standing in line.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:17 PM on June 23, 2011

I'm with Rhaomi. They probably don't want the line to the Daily Show to become at all attractive to solicitation.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:17 PM on June 23, 2011

My guess is that the staff views this guy as a nuisance and would like him to go away and leave their audience participants alone. They're probably hoping that if no one takes his leaflets, maybe he'd give up and move on to another location.

(On preview, what Rhaomi said.)
posted by platinum at 12:18 PM on June 23, 2011

Honestly to me this sounds like a psychological experiment.

To me as well. Especially this section of the original post:

He had been standing there for a good 20 minutes, not saying anything or offering any literature until the security guy pointed him out and made his announcement. At this point he started quietly and not aggressively trying to hand out pamphlets...

Makes it sound like collusion of some sort. Did anyone actually take a pamphlet?
posted by Roommate at 12:18 PM on June 23, 2011

C'mon guys, you are being played for a study

Crossed my mind too but I can't imagine what they'd be studying.
posted by missmagenta at 12:19 PM on June 23, 2011

As someone who has had numerous dealings with university IRBs, I would be very, very hestitant to say that this is a psych experiment. If it were, afterwards, someone would approach you, "debrief" you and offer you follow-up information on the study. It's standard practice. It's almost impossible to do experiments (even seemingly benign ones) on the public with no offer of informed consent (even ex post) or debriefing.
posted by proj at 12:20 PM on June 23, 2011 [20 favorites]

Probably just trying to encourage the pamphleteer to move on.
posted by ghharr at 12:22 PM on June 23, 2011

Response by poster: I thought it might be some kind of experiment as well. But it's possible that he was saying things and handing things out before and I just didn't notice because he was so quiet and unobtrusive. And I don't know if anyone took a pamphlet or not.
posted by greta simone at 12:22 PM on June 23, 2011

I've never been to a TV taping (not since my mom was on Candlepins for Cash in the 1970s, anyway), but I would think they wouldn't allow the audience to be holding any sort of political or religious literature, since there would be a small risk it might get shown during on the air. If this guy handed a pamphlet to even a fraction of the audience, that would increase the risk.
posted by bondcliff at 12:22 PM on June 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Wouldn't they only debrief you if you'd taken the pamphlet and still been allowed entry? It's just a very odd set of circumstances that the guy stood there quietly for 20 mins and only on there being a direct warning NOT to take his stuff, did he begin attempting to hand it out.

I have been spending a lot of today reading http://youarenotsosmart.com/ though so that's why my mind jumped to random studies on people.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:24 PM on June 23, 2011

No, the debriefing would be required for anyone who "participated" in the study. You would be amazed at how broad most IRBs define "potential psychological distress" which is one of the things debriefings are supposed to ward off.
posted by proj at 12:26 PM on June 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far guys. I have considered most of the same things you guys are speculating, with exception of the anti-Semitic thing (which I'm ashamed I didn't think of), which is why I'm asking if someone has any real details about the situation. The speculation is fun, but I'm dying of curiosity to know the truth now.
posted by greta simone at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2011

I'm with Rhaomi. I don't think it's a matter of it being shown on the air; a person could have any number of inappropriate things in their pockets to hold up for the camera, up to and including genitals. That's why there's editing.

And I don't see Jon Stewart, noted free speech proponent, wanting to keep people from even reading a pamphlet just b/c he disagrees with the contents. i think it's either

a) something massively offensive like Nazism
b) something that actively encourages people to disrupt the taping
c) what Rhaomi said: just a way to make solicitors go away.

I kind of wish Trader Joe's would take up this policy, actually.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2011

I concur, if they weren't just fucking with you then they were likely trying to make this an undesirable place for this person to hand out literature.

And really, the fact that it was TDS is likely irrelevant from a John-Stewart-man-of-freedom standpoint. The people on the front lines of the technical job of putting the show out every day are probably not getting the freedom kool-aid indoctrination speech from JS every day. At least some of them will causally do things he'd probably not do or endorse in order to get their jobs done.
posted by phearlez at 12:35 PM on June 23, 2011

Some sort of person with an axe to grind against TDS or Stewart? Maybe someone who thinks TDS stole some material or owes them for something?
posted by BeerFilter at 12:51 PM on June 23, 2011

If you give me sufficient information about where to be at what time and what the guy looks like, I will go and get one of his pamphlets.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:57 PM on June 23, 2011 [11 favorites]

If you take a pamphlet from him, he's encouraged to come back every day there's a taping to do the same thing. The audience staff at TDS wants to discourage this, so they discourage you from taking a pamphlet.

And they can absolutely bar you from entrance for any or no reason. There's no law against it. It smacks of uneducated pretentious entitlement that your friend thinks they can't.
posted by inturnaround at 1:02 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Imagine hundreds of people pouring in your theatre holding pamphlets that are basically pointless. Now, imagine after the taping, everybody leaves. That's hundreds of pamphlets on the ground that you now get to clean up. And, they don't sweep up very easily.

After doing that four times a week for a couple years, I'd make sure that asshole outside stopped handing them to the queue as well.
posted by General Malaise at 1:13 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Rhaomi is absolutely correct.
posted by kavasa at 1:16 PM on June 23, 2011

Are you still in New York? Please, go back and get a pamphlet from him!
posted by aimedwander at 1:18 PM on June 23, 2011

Response by poster: Obscure reference: I me-mailed you. Though, I'm not sure if you were being sarcastic or not, seeing as how I gave quite a bit of detail in the post.

Again, speculation appreciated, and I'm sure it is just simply they don't want him to come back, but that's obviously not working (as it was clear he'd been there before) and he really was not causing any ruckus or disruption.

But I'm curious about the facts--what the actual story is--not just what it probably is. Maybe someone here works in the studio or knows someone who does? Or went to a filming and asked a staffer what the deal was (which I forgot to do)? Or knows a way for me to contact the studio? Or works across the street and has a clue? Or recognizes the old man from my description? Or is nearby and wants to check it out, as someone mentioned they might?

Yeah, I live in Brooklyn, but way far away from the studio and I don't have time to take off from work to head up there again any time soon.
posted by greta simone at 1:21 PM on June 23, 2011

My money would be on Rhaomi. They may have had confrontations with him in the past and are trying to get him to give up and go away.
posted by whoaali at 1:22 PM on June 23, 2011

My best guess is that it's someone who has been a pest or caused trouble in the past. Possibly by violating some law/city ordinance/whatever (obstructing a public sidewalk comes to mind, or perhaps some arcane interpretation of parade permit drama), or possibly just by being a nuisance that makes it hard for them to do their job.

I've seen these guys and their literature in the past. Usually some vaguely salacious hot-button topic combined with the phrase "First Amendment". As someone who has been politically active in real life causes in New York for the better part of a decade, I've always vaguely wondered what kind of racket they have going. Because it in no way resembles any legitimate political flyering outfit I've ever seen.

I've always wondered if it didn't have something to do with pimping or sex work. Usually the nonsensical slogans are vaguely sex oriented.
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 PM on June 23, 2011

Best answer: I went to a taping last month and I know of the gentleman you speak of.

He hands out a pamphlet that is a lame attempt at humor.. It is some kind of male chastity belt or sex aid. It looked more like a parody ad and something that would have been in an issue of SCREW, Hustler, National Lampoon or Heavy Metal circa 1975. It had that counter cultural shock humor approach of an Al Goldstein/Larry Flynt type of guy that 30 yrs ago you might think is edgy but nowadays one would be more prone to slowly say O..K... there fella.

But the old guy just mumbles and loiters on the sidewalk handing the things out while the crowd is on line outside prior to taping (one hour in my case).

We never got an announcememt from security or PA types warning us about him. But there were tons of rules they were giving us which resembled the TSA checkin procedures we see nowadays (ie turn off phones, anyone with a phone or device turned on they would confiscate, bag check, they announced one bathroom break in a kind of use it now or lose it until the show is over, take off your belts, metal detector etc etc) Lots of rules to basically ensure the tapings go as smoothly as possible.

I'm assuming their problem with the old feller is that people do to his handout what everyone does when they are handed a flyer on the street, 15 feet later it's blowing in the wind causing litter either on the sidewalk or in the studio auditorium under the seats.
posted by stavx at 2:08 PM on June 23, 2011 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks stavx. How strange. They were just so forceful and threatening about it that I thought for sure there must be more drama involved. I felt sad for the guy because before he started his thing he just looked like a sweet old slightly-demented grandpa, and then was quickly turned into a pariah. It's a wonder he keeps up with the whole thing. Now I'm even more curious about his own personal background/story.
posted by greta simone at 3:39 PM on June 23, 2011

What's more, I'm sure their reasoning is that, unless they nip it in the bud, they could soon have half a dozen (or more) people out there, basically multiplying the litter effect and generally harassing a captive audience for an extended period of time. I doubt it's specifically about that guy. It's about setting a policy that doesn't let the concept get completely out of hand.
posted by Brak at 4:43 PM on June 23, 2011

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