Friday, June 02, 2017

Late, in the Afternoon

After our morning at MoMA, our next stop in New York was an afternoon show. Specifically...

...the taping of the Monday, May 22nd episode of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

If you've never been to the taping of a late night show like this, I'm not quite sure whether to tell you it's totally worth it, or totally not. Both are true, depending on your point of view. You can't beat the price, anyway -- tickets are free.

Despite us thinking that we didn't necessarily want to stand in line for a long time for this, we basically did anyway. We'd finished up early enough at the museum to head over to the Ed Sullivan theater about 20 minutes ahead of the "earliest check-in time." And it's maybe good we did, as it's a "first come, first served" situation, and they were already checking people in. (Also, it was raining, and we managed to be standing under the marquis the whole time.)

It is a lot of waiting. We waited for close to an hour outside. Then they let us all into the theater lobby and we waited there for close to another hour. There was a TV screen on the wall playing "best of" Colbert clips to help pass the time, but as you could hear the band warming up behind the closed theater doors, you couldn't help but be keenly aware that you're really just standing around doing nothing. Even once they finally started letting everyone into the theater, that process took around 15 minutes, followed by another 15 minutes or so before anything happened.

That said, if you're willing to blow that first couple of hours, the experience from there gets pretty fun. I guess think of it like a popular amusement park ride (or something). A warm-up comedian came out to juice up the tired crowd, with plenty of fun one-on-ones with different people. (It's all fun when it's not you, anyway.) Both the comedian and the show's producer implored us again and again to be a vocal, loud audience.

Out came the show's house band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, to perform a raucous, energetic opening number. Stephen Colbert himself then emerged to finish the warm-up, taking audience questions and cracking improvised jokes. When the cameras still weren't quite ready to roll, a fun audience question ("What's your go-to karaoke number?") led to Colbert performing half the opening number of Jesus Christ Superstar for the cheering crowd. (This was by far the best of two Andrew Lloyd Webber experiences on this trip; I'll get to the other in a future post.)

The actual show kicked off, and was generally fun. The opening monologue had lots of great jokes (this falling early in Trump's recent Middle East trip), though with a wide angle camera just three or four feet away from Colbert, you really had to watch that part of the show on the screens overhead (which kind of made it a bit like watching from home anyway).

There was no extra "comedy bit" for our episode; we went straight to guests. Rachel Maddow had two segments to talk about the latest news, and Ben Platt -- star of the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen -- was there both for an interview and performance from the musical. (This was a preview for us; we already had our tickets for that lined up on the last night of our trip.)

We even made it on TV for perhaps two or three seconds. In between the two interviews, Jon Batiste came out into the aisle to play the melodica; we were in the audience just a bit camera right of him, and could be seen briefly smiling and clapping along.

Should you go to a TV show taping? Well, it's fun, but only after you wait two to three hours. It's free, but much of your view will be obstructed by studio cameras at times. I think it comes down to how much you like the show in question. I watch Colbert anyway and enjoyed being there in the studio to see how it's all put together and what it all really looked like. (Yes, it's like they say -- all much smaller in person.) I wouldn't recommend going to a taping for just anything. Don't plan a vacation around it, but if you can snap up tickets once your plan is locked in (as we were able to do), it's a fun activity for an afternoon.

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