Catching A Taping: The Daily Show
June 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
Upon returning to New York from a 3-week hiatus to the Midwest, I had a week and a half to kill before my summer internship started: It was the perfect time to take in all the free entertainment the city had to offer.
First up was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. My cousin Han had gone the previous month and told me all about the multi-step process:
1. Reserve tickets online (there are extra ones listed all the time here); this doesn’t guarantee entry, only the chance to pick up a physical ticket.
2. On the day of, line up outside the building (all the way on 11th Ave. and 51st St.) to get your actual ticket. They start handing them out at 2:30PM, but you should really get there by 1 if you want to ensure you’ll get in.
3. Once you get your ticket, they’ll tell you to come back at 4:30 for the actual taping. (Proceed to wander around Midtown West, where there is nothing to do and little public transportation other than…horse-drawn carriages.)
4. Return at the proper time — at this point, everybody has numbered tickets according to the previous line, so there’s no point in coming back any earlier — and line up in numerical order to file inside.
I made my reservation a while ago, so I thought that I was supposed to go on Tuesday when my ticket was actually for Monday, which I belated realized on Monday night. No fear — I simply stalked the Daily Tix Twitter account (linked in step 1) all morning and of course, they posted extra tickets. I had to sign up with a different email address, though, since I hadn’t redeemed my previous reservation and at the same time wasn’t able to cancel it.
Since all my friends were either at work or otherwise occupied, I went by myself, which was fine with me but I did look kind of weird being one of the only people standing in line alone. I got there around 1:15, waited almost two hours and ended up being number 59 out of 250.
As mentioned above, they usually tell attendees to come back at 4:30, but since the evening’s guest was Brian Williams, our taping was pushed back to 5:30 because he had to finish taping his own NBC Nightly. I ate some froyo and wandered around the New York Public Library for a while. The building was beautiful but mostly filled with people on computers, which is a sad state of affairs. I went to the cartography room and settled down with a random book about Hawaii.
Back outside The Daily Show, we waited another hour to get through security — metal detectors and everything — and get inside. It’s pretty surreal to be in the actual studio, and it was smaller than I expected.
There was another hour of waiting after being seated. (This is truly a day-long affair.) I was put next to another guy who came by himself, so we chatted a bit. Didn’t get his full biography but found out that he came from Philadelphia and was taking the week off before moving to Jacksonville, Fla. for work. Kewl.
The show coordinators are quite stringent. The guy sitting directly in front of my Philly neighbor was actually kicked out before the show started. At first the bouncer (don’t know what to call him) came over and asked the guy if he was okay and if he needed a nap. Then 15 minutes later, he returned and firmly told the guy to leave. He protested and seemed as confused as I was. My neighbor told me the guy was definitely drunk. Seems like a total waste of time to spend so many hours waiting in line only to end up hammered during the show.
Before Stewart comes out, the audience energy gets a boost from a comedian (self-described “warm-up monkey”) who interacted with us and told a bunch of dirty jokes. And then, FINALLY, the host makes his appearance. The audience is told to get up and get loud, of course, but when I saw Jon Stewart in person, I was truly screaming in excitement and not just on cue. He does a bit of Q&A with the audience (“Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?” “Probably…Denzel.” Haha), and then the show begins.
Everything is very streamlined; the producers have a firm handle on all occurrences, and Stewart does everything in one take, making for a pretty short actual filming. When I watch The Daily Show online, it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s actually a comedian and not a journalist/anchor. At the taping, though, it was clear where his roots lay. The audience was quite a distance away from Stewart’s desk, but I could see that his gestures and expressions were very exaggerated, which isn’t always evident when viewing through the camera.
The show isn’t aired live, but they do take commercial breaks, before and after which the audience is instructed to cheer loudly (I was hoarse the next day), and during which Stewart convenes with his writers/producers to go over the next segment.
Things got even more exciting when Brian Williams came out because obviously he’s a super famous journalist. In person, he’s quite handsome despite his slightly orange tint. (Thanks, bronzer.) The interview, however, was so short and unsubstantive; you can watch the whole episode below:
Overall the experience was very fun, though tiring. Prepare to set aside your whole day! I ended up getting out at 8PM (normally it’s 7).