Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sitting in the Audience of The Late Show with David Letterman (Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Part 1)

To this day I have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the top of The Empire State Building. To me, the one touristy (remember I still had a lot of Midwest in me) event I had to do when I first moved to New York City was to be an audience member at my favorite late night shows. Today in 2007 I would look at this endeavor as just a big hassle, but growing up in the Midwest the most exciting live taping I had seen to that point was a clogging exhibition at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO that was being carried live on KY3 Action News. Perhaps I will share that story if I ever start my sister blog "Midwesterner's Guide: The Ozark Years".

In truth, for about a month I was a late night audience member junkie. I could not get over the fact that not only did I get to see someone such as David Letterman in person, but that it was absolutely free!!!! Right after one moves here and has just paid two months rent upfront, a deposit and a broker fee..... free entertainment is pretty much a necessity. Over the first few weeks of living here I had secured tickets to 'The Late Show with David Letterman', 'Late Night with Conan O'Brien', 'The Daily Show with John Stewart', and later 'The Colbert Report'. I will offer a description of each in a four part series. In part one, lets take a look at our night in the audience of 'Late Night with David Letterman'.The first taping I attended was 'The Late Show with David Letterman'. Actually I attended twice in one week. My friend Kirk and I both signed up on the internet thinking it would be incredibly difficult to get tickets. Yet surprisingly we were both called back on the same day and offered tickets to attend a taping that week. To finalize the ownership of the tickets you have to answer a 'trivia question' about the show. Our question was to name the owner of the 'Hello Deli', so really not too difficult if you have ever seen the show before.

So we arrive for the first show at 4:00pm to check in. 'The Late Show' is very unique on how they seat the audience members though. Honestly, it reminds me of a West Chelsea nightclub on their door policy. Sure, everyone gets in and no one has to purchase a $300 bottle of Kettle One to get past the door but it is best to be attractive and spirited to get on the lower level. After they give you a line number (which means nothing) they have you meet outside for what I can only describe as audience member boot camp. The very spirited pages spend the next 30 minutes teaching you how to clap and laugh then only after this boot camp ends is it finally time to enter the theater.

On the first night we befriended four girls on 'holiday' from London who were a little drunk but quite entertaining. They found it quite amusing to refer to Kirk as 'Captain Kirk' then giggle amongst themselves for 30 seconds before asking 'The Captain' another question. Anyway, 'The Captain' and I found them to be a fairly fun group and it did actually enhance the experience. As we entered the theater the pages instruct the line to loudly clap and cheer. The six of us were full of life, but as we approached the doors to the seating area the pages were sending people up to the balcony, which we thought was quite disappointing. Interestingly enough when we got to the doors they stopped the line and sent the six of us to the lower seats five rows from the stage. I have to admit, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves as Letterman came out to talk to the crowd before the show.

Its strange when you are actually at the taping, things you would never laugh at on television are just hilarious in person. I suppose it is just the mood you are in, but I could have sworn at one point how lucky I was to be at the funniest installment of David Letterman of all time. Ice Cube was the guest that night and I was honestly riveted as he tried to explain why I should pay money to see a movie called "Are We There Yet?".

On the second night we showed up, checked in and went for our second round of boot camp. To this point everything was going as planned as we lined up to go in the theater, yet this was the exact moment the night went horribly horribly wrong for us. Kirk and I were talking amongst ourselves when I was tapped on the shoulder. We turned around and to our horror instead of being befriended by four drunk English girls, we were in the clutches of the freak shows from Akron, OH who resembled a male and female version of 'Digger the Dermatophyte' (The creature in the Lamisil commercials who lives under people's toenails).

Usually I am a pretty nice guy (I am from the Midwest after all) but I knew the policy at the door and the freak shows would not stop talking to us. As we approached the doors the page was letting a free flow of people right in to the prime seating. As he saw what he perceived as our 'foursome', the page actually stops the line with his arm and waves the four of us up in to the balcony as a third base coach would have sent a runner in to score . Kirk brazenly ignored the instructions to continue, stopped and sheepishly pointed at what appeared to be the section our seats were in from the earlier night and declared "We are not with them, can't we.......", to which the page cut him off "Well, you are now". Defeated, we made our way upstairs. I looked behind me, and the page immediately let the people behind us in to the prime seating. Sigh. So now, not only were we banished to the balcony, when we arrived they were out of seats!!!! A page then breaks out a couple of folding chairs and with a straight face she tells us "You know, these are actually the best seats in the house". Wow. Of course what made the evening better was the girl to my left having a cell phone conversation. Unbelievable. Did she think it was just like being rude at the movies? Did she think the people on stage could not hear her? The pages never even made her leave, just told her two separate times she was not allowed to use her phone. Of course with all the distractions I was less inclined to see Debra Messing's movie "The Wedding Date" that she was pitching to me. Though one highlight though came when Peyton Manning was being interviewed and a man shouted out "Go Eagles!!!" and this joker was immediately shown the door.

So that was it, I had finally attended a taping of David Letterman. And even with the bad second experience its hard to complain when it is free, yet I will anyway. On the next installment I will describe our evening at "Late Night with Conan O'Brien".

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