Trip Report – The Colbert Report – Audience Experience

We (my 2 daughters and I) arrived at the studio in New York City about 3:30 pm on the advice of the internet. We were the fourth, fifth and sixth in line. The studio is a crappy hole-in-the-wall building in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, but the neighborhood isn’t bad at all. The line was in an alleyway and we were content to sit and wait. After a while, daughter and I took a stroll down to the docks where the aircraft carrier museum Intrepid is docked. We just looked at it from the docks but that alone was mighty impressive. The tour would be worthwhile any day.

At about 5:30, the interns started moving the crowd past the security check and metal detector (we did not have to take off our shoes, and there was no X-ray machine, but I did have to take off my belt). They packed all 200 of us into a small room just barely big enough with everyone standing virtually cheek to jowl, and played reruns of the Report from 2006 on a large monitor to get us in the mood and keep us pacified enough to delay the revolt. It worked, just barely. They require a government issued photo ID. One student was scrambling for about 15 minutes trying to comply. Somehow, he made it in.

Finally at about 7:00, we filed into the studio and took our seats. There was little, if any, benefit to having gotten there so early with respect to the seating. Every seat was good. We were about 25 across and 8 rows high. As you can imagine, the studio is small.

The stage manager gave us a brief orientation to the schedule and what to expect, and was the first of several to emphasize that our primary job was to be as LOUD as possible at every turn. If we thought a joke was funny, we were to laugh out loud twice as loud as normal, if not louder. When a comment or clip hit home, we were to cheer and whistle and clap and yell as much as possible. We practiced again and again. Stephen does the show alone, unlike the Daily Show where they have several many contributing correspondents, and naturally, Stephen feeds off the energy of the audience. There was loud but very good contemporary (Ben Folds, etc.) music  going in the studio whenever the show was not taping. Stephen gets a lot of energy from the music, as did we all.

Then, they had a warm-up comedian come out and he pretty much kept focusing on our “job” of being loud as an integral aspect of the show. He also did a classic stand up routine of asking who had a birthday, where are you from, what do you do for work, etc., and making funny out of the audience. He was good, not great, but better than I could do.

Finally, Stephen came out, out of character, and took questions from the audience. I was going to ask if he’d ever been to Maine, but decided not to play the hyperactive overachiever in eighth grade with the answer to the teacher’s question. That was a fun part of the evening, though.

He shot some wrist-bands into the audience (they say “wrist strong”, a take off on the plethora of wrist bands that exist, like the ribbons and pins), and I snagged one. I will treasure it always!

Finally, the show started, and I think, we, the audience, passed the audition. The show went by quickly. In between segments, 2 writers and the stage manager ran up to Stephen’s desk and feverishly added, subtracted, and edited the script. After the John Huntsman interview, they cut from taping and told us that since it had gone longer and better than planned, they were bumping the planned third segment of the show. So they had to do a “cut to commercial” segment to splice into the final cut. They also had to re-tape 2 or 3 audio clips that Stephen had mangled, to dub into the final cut.

That was about it. We all filed out into the New York evening, and walked about 20 blocks back to Grand Central Station and grabbed the next train back to New Haven.

It was awesome.

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