An evening with Stephen Colbert

I love Stephen Colbert. I placed him on my list of  sexiest men alive, and I even named my cat after him. So when I was in NYC recently, I knew I had to attend his show.

I had a ticket to both the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and the Colbert Report. I was unsuccessful in being admitted to the Daily Show, but that hardly bothered me the next evening when Stephen Colbert was, like, 10 feet away from me, making the audience howl with laughter.

If you are headed to NYC and want to see one or both of the Comedy Central shows, here’s some tips on how to obtain tickets.

Because I had arrived too late to be admitted to the Jon Stewart show, I knew I needed to bust a move and get to the Colbert Report early. I arrived around 4:30, and I was number 59 in line. The folks who had tickets 1-4 had arrived around 2:00PM. I couldn’t imagine standing in line that long.

Pre-show, Waiting in Line:
The Colbert Report’s staff is very well organized and on top of things. His staff walked through the line and asked to see everyone’s federal ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.). They checked your ID against the list of audience members they were expecting, and they ticked everyone’s name off the list and handed you your ticket.

Unfortunately, the people in line in front of me were a family from New Jersey. They were horribly dysfunctional and felt completely comfortable yelling and berating one another in the line. The mother was obnoxious and couldn’t be pleased. Her daughter finally asked her to go sit in the car until the line started moving. The daughter text messaged people while we waited. And her dad farted. I’m not kidding. He openly farted about every 10 minutes. It’s as if he forgot he was in a crowded line, in a public place. My God, his butt smelled bad. He also pulled out an MP3 player and proceeded to watch Lady Gaga videos, repeatedly. So my buddy in line was a farter with a proclivity for Lady Gaga. It was the weirdest combo I’d seen in a long time. Luckily, the ticket to the Colbert Report was large and laminated. I used it as a fan to bring fresh air to my face and nose when the dad passed gas. Needless to say, my wrist was tired from fanning myself so hard. 🙂

After waiting in line for about an hour, the line started moving. During this time, a security guard came out and told us that we’d be going through a mini airport security line inside the studio, and that we were not allowed to use our cell phones and take photographs. He said that if we were caught taking photos or recording the show, our devices would be confiscated.

After the security guard gave his talk, a tiny girl/woman came out and walked through the line asking everyone if we were “jazzed, pumped up, super excited, and psyched” to attend the show. She tried really hard to be charming, cute and perky. But to those of us who were thirsty and had been standing on our feet for a long time, she was too much to handle. When she got to me, she said my shirt was “super cute cuz stripes are awesome.” And then she asked if I was jazzed to see Stephen. She was sort of a hybrid of a cheerleader, born-again Christian at church camp, and a psychopath. She said I didn’t look too enthused. I told her my feet hurt. It wasn’t her, it was my feet. While she was chatting with me, I had to suppress the urge to punch her.

Pre-show, Security screening:
When I made my way to the airport-like security station, I noticed that the guard turned my handbag inside-out, upside-down, and looked through every single pocket and zipper. I’d never seen such a thorough investigation. My belt and watch caused the alarm to go off, so I had to give the guards these items, in addition to my chapstick, hotel key, and iPhone. But I got all of my belongings back after I passed security. Upon seeing my iPhone, the security guard reminded me that I was not allowed to take photographs.

Pre-show, Holding room:
After everyone had passed security, the entire audience (around 150 people) had to wait in the “holding room” for another hour or so. During this time, we were packed like sardines into a small room and were distracted by a TV that had some of Colbert’s best interviews on a repeating loop. It was fun to watch the videos the first time. But by the 3rd and 4th time, I was beginning to wonder if it was a mistake that I came. I felt like we were never going to get inside the damned studio. Suddenly, the little cheerleader/christian/psychopath was lifted on to a table top by the security guards. She proceeded to ask us how stoked we were to see Colbert. We were so hot and tired that we could barely respond. So she said we wouldn’t be allowed in to the studio until we cheered loud enough to impress her. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand to be forced to cheer.

So we cheered and cheered and finally she said we had passed her test. She then went on to tell us that we were not allowed to ask Stephen for an autograph or to sign copies of his book. Additionally, we were not allowed to talk to him unless he talked to us. And finally, she told us how lucky were were because we were going to get to see Stephen “out of character” for a few minutes before the show. This was probably the only time in our lives this would ever happen. Yada, Yada, Yada.

Suddenly, the studio doors opened and we were called one by one (by our ticket number) to enter the studio. Because I attended the show by myself and only needed one seat, this put me at an advantage, and I was given a killer aisle seat in the 4th row. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!

Pre-show, the stand up comedian:
Before Stephen came out, he had a stand up comedian entertain us for 30-45 minutes. The guy’s name was Julian McCullough. His stand-up routine was to ask an audience member a question and then make fun of them. During this time, we got to see the broad range of people who were attending the show that night. There were many foreigners (Spain, Canada, Belgium, France, Chile, England). Also, there was a huge age range of attendees. A married couple was there for their anniversary. They had been married 57 years. Fifty-Seven years!! When the wife told us their love story, we cheered for them. Actually, we gave them a standing ovation. And later in the show, one of Colbert’s staff members gave the husband and wife a Colbert Nation t-shirt as a little anniversary gift. 🙂

When Julian finished his bit, he existed and then loud music started blaring from the speakers. I would have loved to turn on my iPhone and use the Shazam app to find the songs that were playing. They played U2, REM, Gnarls Barkley and so on. The reason I wasn’t brave enough to turn on my iPhone is because they guy sitting in front of me turned his on and snapped a photo of his girlfriend, and then about 3 seconds later, one of the security guards ran up to him, snatched the iPhone and said, “I told you no phones allowed. We’re confiscating it.” The guy and girl were stunned.

Pre-show, the real Stephen Colbert:
Eventually, the “real” Stephen Colbert came out and when he did, he ran around his desk a couple times. He then proceeded to ask the audience if anyone had a question for him. A woman raised her hand and then Stephen said, “Yes, Madame?” The woman stood up, and Stephen said, “Wow, look how respectful and proper you are for standing to address me.” The woman was wearing a t-shirt that said I Heart Cats, NYC, and Stephen Colbert. She proceeded to tell him that “Nicole and Sasha said hello.” Stephen looked a little taken off guard and he asked how she knew his nieces. The woman said, “I don’t know them.” The room got really quiet. It was uncomfortable, actually. To break the silence, Stephen pretended to speak into a microphone on his jacket and he said, “Security, there’s a crazy woman in row 3, seat 6. Take her out.” She turned out to be a little nuts. She asked Stephen if we should march against “truthiness.” And Stephen said, “No, you should march for truthiness.” She tried to ask him another question but he cut her off and said she needed to give others an opportunity to talk. In total, Stephen answered about 10 questions and was very genuine and funny. 🙂

After the audience Q&A, he seated himself at his desk and reviewed last minute details with the writers and producers. The music was blaring, so we couldn’t hear anything that was said. His hair dresser and make up artist came out and gave him some final touches. My God, you wouldn’t believe how much hair spray they use on his hair!

During the show:

And then the show started! One of my favorite parts was when the lights dimmed and the theme song started playing. The bass was strong and I could feel it in my ribs. The audience was electric and the energy was excellent!

One of the funniest things that happened during the taping was that Stephen would be in the middle of filming a segment and the audience would start laughing at what he was saying (in the link to the show, fast forward to 15:14 for an example), and then he’d break character and bust a gut. And then they’d have to re-tape that section. This happened a couple times; he was exceptionally funny that evening.

After the segments, and prior to interviewing his guest, staff members wax the table where the interview takes place. This was unexpected. Another guy is responsible for making sure the curtains are lined up perfectly and that all the objects on the bookshelves are in order. These tiny details intrigued me.

Another thing that I noticed is that Stephen was pretty raunchy at times, but this was edited out. And his interview with the guest lasted for about 15 minutes. But on the show, it only lasts about 5 minutes, at most. So they edited out a lot of good content. Stephen and his guest that night actually had an engaging dialogue, but it didn’t make the final cut.

The taping ends around 8:45 – 9:00PM and his staff only have a couple hours to create the show that will air that night. It’s impressive how fast they write, tape and edit the content.

All in all, it was an awesome experience. Despite the long, dehydrated waiting period, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 🙂

Side note:
One thing I wish they’d consider doing is offering tickets for sale (if you don’t want to or can’t wait in line), or “free tickets” for those who don’t mind waiting in line. Presently, the long lines prevent handicapped people from attending the show. Also, waiting in line is not really an option for those of us who work during the day and can’t break away for an entire afternoon.

Here’s the link to the show I attended: Enjoy!


One response to “An evening with Stephen Colbert

  1. Great story! I’ll have to use your method to get tickets.

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