The writers' strike is over, and we've had pretty good weather in New York City the past few days. Neither was the case on Monday, but that didn't matter--I went to The Colbert Report anyway, and my life is richer for having done so.
I made the great sacrifice of standing in line for an hour and a half in the freezing wind so I, along with friends Corina, Larissa and Katie, could get into the show (we had tickets, but they overbook every show to make sure the audience is full, so you have to show up early to make sure you get in).
Fortunately, ticket-holders got to wait in line in an alley that was partially covered by some tarps, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been, and I had some hot chocolate and a roast beef sandwich from a deli I passed on the way to the studio to keep me company and semi-warm, at least for a few minutes.
We finally got in to the building, where we had to wait again, but at least it was warm. All 100 or so audience members were crammed into a small lobby, waiting while they finished rehearsals. From time to time the audience coordinator (who looks just like Stephen Colbert--maybe that's how he got the job) would come out and give us an update, and try to get us pumped up so we would be a great crowd.
At one point he brought out some t-shirts and played a round of Colbert Report trivia, and I got a shirt by knowing that Barry Manilow was the man who beat Stephen for the Emmy two years ago (MANILOW!). It's an extra large, so it fits relatively well, but Stephen should know that the typical American hero residing in the Colbert Nation would be more comfortable in a XXL. A slight Wag of the Finger for that one.
One of the other free shirts went to a weird girl who has come to the show so often the audience coordinator recognized her. She seemed to know just a LITTLE too much about the show and about Stephen, and she was constantly (and loudly) saying things in our little holding pen, and when we were waiting in the studio, that made me cringe on her behalf. More on her later.
Eventually, we were seated in the studio, and I ended up in the top corner, which left me about as far away as I could be from Stephen when he made his traditional run from his desk to the interview set. Oh well.
While the stage manager gave us some instructions (our cue to go nuts at the start of the show and coming out of commercial breaks, to laugh at everything and refrain from commenting to our friends, since the audience is mic'ed, etc.), I soaked up the atmosphere. It was phenomenal to be there: not only was I actually in the studio where my current favorite show is recorded--I've seen literally every episode since it's debut in October 2005--but a wave of nostalgia washed over me, as I remembered the good old days when I worked in the HFAC studios. Working in broadcasting at BYU was really fun; I can only imagine how great it would be to work on a show like this one.
As I sat there pondering which job on the show I would most like to have, the answer literally came out and yelled at me. The Colbert Report's warm-up comic has weak material and no hair (that's what most of his jokes were about; he looked like Chris Daughtry), but I am VERY envious of his job. (In case you've never been to a live TV taping, most sitcoms and talk shows have a comedian come out to get the crowd pumped up so they're ready to laugh when the host/actors come out for the actual show.)
I'm not sure how other comedians view the warm-up comic. Are they envious that they have a regular gig? Do they view them as "sell-outs" for taking a relatively comfortable job, rather than working the comedy clubs? I don't know. I do know, after watching this guy (can't remember his name), that it's harder than it looks. He had to go several minutes longer than he planned (and certainly several minutes longer than the audience wanted him to) because Stephen wasn't ready yet. The length of his set must vary from night to night, and he likely never knows exactly what to expect.
He got some help from an audience member, though. One lady near the front had a glossy photo she had made and hoped to give to Stephen. It was a pretty impressive piece of Photoshop work, where she had combined the faces of Colbert and Barack Obama into one handsome political juggernaut. One half of the face was white and one was black, but this was more than just some Harvey Dent/Two-Face mash-up; she had carefully combined and distributed the facial features as well. The comic paraded the picture around so everybody could see, and he got some good jokes out of it.
The crazy girl I referred to earlier also played a role in his act. When he was clearly running out of steam, he started talking about stuff on the set. He went over to one item, which I couldn't see from my vantage point, but I knew it had to be the microwave Stephen stole from Bill O'Reilly's personal Fox News kitchen when he was a guest on "The Factor" (fans know that Colbert's show is a blatant parody of O'Reilly's).
While the comic was in the midst of making a tasteless joke about O'Reilly using it to microwave babies, the crazy girl blurted out the punchline, because apparently he's used the same joke before when she's been there. He was SO ticked off, and yelled at her a while, impressively keeping his language relatively clean. Comedians DO NOT like to be heckled, and they don't deserve to be, even when they're not funny, and even when it's coming from someone who may be mildly handicapped, as this girl may have been. So be nice to comedians--their egos are extremely fragile. And that's my PSA for today.
Shortly after that happy scene, Stephen was finally ready to come out. The things I saw and heard while in the presence of perhaps our greatest living American deserve their own post, so I'll stop here for now.