I realise it's not everyone's cup of tea but we really enjoy watching the US TV show - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The show is filmed in a small studio on the west side of midtown Manhattan in New York (it's pre-recorded before later that evening being shown on Comedy Central) and the awesome thing is, if you can get tickets online when they're released, you can watch it being recorded - for free!
Norngirl knows her stuff and prior to our East Coast US trip last February, she was scouring the Daily Show website many times a day to try to get free tickets for any day we'd be in the NYC. Her persistence with the F5 key paid off and on the afternoon of February 13th 2012 we were headed across town on a bus to get to the studio so we could be part of the audience on that day’s show.
Being nerds however, we got off the bus a little early to have a quick nosey at the building where they film the spin off show from The Daily Show, called the Colbert Report. Here is the building:
... and here is one of the painted posters featuring a likeness of Mr Steven Colbert himself to be found on the walls of the studio:
It's just around the block from the Daily Show studio and so it didn't take us long to make it past the park so often featured on their shows with Jon and Stephen chasing one another around.
Once at the building we got in the queue (see photo at the start of the post). We knew already that the ticket you get online is just the ticket to get a ticket - the ticket to be in the audience you get on the day itself. That means you do need to be there as early as possible (though don't go mad and camp out or anything) to guarantee a place as they do over subscribe the tickets given out on the internet to ensure enough people come to pick up a ticket to make a full audience. So along with a lot of other likely looking characters and some not so likely, we waited a while.
At the time the tickets said to be there by, some folks who work for the show came down the line to explain what was going to happen and how long it'll be etc. It wasn't too long we'd waited, around an hour or so and we were about halfway in line. As with pretty much every day on our trip, we thankfully got lucky with the weather and it wasn't too cold. There is a canopy however so if it did rain there would be some shelter. Indeed in the end it was a breeze really as we'd waited longer in line to buy theatre tickets before, so queueing up to watch something for free was no trouble.
Once we had been checked in and given our number we had a bit of time to play with so headed up town on the bus to see a part of town we'd not really seen much of, the upper West side. The area seemed to be a haven for local schools and was packed with teenagers munching away on fast food, having a laugh and giving their friends 'tude. After a bite to eat we headed back to the studio via 2 buses, as the Subway wasn't an option for reasons I can't remember, but we still made it back early and got into the right group area they'd set up for us to wait in that was ordered by ticket number. There was then a call for last minute calls of nature before a person came to tell us some more about the how they were going to do this thing. Once we passed through the airport like security we were seated by the seating people. We were very lucky due to circumstance and ended up sat in the front row. Looking around the room we were in the main block of seating, head on to the desk where Jon Stewart performs the majority of his show. The place soon filled and then there was an introduction and the warm up guy came to get us in the laughing spirit, though to be honest I don't think we needed much warming up, just being there with the set of the show in front of us was enough.
Jon then joined the rest of us in the studio and did a some meet and greet, cracked a couple of jokes and took questions from people in the crowd. As with everywhere in New York, we weren't the only folks from the British Isles in the building. Someone from southern England asked a question about why we didn't get the Daily Show on TV in the UK any more (which back then was the case). It was on the TV channel More4 for a while but they stopped showing it. Jon explained a bit and came across very understanding. I'm not really someone who cares much for celebrities & celebrity culture but Jon Stewart has to be up there as a well known person I've most appreciated being in the same room as. His presence is huge, and in a nice way, like the American version of Michael Palin - very understanding, brilliant at what they do but also worldly wise as well as very funny.
On a side note, Boris Johnson went on the show a few months later and not long after we got back to Northern Ireland, the show was on Comedy Central - good times! It saved us having to connect the HDMI cable to the laptop all the time in order to ever have chance to see it.
The show we saw that day was great. Being a member of the audience was a fun experience. When you're there you're told to try to try to laugh a little louder to accommodate the sound levels. Though awkward at first, you kinda get used to not holding back in laughing loudly. It's not forced laughter either, there are screens showing the pre recorded clips that will be in the show and Jon does almost all of it in real time, as if it was live. Also the thing about the sound levels is true, on the TV it's like the audience are in a box yet there it's like being in the crowd at a comedy gig.
Jon did everything first time, no retakes at all, as I said, he's brilliant at what he does. Can't beat the message he sends out with his comedy too, a sanity check of the US political and topical landscape through humour. One thing I would advise to anyone going to see the show, follow the news and watch the show a lot before you go so you get the jokes. Luckily we did and do but I'm sure if you're not up to speed with some of the news stories those jokes might wash over your head.
Pretty much the only parts cut on TV when we watched later were the in-between clips quips and interaction with the audience and the part where the studio hands mopped up the water that was splashed all over the floor as part of a sketch before the guest from the FBI came out. Safety first and all that! The special guest was Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent promoting his new book. As guest on the show go he was OK but it was quite a dry subject matter so not the greatest interview. It was all over seemingly far sooner than the time suggested, I'd love to go back and watch another being recorded and also maybe catch a Colbert Report filming too, we'll have to see what the future holds!
Later that night, after we'd been shopping for odds and ends we flumped back into the hotel, ordered a take out to the room and watched the show we'd been at followed by that night’s Colbert Report. Norngirl wrote a much better account here about this day including all the other places we ended up as well as this and the earlier ride on the Roosevelt Tramway.
We're still avid viewers of the Daily Show and watch it every night, laughing at the absurdity of politics and people that with our own quite liberal (striving for equality) views, often find common grou the madness in N.I, the rest of the UK and Ireland.
One thing that did spring to mind when we were there and still holds true now is that we could really do with a show like it dedicated to events in N.I. Just something to shine a light on the absurd idiocy of our political landscape. We had a couple of shows here in N.I. like the sketch show The Folks on the Hill and sit coms like Give my Head Peace, but they're not quite the same, a late night political satire show in a similar format to the Daily Show could be awesome!