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Viewing late night talk live in NYC

By Alex Sferrazza
On April 10, 2014

New York City offers many attractions tourists worldwide dream of visiting. Among the most thrilling of these are the cities' nationally broadcast late night talk shows. "The Late Show," "The Daily Show," "The Tonight Show," "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night" and "The Colbert Report" all call the Big Apple home.
 In the past year, I've been privileged enough to have seen tapings of "The Late Show with David Letterman," "Late Night with Seth Meyers" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," so I have some valuable experience on the subject I'd like to share with you all.
The first question one might ask is "How do I obtain tickets to a show taping?" The short answer is, not easily. Although free, tickets to these shows are far from simple to obtain.
The most common method is by heading online. Most shows have some form of ticket request website where you can select a date for a future show. Usually, a good amount of luck is required as tickets are often sold out within minutes of appearing online. Often, you're not even guaranteed tickets, but are instead entered into a lottery, which will notify you at a later date if you've been chosen to receive them.
Don't feel like ordering months in advance? Well you can always try the stand by line.
These shows are booked to capacity every night, but almost always a few people will fail to show up. A full studio audience is still needed so hopefuls waiting in line on the street might get lucky enough to get in.
How early should you show up? Well, it varies by show. For example, NBC starts handing out standby tickets for Fallon and Meyers at 9 a.m. on taping days. I got in line at 8 a.m. and barely made the cut off for Meyers, while the only people who got into Fallon lined up at 5 a.m. If you go this route, be prepared for a long day, as the actual taping does not happen until late in the evening.
If you manage to get tickets, after standing around for hours and hours, you'll eventually be seated. All of the ones I attended followed a standard format: a warm up comedian, the taping and a thank you to the audience for attending.
It will probably strike you at just how much smaller these theaters appear in person than they look on television. The setting was surprisingly intimate for all programs I visited.
The warm-up comedian for "The Daily Show" was unfortunately extremely vulgar and seemed to make frequent use of profanity for the sole purpose of getting a "shock laugh" from the audience. Thankfully, before too long the best opening act one could imagine followed - Jon Stewart himself. Unlike Letterman and Meyers, who spoke to the studio audience for less than a minute before their respective programs began; Stewart did almost ten minutes of stand-up for the crowd in the form of a question and answer session. He fielded questions ranging from "Can I make your coffee?" to "When can we see your movie?" (in reference to the film Stewart directed last summer).
The warm up for Meyer's show focused more on getting the audience excited than on actual jokes although he did an admirable job. Meanwhile, the "Late Show" warm up was entirely forgettable. However, a hilarious "theater rules" video narrated by Alec Baldwin provided more than substantial amusement.
Seeing a live late night show is a rare and thrilling experience. Of course how much you'll enjoy the experience depends on your willingness to wait patiently and if you're a fan of the celebrity guest on that night.


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