Last year, Ian and I managed to snag tickets to the Daily Show using their online reservation calendar. (I say “managed to snag” because it isn’t easy. You have to be lucky to catch an open date.) We had just returned to Connecticut after living in Tennessee for a year when one of our friends said she ‘d secured tickets online to the Daily Show, but had spent too long at a bar down the street before returning to the line. By the time she got there, it was long, and she wasn’t let in.
Ian and I, the first time we got a hold of some tickets, had left the house early and were determined to stay in line once we got there; what happened to our friend would certainly not happen to us. Alas, we were foiled by traffic on the Merritt Parkway. People seven heads in front of us got in; we did not.
A few months ago, I – naturally a loyal Facebook friend of the Daily Show – saw their status update saying they had seats available for the next several months. I clicked the link to their reservation calendar, saw the available dates, and called Ian. “What do you think?” I said. “Get them!” he said. By the time I returned to the calendar less than two minutes later, many dates had already disappeared. What were once 300 available seats were now 225. I clicked on “June 27” and got our two tickets.
Five minutes later, Ian emailed me. “All the dates are gone, already! Did you get one??”
THAT is how hard it is to get tickets to the Daily Show.
Learning animals that we are, on June 27, we took the train. We were going to get there EARLY, this time. Even if it meant standing in line for three hours, we weren’t going to miss it.
(The train is just the smarter get-to-the-city option, anyway, and I can’t believe we ever drove, whether it was to miss the Daily Show or to visit my brother in-law. Not only are trains hassle-free, but I used to take them to school – and elsewhere – for nine years when I lived in Germany, and I’ve always loved them. While waiting for the train in New Haven, Ian even kissed me on the platform, and I dutifully lifted my leg. Not like a dog, but like the ladies in black and white movies being kissed by a dreamboat.)
We arrived plenty early at just after two, and we were #60 and #61 in line. As prepared as we were to wait until 5pm, when they would start letting people in, we were relieved to find out they had changed their system since the last time we were there. Rather than keeping people on their feet for hours until showtime, they now verify confirmed reservations and hand out tickets, asking audience members to return with the tickets at around five. Freedom!
In our case, “freedom” meant finding the closest possible place to grab a coffee and sit, because once again, I wore stupid shoes to NYC. The first time was when Ian and I, as a gift from his aunt and uncle, were given a trip to the city that included a night at the Algonquin (!Dorothy Parker!) and a Broadway show. The shoes I wore that night threatened to tear into the tendon between my big toe and whatever the one next to it is called..
.Years later – last month – I would stupidly wear those shoes again to NYC to attend BEA to promote Pretty Much True… .
The shoes I wore to the Daily Show were much more comfortable, but that comfort only lasted until they’d been walked in for longer than 20 minutes. After that, sitting was imperative.
..We got the coffee (Ian making fun of us for going to Starbucks) and walked (me painfully, with Ian saying he knew before we left the house that he would hear about the shoes) to the park across the street from the studio, where we sat on a bench in the shade.
A bench in the shade is a bench under a tree.
Birds like trees.
After about ten minutes, a big, mustard-yellow, mucus-y bird poop fell so close to my white-shirt shoulder that I actually felt the breeze as it passed my arm and plopped onto my bag, the bulk of it landing on the open zipper to the back flap. Poop on the outside, poop on the inside.
They say bird poop is lucky. This one was – I think. A) It didn’t hit me. B) We’d brought sandwiches and paper towels, and I still had those paper towels in my bag. C) We weren’t eating at the time. D) It made us move from the shade to a bench in the sun, which meant we weren’t the ones the guy carrying a huge sack of cans screamed at to get out of “his seat” five minutes later. (The unlucky ones who weren’t pooped on were two Boston women in their fifties, also waiting to be let into the studio, who did a valiant job of ignoring him.)
When it was time to get back in line with our actual ticket guaranteeing actual entrance, we discovered that we may not have even needed tickets. “You could just get here at five, stand in one of those holding corrals, and go right in without ever making a reservation,” Ian said after we left. (It’s true. We could have. No one checked our tickets on the way in, or before walking through the metal detector, or upon entrance into the studio. But if you’re reading this and thinking about trying to get in without a ticket, I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you live in the area and have time to kill, that is.)
At last, we were in the studio! (You’ll notice an absence of pictures from this point on, because they make very clear that you’ll be very embarrassed if you’re caught trying to take pictures or video. If they see you, they watch you delete your images and confiscate your phone/device.) The studio is smaller than it looks on TV (isn’t everything?), and the chairs where the guests sit look like they’re dangerously close to rolling off the edge.
The “warm up guy” (he called himself this) made us hoot and yell and clap far more loudly than is natural for most people so we would be ready when Jon Stewart came out, and so we would know how loud to be any time he said something funny (which was often – it was a good show!). My two front teeth, which are a bridge (I knocked them out at 17), vibrated when I tried to yell at a certain decibel, so I did more clapping than screaming. After the comic did his bit, Jon Stewart walked out to our rehearsed, but also genuine, applause and whoops and did a brief question and answer session before the show (one audience member asked if Stewart had completed that morning’s crossword puzzle, because she needed a word for 12 down, “intelligent”).
At one point, while answering an audience member’s question, Stewart inserted a joke, and after telling it, he turned to look at a man in a headset standing just off-stage. The man nodded as if to say, “Yeah, that was good. They liked it,” and then Stewart turned back to us and continued.
After a little more Q&A, the show began, and from that point on, there was little for Ian and me to see from where we were watching but what was on the overhead monitors. Our seats, which we’d thought were “Perfect!” before the cameras got into position, were dead center. We were looking straight at Stewart sitting at his desk. I think he and I even made eye contact for a millisecond, which was kind of exciting. (“Did your staff get my book to you?” I said telepathically. He didn’t answer.)
Once the show started, however, a camera moved directly between us and Stewart, and all we could see without leaning to one side or the other was his head in the little camera monitor. (I leaned a lot, especially during breaks, when I would see Stewart checking himself in the monitor, adjusting his posture, and smoothing his tie.)
We laughed and clapped when we were supposed to, sounding “just like the audiences in all the other shows,” Ian said, and when Jennifer Aniston came out to talk about her new movie, I noticed her super muscular legs (she was wearing a tiny black dress), and Ian noticed that she looked smaller than he thought she would. I think he used the word “tiny.”
Strange, seeing a famous person in the same room, the size of an actual person instead of a colossal image on a screen. Also strange to see the interview play out in real time. There were beats of too-long pauses in their exchange, which were more noticeable if you were watching Stewart and Aniston the-people-in-the-room than they were if you were watching them on the screen, even in that immediate moment. There must be something about cuts (to him, to her) that suck up that millisecond of air.
When the interview ended, Aniston left the stage, and I thought, “The hair, the makeup, and that dress…all that for, what, three minutes.” There was a cut to commercial, a brief return for the “moment of zen,” a quick but warm thank-you-and-goodbye from Jon Stewart, and it was time to leave (while watching, with envy, as a few audience members were led back stage).
Notes, in case you’re curious:
1. It’s not actually that cold in the studio. No sweater needed. At least, not when we were there.
2. It taped in one take. No cuts, no goofs, no bloopers. Watching the show there took just as long as it would take to watch it at home.
3. Jon Stewart looks the same in real life as he does on TV.
4. The audience area is small – fits 300, I think. Big enough to make a lot of noise, but not so big that there’s no sense of community or intimacy. If that makes sense.
5. No, I wouldn’t go again. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because we’ve done it, now. We’re trying for the Colbert Report next. 🙂
6. Wear sneakers or other comfortable shoes. I’m serious.
(Do you have questions about the taping? Leave them below!)