Monday, November 22, 2010

A Visit to the Daily Show

Ever wonder what it's like to attend a taping of the Daily Show? Well, today, all your questions will be answered. I turn, yet again, to a Daily Shill Correspondent. This time, it's Andrea Levine, our Senior Big City Correspondent. Take it away, Andrea!

As I approached the surprisingly unassuming building that houses the Daily Show studio, one thought pulsed through me:

It smells like manure.

Once I solved that mystery (oddly located horse-drawn carriages in a not-so-scenic neighborhood), I readied my butt for a whole lotta pavement sitting. Despite a friend having secured tickets online, I was told that they overbook every show so as to ensure a full house. More than one person had recommended getting there super early to guarantee a seat, so there I was at 1:45...with about 6 people in front of me. I guess random Tuesdays in fall are not exactly peak season for eager tourists looking to be starstruck. Lucky for me I am a local who is ALWAYS looking to be starstruck, and my lone responsibility on Tuesdays is my early morning Hebrew grammar class (the only thing more riveting than a visit to The Daily Show). The line didn’t get much longer until around 3:30, at which point a bunch of young guys with very official-looking ear pieces made us stand single file against the wall as they set up stanchions. They came back a few times throughout the four-plus hour wait to explain policy, mainly concerning photos (big no-no, obviously) and the metal detector we would be going through, and that if we had to go to the bathroom we’d BETTER do it now, because if we go during the show we’re shit out of luck. (See what I did there? On an inconsequential side note, the reading material in the bathroom included "Richard Simmons’ Never Give Up: Inspirations, Reflections, Stories of Hope." I couldn’t tell if this was an intentionally tongue-in-cheek choice, but it was a great tone-setter for the evening regardless.)

I felt like the staff “bros” were a lot more intimidating than they needed to be, especially when it came to the metal detector. They warned us against holding up the line, adding that what cuts it at the airport metal detector is not necessarily going to cut it at The Daily Show. They also made a point of noting that we did not have to take off our shoes, reiterating, “this is NOT the airport.” The irony of this was that my boot buckles set off the detector, and the guy literally felt up my ankles. Not gonna lie, I felt a little like a prison least based on what I’ve seen on Oz, minus the rape and gang wars. But I digress.

I figured the studio would be small, but what really struck me was how tiny the desk was. For some reason I always thought of Jon as pretty tall, and could not imagine how his legs would fit under that thing. To the right of the desk is a very small stage which presumably was reserved for the correspondents, although our show was Jon-only. I couldn’t complain, especially seeing as how the guest was none other than Han Solo. If anything makes up for a Corddry-less episode, it’s my favorite scruffy-looking nerfherder. (Is Rob Corddry even still on the show? I have to admit, it’s been a while since I last watched. But I love me some Corddry.)

Once we were all seated we were entertained by a pumper-upper comedian named...I actually don’t remember his name. But he was surprisingly delightful, most notably in teasing the older members of the audience, of which there were actually quite a few. It was really refreshing to see the mix of people in the crowd, all successfully pumped by whatshisname.

And then...JON. Who, by the way, is not actually that tall. And IS actually that handsome. He thanked us for braving the cold, and reassured us that what with the horses being in such close proximity to the building, it is infinitely worse to wait outside in summer, stank-wise.

Jon starts every show with a brief Q&A with the audience, a great way to establish an easygoing vibe and to show us how much it means to him that we came. Questions included:

“Which hurts more, the Mets or the recent elections?”
“The Mets, for sure. That cuts to the SOUL.”


“Why don’t you use your notoriety to help affect real policy as opposed to just commentary?”
“That’s a great question...I’m better at this.”

Unfortunately, the first question came from a young girl begging for a job on his staff, resume and cover letter in hand. I thought it was pretty tacky, especially because even as Jon tried to play it off with a joke she kept pushing. He, of course, handled it perfectly, assuring her that a random stage hand would “file” the paperwork as he brushed her off. In his opening on-camera comments, he mentioned that a ticket to The Daily Show is not, in fact, a job interview. It was funny, but I was a little mad that she got the shout out, even if it was at her expense. (Alright I’ll be honest...I’m just hating on her because I’m jealous.) The fun, I-feel-like-such-an-insider part of this was realizing that the opening comments of every show are generally in reaction to this Q&A session.

Onto the show. The man is a consummate professional, and it was truly inspiring to watch him at work. It never once felt like he was reading a script...I’m honestly not even sure how much of it was scripted. His charm is genuine and effortless; he even makes cursing classy. The show is filmed in real time, and at each commercial break he chatted it up with his crew, sans any celebrity pretense or bravado. The breaks also gave me opportunities to have my requisite OHMYGAHDTHISISHAPPENING moments, which I appreciated.

Never have I had such a moment as when Harrison Ford walked in. The grandeur of said moment was interrupted, however, by the hilarity of the fact that Harrison’s pants were too short, and he was wearing pale yellow socks with loafers. His good looks may betray his age (and I assure you, they are GOOD), but the wardrobe was a gentle reminder of the fact that the man is pushing 70. I wouldn’t normally use the word “adorable” to describe rough and tough Indiana Jones, but the silly pants made it splendidly applicable.

Perhaps he was overcompensating for the hemline in his demeanor, because he seemed pretty annoyed the whole time. It was likely an image thing (he’s fucking Harrison Ford, he can do whatever he wants), but I was definitely hoping for a little more lightness; I mean come on, it’s Jon Stewart! Crack a smile! Or at least find a way to insinuate “GET OFF MY PLANE” into the conversation! (Too much? I told you, I get starstruck.) His best jibe was in response to Jon admitting that he had not seen Harrison’s new movie, Morning Glory. When asked what it was about, Harrison initially fumbled over his words, at which point Jon asked, “have YOU even seen this movie?” Ford’s deadpan reply after a beat of silence:

“It’s fucking brilliant.”

He couldn’t have been on for more than 5 minutes, which seemed like it must have been an eternity to him based on his gruffness. But it was definitely nice to have more one on one time with Jon. It really did feel like that, despite the 300 or so people in the audience. After the moment of zen (a Glenn Beck clip! Score!) Jon let us know that the show was about a minute and a half over time, and that we would be cutting a short segment and refilming its intro. Once that was finished, he gave us a sincere thank you and exited to thunderous, admiration-laden applause.

Four and a half hours of waiting, and then it was all over so fast. I’d love to be able to get back; I’m not even sure how my friend got the tickets. She joined a mailing list or something. I’ll have to look into it. Until then I’ll just borrow Highwater Harrison’s words to assure you that, horse stank and prison guard staff members notwithstanding, attending The Daily Show is everything you think it will be and more.

That is to say...It’s FUCKING BRILLIANT.

Hey all, it's Emily again! Don't you just love these essays (or should I say reports?) from correspondents? I sure do! And let me tell you, their timing is fortuitous, as grad school has been monopolizing my life. However, there is an 80% chance that another post will be made by the end of the day (and, this time, it'll be a review by me). So check back! Or become a fan on facebook (and check your news feed) and you'll get an update!

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