The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (currently John Oliver) tapes five days a week in New York City for Comedy Central, but the vast majority of people will only ever see the show on TV and not live in the studio.
Here’s what it’s like to go to a live taping.
First, you have to actually secure some tickets. This is the hard part. If you visit the Daily Show tickets page, you’ll almost certainly be greeted with this message:
Ouch. Sign up for the email alert and wait. Then wait some more, and a little bit more. Eventually, hopefully, you’ll get an email alert that tickets are available. The second an email turns up saying tickets are available. Get them immediately. You will only have minutes to act. When we booked, we responded within two minutes of getting the email, and they were all gone after three minutes.
Now that you’ve got the tickets, celebrate a little because you’ve got tickets!
Now, calm down. There’s still work to be done. Email your boss and tell them you’ll be taking a half day whenever the show is taping, because you’ll need to get out to the studio at 733 11th Ave. Manhattan between noon and 2pm during the week.
There’s really no getting around this. You need to be physically present to claim the tickets. Tickets are handed out numerically based on where you are in line. If you get there by noon, you’ll get in the first 1 – 50 or so range. Get there at 1pm and you’ll get around 80 – 100.
They seat 200 people in the studio, and honestly there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, so unless you’re super determined to get a really close seat, getting there by 1pm is fine.
Here’s the first line you’ll be waiting in to pick up the tickets:
Not too bad, at least unless its about 95 degrees out, in which case this really sucks.
At 2:30pm, they start handing out the tickets. Once you get them you’re told to come back by 4:30 and line up numerically again.
At this point you’ll wait another 30 minutes and given a chance to hit the bathroom as you won’t be able to once you’re in the studio.
They ask you to turn off your phones and then will start shuffling the line through some serious airport, TSA like security. Men, you’ll have to take off your belts. Fair warning. Some people will have to hand over their IDs along with their bags to be held until after the show.
You’ll then take your seat in the studio and a producer will come out and lay down some more ground rules as the crowd tries to remember what it’s like to chit chat without access to their phones and social media.
Never fear! It’s announced that you can turn your phone on to take pictures and get it out of your system before everything starts. The crowd surges with activity.
Here’s the studio:
It is a surprisingly small space.
After about 45 minutes of obsessive photo taking and sharing on social media, a warm up host will come out and tell you to shut down your devices again, this time for good. If you take photos during the show after this point, they’ll boot you.
The warm up host tells the audience they need to be loud, to project. To not “internalize your laugh” like you would at home. This guy’s job is to get you riled up and properly juiced for the show.
He does a comedy routine, berates some members of the crowd for a bit. He told one teen aged kid to sit up straight and that he had “horrible fucking posture,” then cracked some more jokes and set the stage for John Oliver. There’s no beeping over the cursing. It’s great.
“Remember! This isn’t your fuckin’ living room so at least pretend like you have some energy. Don’t stop cheering until you’re told when to stop or when John tells his first joke. Just keep cheering.”
He introduces John Oliver and he’ll come out and take a few question from the crowd. Questions like, “What’s your favourite colour and why?” or “Do you think England could take back their colonies?”
After the QA he’ll hop off stage, and a few minutes later the show will begin in earnest with the usual news updates.
What is most surprising about the show if this is your first live taping, is how smooth the production is. The show begins, and it is pretty much exactly as you’d see it on TV, only louder. It’s about 30 minutes, and they stop for the amount of time needed for commercials.
The skits where reporters are “on location” like “Senior Congressional Correspondent” Jason Jones are shot in front of a green curtain on the left side of the studio, and the image you’d see on TV is shown on screens facing the audience.
During the live taping of this segment, at one point Oliver ripped off his pants to reveal he was wearing his own diaper, and that apparently didn’t make it into the final cut.
Soon after the guest of the night will come out, in our case it was Dame Helen Mirren.
The guest talks for a couple minutes, then that’s it. Shows over. Thanks for coming folks!
The audience is shuffled out of the studio and back out into the heat.
Overall, this is definitely an entertaining experience, and Jon Oliver can hold his own with an audience. There’s no reason to hold off on seeing the show until Stewart comes back. Stewart is still The Guy, but Oliver is great. Bloody high marks.
The whole operation is smooth and the energy is high even with all of the waiting around.
Jolly good show.
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