I owe you all a post about my recent trips to Universal Studios and Disneyland (although those of you who follow me on Twitter already got the abrupt, bad-grammar version), but before I get to that, let’s talk about what I did today: Today, I went to a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
Let me preface this by saying that I very rarely am up late enough to watch The Late Late Show, but I love it whenever I see it and often seek out clips. Craig Ferguson has been my favorite talk show host basically since he started, way before it was cool to have him as your favorite talk show host. Even back when it was between him and Conan, I chose Craig almost every time. And don’t get me wrong, Conan can be very funny, but something about Craig always makes me laugh. Maybe I just like accents, but I think it has a lot to do with his warmth. Even when he’s mocking celebrities (such as his formerly frequent cracks about Bob Barker), you get the sense that it’s less of a personal attack and more of a friendly ribbing, like he would joke about these people but still buy them a drink afterward. (But not take a drink himself, of course.) He’s also not afraid to make a serious monologue when a situation calls for it.
For whatever reason, Craig is the one talk show host who consistently makes me laugh. Therefore, I knew for a fact that I wanted to attend a taping before leaving LA. By the time I decided to actually look into tickets, however, all of the shows during my two-week break from The Guild no longer had tickets available. Fortunately, I had one more day off scheduled; today was a rehearsal day for the cast, so the crew was off. I signed up for today, and waited for it to arrive.
Mike and Russell were working and unable to join, so Brad and I trekked to CBS on our own. The email said to arrive no later than 3:30 PM, and it made it very clear that not everybody who orders tickets makes it into the show, so to be safe we arrived at CBS at around 1:30…and security told us to come back in an hour. Apparently, “no earlier than 2:30” wasn’t important info.
So we returned after a Carl’s Jr lunch to find the line already existing, although it wasn’t too long yet. We waited on the sidewalk just outside the lot until about 3:00, when they had us move in and pass through security, and then wait on benches. until about 3:45. They inform us that this waiting period is our last chance for bathrooms/the gift shop, so I investigate both. The bathroom is slightly better than a gas station, worse than a McDonald’s. The gift shop is predictably filled with merchandise for CBS shows, but nothing for “How I Met Your Mother”, so really, what’s the point?
At around 3:45, the security guy or head page or something came out to talk to us, laying down some basic rules, including rules of conduct during the taping: “We want you to laugh a lot, be an excited audience, but don’t shout out random shit. This isn’t the Jimmy Fallon show.”
After that, the Warm-Up Guy came out and introduced himself. The Warm-Up Guy, of course, tends to be a cheesy-but-energetic comedian who does his best to get the audience in a laughing mood without overpowering the actual host. In this case, the Warm-Up Guy was cheesy, goofy, and vulgar, and he definitely served his purpose. Like many such comedians, he was at his best when he was riffing on audience members and crew members instead of just reading jokes.
We were led into the studio, which is of course much smaller than it looks on TV. Not only that, but the audience is only about 108 people, compared to the over 400 that Letterman has. It adds to the intimate feeling–the CBS people have continuously been saying that we’re not just an audience, but we’re part of the show now. For the rest of our time here, we are friends and family here to help our boy Craig put on a fantastic show.
The warm-up guy did some of his spiel, and we got the musical act. This was my first time ever attending a television taping, and it was an interesting experience. Watching the three or four cameras on the tiny studio floor all moving and revolving back and forth without bumping into each other as the band played made one a bit dizzy, but it led to the familiar shooting and editing style of a live music performance that we saw on the monitor screens. Still, just watching the cameras and their operators felt like a bird’s eye view of overclocked Disney animatronics or something.
After the band, the Warm-Up Guy continued, at one point tossing candy around into the audience. After more crass puns and audience interactions, a montage was shown of some highlight clips from the show’s run so far, then the theme music started, and Craig entered and began his monologue.
Early on in his monologue, he mentions the new Harry Potter movie, causing the girl sitting directly behind me to emit a strange excited squeak. Craig cracks a joke about parakeets, and continues with his monologue, which, of course, mentions Michael Jackson. It’s interesting to note that none of the jokes in his monologue today mocked Jackson–in fact, the only person he really made fun of harshly in his monologue was himself–but he admitted that he has made fun of the icon in the past, but gave his sympathies to the Jackson family. Once again, it showed me why I like Craig: he manages to successfully combine classiness and comedy–even lowbrow comedy.
After the camera stopped rolling on the monologue, he addressed us, the audience, personally, confessing that he was a bit nervous about having to do the Jackson monologue, but he knew he had to do something. He then went on to mock some of the other TV hosts’ coverage of Jackson, noting his skepticism that Jackson was actually the soundtrack to Wolf Blitzer’s life. “MOZART is the soundtrack to your life, Wolf!”
They then filmed a few more bits, including puppets and emails…sadly, no real “sketches” so to speak, but what are you going to do. After the bits were done, Craig changed his tie, saying that they had to shoot an interview for tomorrow night’s show today, and revealing the secret of time travel as a tie–and an effeminate walk, as he floated around the stage waving his arms for effect.
The interview shot for tomorrow night was Julie Chen. When the cameras started rolling, Craig made note that it was Wednesday and he was wearing his Wednesday tie, and I wondered if people who would watching at home would be scratching their heads over why the studio audience found that so funny. After Julie’s interview, Craig changed back into his other tie, and the cameras started again. Evan Rachel Wood was interviewed, promoting her role in “Whatever Works”. Wood is gorgeous in person, and much funnier than I expected. And, of course, my brother co-starred with her once (if being an extra counts as co-starring). Finally, Christopher Gorrham was interviewed, during which Craig accidentally made a callback to the Chen interview for tomorrow, to the studio audience’s delight (and no doubt the TV audience’s confusion, assuming they didn’t edit it out).
All in all, it was a fantastically fun experience, one I would do again in a heartbeat. I wish I could stay up and watch the episode on TV (partially to see if the back of my head is visible or to hear if my laughter is audible, and partially just because I like watching The Late Late Show), but I have a 5:12 AM call time for The Guild tomorrow. Good night, all.