I met America’s great patriot…and I loved it
First, a fun fact about myself: prior to moving to the US, I kept up with domestic news within this country by following fake news. I love the sardonic humor delivered in either a deadpan tone or with dramatic flair and pomp.
What is fake news, you might say. For the uninitiated, it is an hour of pure late-night hilarity and entertainment on Comedy Central. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (both existing mainly to mock the incompetence of modern media) have become two of the most iconic avenues for actual news. I’ll let the meme below speak for itself.
To cut a long story short, yesterday (27 Aug) I went to see the taping of The Colbert Report. This has always been one of those insanely unattainable things I had put down on my bucket list and I’m still coming to terms with the fact that it has happened so abruptly.
Tickets to The Colbert Report are free. They are also extremely high in demand for two reasons: first, because this is an Emmy-award winning show that has, over the years, raised the bar for late night television. Second, the producers have this weird knack for releasing tickets to a particular taping two to four at a time. Which means chances of getting tickets are nigh impossible unless you’re really determined about it.
Here’s what I did after several unsuccessful attempts at getting the tickets. First I followed DailyTix on Twitter. This is a fan-made bot account that updates every time tickets to The Colbert Report and The Daily Show go live with links directing visitors to the respective ticket pages. I observed the times and frequencies of when tickets to the Report were released. Next, I installed an auto refresher add-on to my Chrome browser, readied the Chrome auto-fill with all of my details, and waited. The whole thing took under a minute to materialize as I got the confirmation email that my reservations were successful. I was elated!
The next decision that fell on me was who should I bring along? It wasn’t really that hard of a decision as I called my very good friend Diana. We met during a pre-orientation gathering party and have hit it off rather well. I was glad she was free to make the show, despite having two pressing deadlines. Because that’s how journalists roll.
I went to the taping venue at 3.30pm, after a morning of reporting in the Bronx. By then I was exhausted and it was upsetting to see a long queue had already formed. So much for the front row, I thought. As I stood in line and entertained myself with a copy of The New Yorker, one of the coordinators came out and asked the crowd to split into two lines – those with confirmed reservations and those that came for standby tickets. More than three quarter of the crowd went off the standby line and I moved further up. Still, I was hoping we’d get front row seats to be able to high-five Stephen.
Diana joined me at 5pm and we waited a while longer with our blue placards that served as admission tickets before going for security screening. She summed up the whole process in a text very aptly: “are we going to a show or crossing a border?”
After the security screening, we were made to wait in a holding room for over an hour. The room was interesting because it was so typically “Stephen”. There were portraits of him in various themes and costumes as clips of previous episodes of the Report played on the television screens above. Two different coordinators came over to rouse the crowd at different times. The stakes were high because not only was the show coming back from a two and a half week of hiatus but they were also returning from having won the Emmy for the Best Variety Show on Monday. It was a huge deal and much of it depended on the enthusiasm of the audience.
When we were finally ushered into the venue, I was disappointed for not getting front row seats. They randomly called out five numbers and said they and their party had won the lottery – that is to sit at the front and high five Stephen. At least I was still going to the taping, I thought as we took our seats. The coordinators forbade us from taking pictures inside the set so I’ll not post the ones I managed to snag prior to being told not to.
They had a standup comedian come in to rouse the crowd. He was more offensive than funny but I guess it worked because people were raring with enthusiasm by the time Stephen came. It felt surreal to think here I was, seeing Stephen Colbert in the flesh. The same Stephen Colbert who used to be my favorite Daily Show correspondent; the very same Stephen Colbert who left only to return with his own show and blew it out of the water; and the man who created his own SuperPAC just because he could (and to educate America too).
Stephen did a few Q&As like he always does. He said it was our last chance to humanize him before he goes on stage to say the horrible things his character will. In short, Stephen Colbert was adorable. I wanted to ask him if he was going to follow through with what he said at the Hobbit panel at ComicCon about a Tolkien showdown with Philippa Boyens for charity. Alas he didn’t pick on me to ask him that – he picked the guy next to us who blew it by asking something ridiculously stupid and Stephen politely cut the session short.
The recording itself was hilarious and entertaining. Every time they weren’t filming, they had loud, blaring music playing for the audience to groove to. Stephen broke character several times and burst out laughing at some of the segments and towards the end pleaded, in a very Stephen-like manner, the audience to laugh at the jokes for a second time. He could hardly keep a straight face when doing the closing segment where he gave a shout out to one of the production crew who had a baby.
Overall it was great and worth the long wait. Though I really wanted a selfie with him, I guess my being there was itself surreal. It’ll be sad when the Report goes off air next January but the CBS studio is just a few blocks down.