Seeing The Colbert Report live: What it’s like and why you should do it

By CARTER BANKER | October 25, 2012

Recently my travels took me to the Big Apple where I was able to witness the wonderful spectacle that is “The Colbert Report.” Getting tickets is not as easy as you might think. The Twitter account Spiffomatic64 (I have no idea where the name comes from) gives you automatic updates on the tickets available for “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” I kept the Twitter page open in my tabs and it still took me weeks to get a ticket. You have to act really fast because the tickets are free! But I finally succeeded in getting two tickets, one for me and one for my boyfriend for the night of Thursday, Sept. 27.

I had to skip my last two classes that day in order to get to New York on time. It’s really important to get there early because having a ticket does not guarantee you entry into the studio. They overbook every show to make sure the audience is filled. I arrived at 4:30 p.m., and was about 30th in line, which was perfect. I suggest bringing some folding chairs and some food. They don’t open the doors until 6:30, at which time they give you a ticket and hustle everyone through into a tiny “holding pen”, so called because they herd you in like cattle and there is barely enough space for everyone to stand, and you’re stuck there for a whole hour. On the plus side, there was a cardboard cutout of Stephen to take pictures with and a TV playing the best moments in Colbert history.

Just before they let us into the studio, some interns came and got us all pumped up for the show, getting us to scream and telling us how important it was that we laughed obnoxiously at all of Stephen’s jokes because as a comedian he “feeds” off of our energy. So you know how sometimes you can hear a guy laughing really loudly in the background? He is actually trying to be obnoxious (and usually succeeding).

Then they let us in one by one according to our ticket numbers. We were told that we weren’t allowed to have phones, cameras or recording devices out at any time. As I was led to a seat a few rows up, all the way on the left, I looked longingly at the empty chairs in the front row. I think they were reserved for VIP guests, but I’m not really sure. Before we were introduced to Stephen, a warm-up comedian came on and got us in a laughing mood. He was hilarious, and I would have been satisfied with my night if I had left right then and there. But I had come for Colbert.

At around 7:30, Stephen came running into the studio and everyone started screaming...and we weren’t even on TV yet! You might be surprised to know that he is a lot shorter in person than you would think. But he is definitely no less awesome. Before the taping started, there was a ten-minute Q&A where the audience could ask out-of-character Stephen any questions they wanted (within reason). I was worried before coming that I would be disappointed at seeing “real Stephen” and that my experience at the taping would ruin the show for me. But real Stephen is a lot like character Stephen. They are both sarcastic, witty and charming.

The questions that people asked were really weird. One guy asked if Stephen, who is a big “Lord of the Rings” fan, could get him a fountain guard hat for his Halloween costume. They got into a back-and-forth, with the man in the audience waving his arms up and down like a gleeful schoolgirl, and Stephen claiming he had no idea what the man was talking about. As someone who has never read the books or seen the movies, I was utterly confused and even a little bit uncomfortable with the amount of extreme dorkiness that I was surrounded by (and that’s coming from a Hopkins student, so you know it must have been pretty bad).

As we got ready for the taping to begin, an intern came out and sprayed Stephen with an obscene amount of hairspray. Right before they began rolling, we were given a countdown to stand up and cheer and clap and scream. I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot to start chanting Stephen’s name! He began the show with an inside joke with the audience saying that we made him so happy that any one of us could guard his “fountain.”

I won’t bore you with all the details of the episode because you can watch it yourself, but I will tell you some of my interesting takeaways. First of all, Stephen barely needed any retakes — just two brief ones for words he mispronounced. That’s amazing if you consider the fact that he ad-libs a lot of his material rather than reading it off of the teleprompter. And if you’re wondering where that screen with pictures and videos is, there are lots of them positioned all over the studio for the audience to see, and Stephen can see the imaginary one positioned next to his head from a screen right above the teleprompter.

My fears that going to the taping would ruin my love for “The Colbert Report”were quite unfounded. In fact, I can appreciate the show even more now that I know a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes. If you want to share in my experience and become a part of the live Colbert Nation, go on Twitter and get your tickets today!

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