May 15th, 2008 Taping of The Colbert Report... Report
During the course of the taping report, I’m going to give out random taping tips for anyone else heading there for the first time. And a small warning, one of the questions Stephen answered during his Q&A was not kid friendly/ NSFW. You’ve been warned.
May 15th, 2008 Taping Report
My roommate Devon and I arrived into New York at 12pm. after a four hour bus ride from Baltimore. I hadn’t slept very well the night before as I was too busy worrying about the Colbopoly set I was carrying with me.
We navigated our way from Port Authority to Columbus Circle by subway, using up the last remnants on our Metro cards from our New York Comic Con visit a month prior. From Columbus Circle it was only a short walk to the studio. As we rounded the corner of 54th and 10th avenue, I couldn’t help but take a deep breath. After all the months of planning this trip, after all the trials and tribulations to get the Colbopoly set finished, we were finally here.
Taping Tip: #1
See where we took the above picture from? Directly across the street, to the left of the studio if you’re facing it is where you want to start the line if you’re the first one there. There is a small, locked, fenced off waiting area that they unlock around when they’re ready to start organizing people. Just start forming a line at the locked gate, wrapping against the Colbert Report studio building, not the housing project next door. If all goes well, the line won’t get too long to block anything before Juan comes out to open up the fenced waiting area.
Everyone in line was really nice. From what I could see, the crowd was pretty diverse. There were a couple of families that traveled in together, including a family all the way from Canada and a UPenn student from India who brought his visiting mother.
At around 3pm, Juan came out and unlocked the waiting area, separating the line into those with tickets and those on stand by. A short time later Mark Mankoff came out and introduced himself as the audience coordinator and asked if anyone had any questions.
Taping Tip #2
This is Mark Malkoff. He’s the Colbert Report audience coordinator. Super nice guy. He’s also partially in charge of coordinating with security to make sure people can’t get back if you’re still within their six month lock out period. So please don’t think they won’t notice you if you try and come back within those six months. They will, and they will take you out of line and Mark has to be the one to do it. Bottom line guys, don’t make Mark sad.
We caught Mark as he was coming by, I introduced myself and showed him the Colbopoly set. He remembered my e-mail to him a couple weeks prior, took the set and said he would take it inside.
Not five minutes later, an intern came back and asked if I was the one who made the Colbopoly set. I nervously said yes and he proceeded to tell me that it was "making quite a fuss" in there and they wanted my contact information. I’m pretty sure I turned bright red in about 0.5 seconds upon hearing that. I quickly scrawled my contact info onto the post it note the intern provided me (I was so nervous, it took me ten seconds to remember my own phone number).
An hour after that, the other audience helpers started checking off our names and taking the names of the stand by people. At about 5:30 they started letting the ticketed people through the security screening area and into the studio’s indoor waiting area. There was a smattering of VIP ticket holders already in there sitting down and a DVD of the Best Of The Colbert Report was playing on an overhead TV.
Taping Tip #3
You can’t leave during the taping to hit the bathroom so now’s you’re last chance. Ladies, the line for the bathroom gets really long, really quickly. Most of the women sucked it up and joined the incredibly short Men’s room line. I was thankfully the second person in line and went straight for the bathroom the second I got in there.
Mark came back out a short time later, ran through some basic rules and answered a few questions. They were running late and were in the middle of doing last minute rewrites. Mark told us that Stephen doesn’t start the show until he thinks it’s funny enough. Mark then started a round of trivia questions with Colbert Report shirts as the prizes. I got the first one and I’m now in possession of an extra large TCR shirt that I could probably use as a parachute if I really wanted to. He also lamented on the fact that there was no gift shop for TCR, something I whole heartedly agree they need/deserve.
Taping Tip #4
Say hi to Mark again. Since he’s in charge of the audience, he’s directly responsible for getting the crowd ready and enthusiastic to clap and cheer properly and loudly. When the crowd is soft and not vocal enough, it comes back on him. So, to recap: DO. NOT. MAKE. MARK. SAD. Laugh loudly, clap twice as fast, make noise at the right time.
Soon it was time to go into the studio proper. I couldn’t believe I was actually standing on the set, just a few feet away from the desk. THE desk. Devon and I were lead to incredibly great seats. Front row, in between two cameras, almost directly in front of the desk. To my delight there was a gift under each person’s seat, a copy of the complete Persepolis graphic novel. That was a profoundly wonderful surprise as I had wanted to get the book for a while but couldn’t afford it. I honestly got a little teary eyed.
Pete Dominick took the stage and began his act. Right from the start he singled out Devon, who has a pretty obvious bushy beard. Devon must have had a target painted on him because Pete went on for a bit making fun of him. Eventually Devon was allowed to touch the desk in exchange for putting his beard on Pete’s head so Pete could know what having hair was like again. Too freakin’ cool. Pete’s set was hilarious and afterwards he went over a few more quick rules. Then, it was finally time for Stephen to make his entrance.
When I first walked into the studio, I thought it looked a lot smaller in real life. But the second Stephen came out, it truly felt like the entire room grew two sizes. He bounded around the room soaking up the cheering crowd. I got not one, but both hand slaps as he ran past the audience. After the cheering finally died down a bit, Stephen looked right at Devon, noticed the beard and says "Hi, Grizzly Adams. How’s that cabin in the woods?" And I started laughing hysterically.
After that he went right into the Q&A. I can’t remember all the questions, but here’s the three that I managed to hold in my head:
"Are Noblet and Geoffrey still together?" - "Yes!"
"If you could ballroom dance with Bill O’Riley to one song, what would it be?" - "IÕm Having the Time of my Life, from 'Dirty Dancing'."
And the real er... gem of the evening:
"Would you rather have penis sized nipples or a nipple sized penis?" - After a bit of hesitation: "Penis sized nipples."
After the Q&A, the show started in earnest. Hairdressers and make up ladies rushed onto the stage after Stephen took his place behind his desk to do last minutes touch ups. Suddenly the stage area was alive with people moving cameras into place and making sure the videos on the TV screens were cued up right. And then, just as quick, the countdown from Stage Manager Mark McKenna began and it was time to go.
The taping itself was a blur. I didn’t really have to focus hard on laughing out loud since I pretty much do it in the comfort of my own home every night. Watching Stephen adjust and get into the perfect rage filled position while a video clip was playing was really interesting to watch. During each break, Stephen would dance in his seat to the music blaring through the speakers. The show went off nicely, no messed up takes. I really don’t think there are words to describe the amount of jubilant energy Stephen radiates while he’s working. It’s something that frankly has to be experienced.
After the show was over, Stephen took his bows to another roaring standing ovation. During the last of his bows, he once again came right over Devon and mock stroked his beard. That put Stephen a foot away from me, man handling my roommate and sharing eye contact with the both of us. If this would have been cartoon, I would have burst into flames from how red I must have been turning. Stephen then faked pulling his pen out of Devon’s beard like a magic trick.
"It’s Majestic.", I offered about the beard and Stephen smiled and nodded as he pulled away.
After that my memory is a bit hazy as I’m pretty sure my brain had to shut down and reboot for a moment. Stephen thanked everyone for coming out and with that, he was gone.
We filed out of the Studio and meet up with Kelly (MadMoll from the Colboards). We chatted a bit, I was still pretty hyper from the show. We decided to wait outside so I could hopefully get a picture with Stephen. We waited for about thirty or so minutes until Stephen exited the building. We introduced ourselves, I told him I made the Colbopoly set and I got a picture with him.
And of course, my camera’s flash didn’t go off for a good second after the button was pushed so it caught Stephen a bit off guard in mid-sentence. Luck is pretty fickle that way.
And that was that. The end to an evening I’m never going to forget. I managed to hand off a fully made Colbopoly set to the staff, I got a tee shirt and a free copy of Persepolis (which was just as beautiful a read as I thought it was going to be) and I got a picture with Stephen. It was and absolutely amazing experience and I plan to come back in six months to do it all over again.
Page Branson 2008