I’ve lived in New York for seven years, but until yesterday I had never attended a taping of a live broadcast. Actually, check that; I did once. It was for a show on Comedy Central called “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.”
Collin was gruff and rough and vulgar during all the commercial breaks, and the audience coordinator (yes, there is such a title) made us practice laughing and clapping over and over. The whole experience was interesting but not all that fun.
But Jimmy Fallon’s Show? That taping was a blast!
It all began at NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center, where I got to see real, live pages just like Kenneth on the sitcom “30 Rock.” They were all polite and took their jobs very seriously.
“Stand in line.”
“No, not that line.”
“Be at such-and-such location by 4:15.”
“Be quiet please. People are doing business here.”
After getting a wristband and waiting around for a while, we headed to a “special” elevator that took us to studio 6-B where Jimmy tapes his show.
Now look, I don’t care how cool you think you are. I don’t care how many fancy things you’ve seen. Walking onto a television set is exciting. And yours truly was grinning from ear to ear.
A group of production assistants handed out bright yellow t-shirts at the door. Turns out, Jimmy’s pulling for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team in the NCAA Tournament. The t-shirts were part of a bit for the show. This was my first legitimate inkling that I might get some tv time.
My friends and I got great seats and talked about how much smaller the set was in person. Then a warm-up comedian came out. I’ve always thought that must be the easiest job in comedy because the people in the audience are ready to laugh, and they’re excited to be on set. That’s how we were at least.
After getting us good and riled up, the warm-up comedian introduced — with great fanfare and the growing sound of a tuba in the background — The Legendary Roots Crew!
Yes, ya’ll. It was time to get funky.
And funky I got!
If you haven’t seen The Legendary Roots Crew, you are missing one of the best live bands IN THE WORLD. This is not an exaggeration. This is a fact.
My homeboy who got us the tickets to the show in the first place is a South Philly dude who I swear must have The Roots tattooed on his ass. That’s how big a fan he is. When the band strolled out I looked over at him. It was a look of pure joy.
The Roots got it rockin’, and then the show’s announcer — some older guy with dyed, hard, news anchor hair — came out to do the intros. That’s the part at the beginning of the show when you hear a voice say “Tonight on Late Night! Cliiiive Oweeeeen. From TLC’s ‘American Chopper,’ Paaauul Teutuuuuul, Sr. And the music of Vampiiire Weekeeeennndd!” (Incidentally, these were the guests for that day.)
The only name I recognized was Clive Owen, but I screamed and flailed like a lottery winner anyway.
In anticipation of the 0pening shot, lots of cameramen ran around the stage and a few people with cue cards got to their marks. I immediately dipped into my bag to apply more lipgloss just in case. Then the stage manager did a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown on his hand.
The curtains opened. Jimmy walked out. We went WILD!
He’s a cutie. He looked tired but very well-groomed. He welcomed the live audience to the show, and I saw a camera pan to us. I smiled and waved and tried to look into the camera instead of the tv screen overhead. (It always annoys me to see people in the crowd looking away from the camera to see themselves in the actual shot.)
But I couldn’t resist. As soon as I spotted myself on the tv screen, I just grinned and waved frantically. It only lasted a second, but that was me. On tv!
I was glad I’d put that extra coat of lipgloss on.
Finally, we settled down and Jimmy did his monologue. That’s all I’mma say about that, poor thing.*
At each and every commercial break, two make-up girls, one hair girl and one important-looking guy in a fancy suit surrounded Jimmy. The three women poked and prodded and powdered him. The guy talked to him in an official-looking way. I stared at this scene vigorously every time it happened, and bobbed my head to the music like I do this every week or something.
I kept imagining what it must feel like to have to carry a show like this. The pressure must be immense. To that point, I can’t say that Jimmy didn’t have a look of angst on his face. During one of the breaks when he took a few questions from the audience, someone asked how he liked his new job. Jimmy’s response? “It’s a lot of work.”
Yeah, I don’t think it’s a job I’d want. But if you can get a good view from the sidelines, it’s a helluva way to spend an afternoon.
* Except to say that Jimmy Fallon is massively unfunny.