Posted November 8, 2015
By EMILY EIDELMAN
NEW YORK — I’ve been waiting to see Stephen Colbert for more than six years. I started watching “The Colbert Report” when I was 15. The first obstacle keeping me from the show was my age, as you have to be at least 18 to see a live production of any late night show. After that, tickets were nearly impossible to get for either show – until last September. A Monday afternoon spent on Reddit lead me to the “Late Show” subreddit.
The first post? October tickets just released.
A ticket to see the “Late Show” is one full page. Of course they include the necessary information – date, time, rules, but it is dominated by a seductive picture of Colbert on the bottom half of the page.
These tickets immediately set the tone for the experience I was going to have in six weeks. I watched Colbert every single night. I couldn’t wait.
It wasn’t until after I got the tickets that I planned my trip to New York. I took advantage of two extra days off of school at the University of Miami for the vacation.
I planned each day full of activities, since it was only my third time in the city. After researching others’ experiences at the “Late Show,” I knew to keep that Thursday completely open.
It was finally Oct. 8. I woke up that morning eager and excited, for one of my dreams was about to come true. Tickets to the “Late Show” are free, but they oversell. I knew my boyfriend, Charlie Berk, and I would have to arrive before the 3:15 start time to guarantee seats. I got in line at 12:15 and there were six people in front of me. Just 20 minutes later, the line stretched around the corner.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve gone to see a show’s taping, in fact, it’s the second time we’ll be seeing Colbert,” said Nancy Pollak, a woman who stood in line ahead of us. “You have to have a printed ticket and you have to come early. Standby is nearly impossible. Every seat in that theater is valuable.”
She was right. As the first hour passed, more and more ticket-holders staked their place in line and hopeful fans put their name on the standby list. At 2 o’clock, they began setting up ropes and scaffolding. After they herded us into a twisted line, they gave us each a number and a hand stamp. I was No. 7, Charlie was No. 8. “Late Show” employees asked us to leave and come back in an hour, getting back into line in the order of our numbers.
At 3:30, everyone was back, and we were at the front of the line. They shuffled us into the theater, cramming us into a corner. It would be another hour of standing before they led us to our seats. I was getting tired and frustrated. The waiting and standing was not what I had in mind for my dream day.
Those thoughts evaporated suddenly, though, as they opened the doors to CBS’s Ed Sullivan Theater.
Ushers guided us and my new friends (you make good friends after you stand in line together for four hours) to the big, plush red seats in the front row. It was at that moment that I forgot about waiting. I was sitting eight feet from Colbert’s desk. This was the dream.
It took 75 minutes before the producers and stage crew were happy with our energy as an audience. They began by showing us an old, pre-taped clip from the “Late Show,” followed by a warm-up comedian. We had to practice laughing.
“I don’t think you guys understand the importance of your role today,” Paul Mecurio, the warm-up comedian, said. “You set the tone for the viewers at home. Your laughs are what fuels the show.”
Finally, Mecurio asked us the million-dollar question: “Are you ready to meet Mr. Stephen Colbert?” The audience roared. Colbert’s house band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, began playing. After five exhausting hours of waiting, I was standing just a few feet between one of my favorite performers of all time, Stephen Colbert. I couldn’t have been happier.
The guests that night were Cate Blanchett, the CEO of AirBNB, Brian Chesky, and the Dartmouth football team. At the end of each segment, Colbert’s producers flocked to his desk, making sure that he was comfortable with the content or questions about to be asked. Each guest brought their unique experiences to the show, and what impressed me most, was that Colbert was able to run with it. Every joke was smart and fresh.
There’s something different about hearing these jokes in person instead of through a television. Stephen Colbert humanizes himself to his audience. I could see how much he cared about each sentence that came out of his mouth. At the end of the taping, Colbert decided not to retake a scene where he stuttered over a word. It’s not always perfect, but the love and attention that goes into the show can be seen best inside the theater.
Seeing the “Late Show” was a priceless experience. To be a part of the audience is to be a part of making something great. If you go, take my advice. Get a good night’s sleep – the “Late Show” is a full day experience that requires a lot of energy.
Arrive early – the long wait is worth the guaranteed (and maybe even front row) seat. Have fun – remember not to get discouraged from the long lines, for the show you are about to see is definitely worth it.