Thursday, May 29, 2008

Five Tool Tool Gets The Colbert Bump

Tonight in New York, the Shooter Wife and I were in the studio audience for the Colbert Report taping. Here's All You Need To Know.

> The Colbert studio is in a relatively unassuming part of Hell's Kitchen, on the western side of Manhattan, near the southern part of Central Park. It's a pretty residential area, and if it weren't for a few awnings with the Colbert markings, you could easily walk right past it.

> Tickets are free, but are pretty murderous to get; I just happened to be on the site a couple of months ago when one lonely day opened up. Go to the site today, and you'll most likely see the tickets reserved for year in advance.

The reason why is simple: there are only 107 seats in the place, and Colbert has about 1.3 million viewers every night. I haven't talked to a friend yet about this who hasn't expressed profound jealousy.

> The line begins forming around 3pm, with conflicting e-mails that tell you to be there early, that your tickets might be revoked if you aren't on line before 5pm, and yada yada yada. We got there around 3:30 with stuff to read, and queued up in a dedicated concrete area, under an awning. It can't be pleasant when the weather's nasty, but yesterday was beautiful, so it was all good.

> Line tidbits... Daily Show guests can't appear on Colbert for two weeks after their appearance. I'm betting that if you are local to the show, getting in via stand-in seats isn't impossible.

> The audience is 90 to 95% slacker kids in their low '20s; it wasn't until we got inside that we saw anyone that looked evern remotely close to our age. The group that was in front of us was obsessed for some reason by the '70s Manfred Mann song, "Blinded By The Light," and kept singing the refrain, but with the word "douche" substituted for "deuce." I think their version works better, really.

> Colbert could easily charge for seats -- there's no one on line that wouldn't have given up a $10 or $20 spot to see the taping, and the income would help them pay junior production people, who are basically young NYC near-homeless -- but the decision is to keep crowd goodwill up as much as possible, for reasons we'll see later. At least two of the kids were chowing down on Americone Dream, the ice cream flavor that Ben and Jerry made for Colbert.

> Around 5:15, security came out to tell the crowd that the taping is a no drugs, no metal, no weapons, no food or beverage kind of place. Over the next half hour, we are led into a holding area that looks like a dingy passport office, or a beaten down post office, where security sends everyone through an airport-style checkdown. The room has a single monitor showing a Colbert DVD, and a restroom for each gender. Not exactly chi chi.

> Security, at this point, asked me to give up the FTT Garment of Greatness that I had brought to the show, in the longshot hope of a Colbert Bump for the site. I give it to a production assistant, who promises he'll put it in Colbert's mailbox. As good as I can hope for, really.

> After another half hour or so of standing around and wondering how long we'd have to wait, the production assistant who took the Garment clued us in on status (rehearsal just ending, seating imminent, bathroom now or never). VIPs are seated first (they have different colored passes), then the regular members of Colbert Nation. (We were seated stage left, in the third row or so; I think you can see us on the wide shot at the start of the show for a second. I'm wearing a red shirt, and the Shooter Wife is wearing a bluish-purple one.)

> The Colbert Studios, while small, are nice; it's pretty cool to be in the room you've seen a million times. It's also kept pretty cool, so if you ever go, prepare.

> After another 10 to 15 minutes of listening to pretty good alternarock, a warm-up comedian came on and did some improv insults of the audience. (Sorry, but my Crackberry was off by then, so no notes for his name.) That's a tough gig, because his time has to be incredibly flexible, and he's punctuating his act with show updates. The guy was a white insult comic with a shaved head; he punctuated insults of wealthy and douchey looking audience members (he also baited some lacrosse players, which made my day) with self-hate. It worked well enough.

> The "toss" is the little quasi-improv aside with Stewart and Colbert at the end of The Daily Show. It's touch and go as to whether it's done or not, and the Daily Show tapes first, a couple of blocks away. When the toss is done, the anchors are actually talking to each other via satellite, just because that's the tech they've got. Tonight, it was expected to happen, but didn't, to the audience's dismay.

> The studio has a permanent chalk outline where Colbert fell and broke his wrist, leading to the Wrist Strong bracelet gimmick that has led to a nice charity boost for the troops.

> Finally, the man himself emerged to take a few questions before the show began. Having been prepared for this from the Five Tool Ninja, who has also been to a show, I got the first question in. I stood to address him, leading Colbert to say, "How polite!" (Well, I'm short, and wanted to make sure to project.) My goal was to see if I could make him geek out. It worked.

"We know you've played Dungeons and Dragons, but Colbert Nation demands to know -- were you a thief, fighter, cleric or magic-user, and what was your alignment?" (I was going to also ask him about his opinion on half-races and half-classes, and didn't really want to use the word demand, but frankly, I was pretty damned nervous, and just happy to get the question out without tripping over my tongue.)

Colbert was clearly tickled by the question, and thought for a few seconds on the answer. "My last character was a Wizard variant from Dragon Magazine, a Witch. Her name was Lulu -- yes, I'm very comfortable with my gender orientation, and she was a 13th level Witch." Here, he threw me a curve. "She died from the breath attack of a black dragon, which is..."

Thinking hard and quickly, as it's been decades for me since I played the game... Red was fire, White was ice, so Black had to be... "Acid?"

"Correct! That's fantastic!" Smiling widely, he waits a beat. "I think I'm having a nerdgasm! Also, that we've alienated the entire audience." He then turned with comic derision to take another question, which was about the Saginaw Spirit. Deferring from hockey, he then talked up his new love of timbersports, rattling off names and tech for a few seconds, then finishing off with "Now, we've alienated everyone that we didn't take care of with the first question."

I can't tell you how happy I was to get the black dragon question right. Made my year, it did.

> Colbert flubbed the open on two different occasions, so if the crowd sounds particulaly overblown on the final film, it was simply because we were rooting hard for him to get it down. (You can also see a little fist pump from him on the first joke as he tries to get through it.) On the subsequent takes, Colbert moved lines around and changed the timing, and once he got past it, he was able to get through the second and third segments without a stop, though the second segment seemed close to wiping out.

> During breaks, Colbert talks to staff, dances around, and sings along to the music like he's the lead singer in a band, with eye contact to the audience as if he's expecting them to know, and sing, the words. (They played REM's "End of the World As We Know It" -- yes, the same tune that we had on the site earlier this week to honor your first place Rays -- and he pointed to the audience to have us yell, "Leonard Bernstein!") He's got the charisma of someone who simply seems to love his job, and that's why the show taping is genuinely fun.

> The interview with Sen. Claire McCaskill was OK, but the best part of it didn't make the air. Before the commercial break, Colbert whirled in his chair, pointed at his guest, and screamed, "You're going down, McCaskill!" As the Senator has clearly seen the show before, she laughed it off.

> All in all, the show was pretty good, and while we were both a bit hoarse from whooping and over laughing (he's funny, but when you are in the room, you're really trying to help him have a great show), it's a pretty good time. (But after acing the Black Dragon Breath Test, what do you expect me to say?)

And that's All You Need To Know...


Tracer Bullet said...

I suppose publicly admitting you were that deep into Dungeons and Dragons is better than admitting you tape your penis to your leg, head down to the waterfront and sell yourself to drunken and/or confused sailors . . . but not by much.

DMtShooter said...

You can smell the Bullet's ColJealousy from here, can't you?

I refuse to see why one boyhood geeky hobby -- say, collecting baseball cards, memorizing statistics, or furiously rubbing one out to any and sordid images of inspiration -- is any better or worse. So long as you eventually progress to more than one interest so that bear the slight semblance of a life, it's all good.

DMt, rolling his +4 Vorpal Blade of Nuance

cmjdad said...

Must have been fun. I can't remember you carrying on about anything in this way since the time you rambled on about your homoerotic fascination with John Kerry!

And come on, Manfred Mann's Blinded by the Light? How about Manfred Mann's version on Bruce Springsteen's Blinded by the Light (first song on Bruce's debut album, "Greetings from Asbury Park").

DMtShooter said...

Mann's video is much more fro-tastic. You're not beating that video for sheer winceability.

And as for my homoeroticism, Kerry was always too stiff. Denny Kucinich, now there's one wicked elf. We spoon.

The Truth said...

I can only assume that the 8 pens in your front pocket exploded through your pocket protector when you got the acid question right. I also assume you're in the market for a new slide rule as you probably broke it when you sat down. Also, how did your voice hold up during the question? I can almost hear your voice ala Peter Brady in the episode when his voice changes. Wait, damn. Who's the nerd now?

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