Take the other day for instance. I was walking down Times Square just minding my own business when I hear a voice say "Free tickets to David Letterman!" I turned around to see people just walking past her, completely ignoring her. Being the consummate gentleman that I am, I approached her and promptly declared that I would take a ticket to see David Letterman. Which I did.
Now this is the time where I ought to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of David Letterman. In fact, I often find it hard to watch; I don't have anything against the guy, but he an I don't share a similar sense of humour. If given the choice between seeing Letterman and Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show", I would totally see the latter. However, I have never been one to turn down a free ticket to anything legal, and it could be a great experience to be in a studio audience; so I went.
I was told to arrive between 1 and 2pm ('2.01pm is LATE!' was scrawled along my invite), to pick up my tickets, and was greeted by a giant line of audience members all filling out their "I have a trick" forms (I saw no tricks that day). So I took my place in the queue and waited to claim my tickets.
Once inside, I was greeted by a pep squad that clapped and cheered us into the ticket booth where we were to claim our tickets. One asked me if I was excited and ready to laugh and cheer. I told her that they were New Zealand's biggest exports, which somehow persuaded her to draw a thick dark line down my ticket and march me back out to the front of the theater. Thinking I had done something wrong (you shouldn't be funnier than Letterman), I started leaving the door when one of the ushers asked to see me ticket. Noticing the big red line down the middle, he placed me in a separate section of the theatre, away from everyone else.
Picture this, if you will. A throng of people, most of whom are from other states (generally the south or the mid-west), on one side of the room, all practicing their laughter and clapping. Me, on my own, on the other side of the room, facing the people practicing their laughter. Eager to avoid a high school flashback, I stood my ground and waited for a couple of minutes before one of the ushers escorted me outside.
"Congratulations! You've been chosen as a VIP in our audience today! You were selected because we thought you were one of those who would be most likely to clap and laugh at Dave's jokes".
His enthusiasm suggested that I take it as a compliment however, and so I put on my 'excited face' and went with it. Turns out that being a VIP means I get to sit in the front two rows, and have access to the bathrooms before the show. Yep. I got to pee - the others, did not.
As part of my VIP experience, I was led into the basement of the theatre, where we were given 15 minutes to use the restrooms before being 'pepped' by what can only be described as an 'audience fluffer'. A very enthusiastic young lady who could only have been on some kind of methamphetamine, came out and laid down the ground rules. Basically, we were to laugh. At everything. If it wasn't that funny, we still had to pretend it was the funniest we'd ever heard, and laugh accordingly. And now I know why everyone thinks he's so funny. Because they have to, or they get asked to leave.
Okay, so it wasn't that bad. We were told we could be thrown out if anybody wolf whistled (interferes with the mics, and is douchey), took a photo (douchey), or used their cellphones. But I couldn't help but feel like I was pimping out my integrity to watch a live taping of a talk show. Once I realised the absurdity of that thought, I saw that I had already pimped out my integrity just by being there, and so I might as well give them the happy ending they were craving.
Then I got excited. I found out that the special guest for the night was Bill Murray - one of my favourite comedians of all time ever (I really want to do a Ghostbusters tour of the city one day).
We entered the theatre, and watched the show. Letterman was funny enough; though I credit a lot of that with the liberal fluffing before the show. We saw it all - an opening comedian, a few songs from the CBS Band (they made us clap the whole way through their entire set - at least 15 minutes), and then an introductory set from the man himself. I had a seat in the second row, which was nice and close to all the action, though directly behind the camera man and queue card guy - meaning I watched a good chunk of the show on the monitors.
The show was funnier live (though not as hilarious as you might have believed had you seen me laughing), and Bill Murray was wonderful, if not a tad obscure (he wore Shakespearean period costume). Overall, a pretty exciting day and a fun show. I wouldn't say I was a fan of Letterman now, but I certainly think he's better than I gave him credit for. I had fun though, and even though I am sure I cheapened myself through clapping, it was a great experience.
The taping finished about 4.30pm, and I was in such a good mood that I bought a fake iPhone, which didn't work. Not my best move.