Not long after "The Colbert Report" premiered on Comedy Central in October, I requested tickets to a taping. We went to last night's show at the studio on West 54th St. in Manhattan (the old "Daily Show" studio). The routine was the same as when we went to a TDS taping back in November 2000: we waited outside in line for about two hours, then went into the waiting room for another 15 minutes before getting into the studio itself. The stage manager made a few jokes and let us know how he would cue us to cheer during intros and commercial breaks. Then the warmup guy came out and made fun of some of the people in the audience and used a few jokes from his usual standup set. Finally, just before the taping, Stephen Colbert himself came out, running around the set and milking us for tremendous applause. He answered a few questions, staying in "character" the whole time, then they started the actual taping. If you saw the show Thursday night, we were sitting two rows up, directly behind Rick Springfield when he made his quick appearance to help Stephen get "Jesse's Girl" out of his head. But they used a camera angle that didn't have us in it, and it was dark where we were sitting anyway. After the Herb Alpert reference mid-show, when they played part of "Spanish Flea," the in-studio commercial break music was all Herb Alpert, and Stephen sat at his desk miming the following: playing a trumpet in time with the music, mixing himself a drink, and a little dancing. It was fantastic: I could practically see the shaker and tumbler in front of him. He flubbed one line in the last segment (about the face transplant) and they had to start over, which meant we had to laugh at the same jokes twice, but otherwise it was a fine show. I figured out why they leave all of Stephen's prompter mis-reads in the show. Each act is one continuous take, and if he messes up part of the "Word" segment (for example), they have to redo the show from the beginning of the segment, which might be five or six minutes. It's hard to laugh at the same jokes a second time, so I think it's a wise production decision to go with the flow the way they do. And he's making fewer mistakes, so it's becoming less of an issue. We would have loved to see the "On Notice/Dead to Me" list make another appearance, but that's probably a once in a while gimmick. Still, it was great fun, and I'll have to think about going to another TDS taping sometime just for kicks. I still want to be in Conan O'Brien's audience, too. I've got until 2009 to do that one (the show might move to LA after that, when he takes over Leno's job).
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