Heather Visits Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

OK – I can now officially die a happy woman.

On Thursday October 10th, I was able to cross another item off my pop culture bucket list by being an audience member for one of my favorite shows, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Even if you read the blog sporadically, it is hard to miss my infatuation with this show since I seem to work in multiple references a week to my pal Jimmy and The Roots. The show just makes me tremendously happy and I was ridiculously excited to get to see it live. This was actually my second attempt to see the show; I had tickets for July that a friend graciously was able to secure for me, but unfortunately work conflicts meant that I was unable to go. Having already used up that favor, this time I got tickets the old fashioned way and called repeatedly when tickets were announced to be available on Twitter. I was lucky that I had received preemptive approval from my boss to take off whatever day I got tickets. Have I mentioned that my boss is the best? I was so excited to go that I couldn’t sleep the night before – I was like a kid on Christmas Eve.

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Having gone to see The Daily Show earlier in the summer, I had some vague familiarity with the ticket process. You don’t actually get tickets for the show ahead of time, but receive them the day of the show after waiting in line. There is always a chance that you won’t get a ticket, as they give out more reservations than there are seats to ensure a full crowd. Every show does it differently, however, and there turned out to be a fairly different procedure for Late Night than I anticipated. The first major change was that we waited for our tickets inside; while I wound up sitting on a NYC sidewalk when I went to see The Daily Show, this time I was inside the NBC digital café and was shielded from the elements. This was much appreciated and kudos to the fans of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report that wait outside for hours in December and January. Because the line is inside, NBC has more control over it and they will not let a line form before they are ready. This I was unprepared for and I arrived early to make sure that I could get a good spot in line, so I had some time to kill waiting for the official waiting to begin. Thankfully, there was a big screen TV to watch in the café, so I spent some time kicking back and watching Days of Our Lives. Sadly, I discovered later that while I was watching the exploits of the residents of Salem, Paul McCartney was holding a free pop-up concert close by in Times Square. I was plenty disappointed – that would have been pretty awesome to see.

Around 2:30, they finally let us get into line. We were assured that everyone with a reservation would get a ticket, though I was a little bummed out by this process as it didn’t reward people who had gotten there early. Because the room was so small and had gotten so crowded, the line was really a well-organized mob. Though I had been there since around 1, I was toward the back of the line simply because the line started forming on the other side of the room and I happened to be in what turned out to be a bad position. It wasn’t the end of the world – it’s a small studio so any seat is really a fine seat – but I’ll know for next time that unlike The Daily Show, the early bird does not necessarily get the worm in this case. But even this potentially poor pole position wasn’t going to damper my mood – I was going to see Jimmy!!!!! I was so excited that I had to have them repeat the next steps for me; once I had the ticket in my hand I just couldn’t focus.

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Once I received my ticket, I had some time to kill before we could line up again to go into the studio. Since we only had a little over an hour before we needed to reassemble, I decided to explore Rockefeller Center. Shopping bags were not permitted in the studio so I couldn’t buy anything, but I had fun wandering around the nearby shops (you know that I spent some time in the LEGO store!). While I was strolling about, I noticed a camera crew filming in one of the elevators banks in 30 Rock. Curious, I decided to stick around to see what was going on – I thought there was a possibility that Jimmy was filming a bit for the show and perhaps I could catch a glimpse of him. I couldn’t really get a good angle to see what they were doing, but when the filming was done, it turned out to be none other than Vanilla Ice! I have no idea what they were filming, but it was truly a random celebrity sighting. I was embarrassed that I recognized him so quickly; that info really should have been purged from my brain in the 90s.

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At 4 pm it was finally time to line up to be taken to the studio; while we were waiting to go in, representatives from the show pulled a lot of young people out of line to ask them to fill in the band bench seats during the musical act. These are the people that you see standing on the sides of the stage during the performance; you are really close to the band, but the tradeoff is that you sit in the back of the audience for the show. The women in line around me were outraged that I wasn’t chosen for this since I was “young.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was closer to their age than the people that they were pulling out of line. I honestly had no interest in being in the band seats; at this point of the day, my feet were in complete agony (knee high boots & NYC sidewalks are not a great match) and the thought of having to stand for any prolonged period of time was not at all appealing. I also didn’t care at all for the musical guests (Jeff Beck and Brian Wilson) so I don’t know how enthusiastic I could pretend to be. I was perfectly happy to not be picked, though it was flattering that people thought I should have been selected.

The fact that I went to the show by myself worked in my favor, as I still wound up with really great seats because they had to fill in the crowd. I lucked out that there was one empty seat in the second row, so despite the fact that I was one of the later “groups” to be seated, I still got some prime real estate. While we waited for everyone to be situated and for the show to start, we got to watch video of some of the sketches and bits from previous episodes. From the response of the crowd, it was easy to determine who in the audience watch the show regularly and who doesn’t. Those that had seen the sketches before merely chuckled, while to some this was obviously something that they were seeing for the first time based on how hard they were laughing. Taking a look around the crowd, it was far more diverse than I would have anticipated. There were people of all ages in the audience and a fair amount of racial diversity as well. Everyone loves Jimmy.

Comedian Seth Herzog came out to warm up the crowd; I recognized him as he is often featured in many of the sketches that the show does. This warm up was a lot different from The Daily Show, as he didn’t really tell many jokes and only gave us the most basic instructions on how to behave. When I went to see The Daily Show, they made us practice our response to make sure that we were loud and enthusiastic enough; at Late Night they were way more relaxed about the whole thing. We were encouraged to react to anything we found funny and to be energetic, but it wasn’t so regimented. Plus we didn’t get yelled at, unlike my experience at The Daily Show. Late Night doesn’t “juice” the audio for the show, but they do have an applause sign that they flash when they need a big reaction. Maybe because they have that to rely on they don’t stress out as much about it. After the basic procedures were outlined, two audience members were chosen to have a dance off, which was fun (mostly because I wasn’t chosen – that would have been a nightmare). Unlike The Daily Show, we were forbidden to take any photos of the set and Jimmy didn’t come out to see the crowd (boo to both). Our first time seeing him would be when he came out from behind the curtain.

The Roots, however, did come out early and did a little jam session for us to get us ready for the taping. They were fabulous, as expected, and it was really cool to get to see Questlove live and in person. I was unprepared for just how loud they were – since it was a small studio, it was very easy for them to overpower us. Higgins, Jimmy’s Ed McMahon, came out and said hello and cracked a few jokes and then we were ready for the show to begin! Hearing The Roots play the first notes of the theme song gave me goose bumps. We hooted and hollered as they went through the guests for the show (Katy Perry, Jessica Seinfeld and the aforementioned Beck and Wilson) and then it was time for the curtain to open and for Jimmy to come out……

…and suddenly, there he was! Jimmy Fallon and I were in the same room! It’s a miracle that I didn’t pass out.

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Because we were sitting so close, our row didn’t immediately realize that the rest of the audience was giving Jimmy a standing ovation, so we were a little late to the game. I wish we had been briefed that this was allowed or I would have been quicker to my feet. My slow response was of course not an indication of my excitement, but I still felt bad that we were a little behind the group.  Unbeknownst to us, there was a camera man shooting this from the back of the audience. I was able to find myself during the broadcast, so the back of my head was on national TV, which was exciting though being on TV has become old hat from Yankee games.

Jimmy told us all to sit down and launched into his monologue. I was sitting directly behind the guy holding the cue cards, so I was directly in Jimmy’s sight line. I knew that he didn’t actually see me and was reading the cue cards, but it still freaked me out a bit that he appeared to be staring at me. Prolonged eye contact makes me nervous. Several jokes in the monologue didn’t work very well – the first time Jimmy handed the cue card off to someone in the audience to commemorate the stinker. I was surprised to see that none of this made the broadcast – the monologue was edited to remove that entire section. I’ve seen jokes that bomb being left in before, but perhaps it was because this entire topic of jokes didn’t work they chose to remove it. Probably wouldn’t make for the best TV. This was the only rough patch in the monologue; the rest of the jokes went over very well. As a cat owner, I especially appreciated this one:

A new study found that dogs can actually feel genuine love for their owners. While cats just keep a journal of all the things they hate about you.

It’s funny because it’s true.

Since I was there on a Thursday, we got to see one of my favorite segments “Late Night Hashtags” where Jimmy reads some of the Tweets that people send on the topic he announced the day prior. I had toyed with the idea of participating that week since I knew I would be there when he read some of the Tweets, but decided against it in the million to one shot that he actually read my response while I was sitting in the audience. That would have just been too much for me to handle.

 

The first guest was Katy Perry, who was not performing but was there to promote her appearance on Saturday Night Live that weekend. The Roots played “Your Body is a Wonderland” when Perry entered, a nod to her boyfriend John Mayer. Perry came out in a weird school girl look that I didn’t think necessarily worked; she’s normally much prettier. I think it was the pigtails that were the problem.

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I was surprised to discover that Perry is a big fan of comedians. She listed Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Amy Sedaris as heroes of hers. I call B.S. on her assertion that she didn’t know what a box set is; Perry is about the same age as my brother and he’s heard of them.

 

Jimmy and Katy played a game in the second segment of the show and this time I was sad that I hadn’t been selected to participate. They played Taboo with two audience members, a game that I happen to be quite skilled in. Perry joked around a lot in this segment, pretending that the buzzer for the game was an electric razor. It was mildly amusing, but she probably shouldn’t quit her day job.

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This is the first time that I remember them playing Taboo on the show and it was a little rough around the edges. There was a lot of confusion as to when the contestants could start giving clues and for someone who said she played the game a lot, Perry seemed to not understand the basic rules of the game. The contestants from the audience weren’t that great at the game either – I guarantee that I could have gotten someone to guess ‘pop rocks’ if I was playing – but it was still fun and upbeat. During the “commercial break” Perry and Fallon taped some promos for larger markets. I’d never seen these promos before, as Albany is far from a large market.

Next up was a cooking segment with Jessica Seinfeld, wife of Jerry. She was frantically scanning the audience before the segment started, apparently because one of her kids had come out to watch the taping. I had to laugh over this – like anyone at NBC was going to lose a Seinfeld kid – but I guess that is a normal parental reaction. Not surprising, Jerry made an appearance during this segment; he’s been popping up at most of her appearances and though he wasn’t scheduled to be at Late Night, I was pretty sure that he would turn up. Let’s be honest – without the Seinfeld name attached to it, ain’t no one interested in this lady’s cookbooks. Jerry was awesome as always and certain livened up the interview. Cooking segments are tough, as the audience really can’t see what is happening, but Jerry is just so funny that this was easily my favorite part of the show. This was the second time that I saw Jerry in little over a week – perhaps Seinfeld is stalking me? My interest was piqued for his wife’s cookbook – it’s geared toward novice cooks and has instructional videos that you can play on your smart phone simply by taking a photo of the page. That’s something I might actually use.

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During the next “commercial” break, we were told to look under out seats for gloves. This made me a little nervous – why did we need gloves? It was definitely chilly in the studio, but the timing seemed weird. For half a second I was worried that they were going to be throwing something into the audience that we needed some protection from. My brain always goes to worst case scenario. I found my gloves and discovered that they had words on the palms: “Go” on the right and “USA” on the left.

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Ut oh. This smells vaguely Olympian. And you all know how I feel about the Olympics.

My instincts were right – Jimmy came out to tell us that we were filming a nationwide promo for the Winter Olympics on NBC. I was torn; it was very cool to be part of a segment that would be seen across the nation, but on the other side I felt like a sellout. It speaks to my love of Jimmy that I was able to swallow my pride and gleefully help promote a sporting event that I don’t particularly like. I’m convinced at this point that Jimmy could talk me into anything. Every time Jimmy said “Go” or “USA” we had to chant along with him and raise the corresponding hand. I have no idea if they will actually use the footage or when it will air, but I’m probably pretty visible given my perch in the second row. If anyone sees the promo, let me know.

It was now time for the musical act – as all the people from the back of the audience were moved to the band bench, we were cautioned not to spook Brian Wilson by yelling anything out. Wilson has a history of mental health issues and apparently can only perform under very controlled circumstances. I don’t know how smart it is for him to be out on the road given these problems, but more power to him for overcoming adversity. I honestly didn’t dig Wilson and Beck; the performance seemed very disjointed and the two of them didn’t really complement each other well. Wilson was joined on stage by former ex-Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks. I was more impressed with Jeff Beck, but the whole thing just wasn’t my cup of tea.

 

I would have rather seen THIS Brian Wilson:

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And with that, the show was over. Jimmy ran through the crowd to shake hands with people, but I was nowhere near the aisle and just had to watch other people get to touch him. Sadly, sitting on the aisle is luck of the draw and the luck wasn’t with me on that front. We discovered that Jimmy’s mom and dad had been in our audience, a fact that was kept quiet so they wouldn’t be bothered.  I was part of quite the celebrity audience: Ma and Pa Fallon and a Seinfeld offspring. Not too shabby.

Overall, the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon taping was much less structured and looser than The Daily Show. That’s probably partially due to their very different subject matters, but is also probably a result of Fallon’s background in sketch comedy on Saturday Night Live. There was more of a feeling of flying by the seat of their pants on Late Night, which was a little messier but also made the taping a little more relaxed. I would absolutely go to see Late Night again in a heartbeat; seeing the show live only served to further solidify my devotion to the show. I probably won’t make my way back to 30 Rock anytime soon, so I bought myself a little souvenir to tide me over until my next visit.

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Such an incredibly awesome day; if you get the chance to go to a taping you should absolutely take it – and invite me along!

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