We all knew that this was going to happen.
As soon as it was announced that Jimmy Fallon would be taking over The Tonight Show and moving it back to New York City, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be making a pilgrimage to Rockefeller Plaza for a taping of the show. I’ve been a big booster of Fallon’s previous Late Night tenure and of Jimmy in general; despite the fact that I bleed Yankee pinstripes, I own a copy of Fever Pitch on DVD because Jimmy is in it (I never watch the last 15 minutes – too painful). I’ve also been a longtime fan of The Tonight Show, becoming first aware of the program when I was just a toddler. I think it was the sparkly curtain that Carson had that first drew my attention, but as I grew older I continued to have a strong affinity for the show which was only tempered by my general disdain for Jay Leno. He is the worst. So Jimmy Fallon becoming the host of The Tonight Show was like a perfect alignment of the stars – two things that I loved had come together and I had to be a part of it. I immediately began investigating how to obtain what I was sure would be one of the hottest tickets in town.
My social media know-how once again became useful and I was able to score a ticket to Fallon’s 16th show helming The Tonight Show. Since I had been to see a taping of Late Night in 2013, I knew the basic procedure for obtaining tickets and was much more relaxed about the whole trip than I normally am. This is not to say that I wasn’t a little agitated – since they overbook these shows, I’m never completely at ease until I’m sitting in the studio – but I did opt to sleep in a little longer and take a later train into the City, which if you know me you know that is as blasé as I get about anything. From my previous trip, I knew that getting to 30 Rock way ahead of the assigned time wasn’t advisable since they don’t permit you to get in line earlier, so I was able to take my time and grab some lunch and make my routine stop at Magnolia Bakery for their banana pudding. That stuff is seriously amazing – and I don’t even like bananas! It’s a good thing that I took my time since the NBC digital café where we were to assemble was locked due to constructions, so I couldn’t have hung out there to kill time and watched TV even if I wanted to. Despite this slight obstacle, I still wound up being the 20th person in line for the check in process and by 3 pm, I had what I coveted:
Having an hour to waste before we would again line up to go into the studio, I did what every woman in her 30s would do to kill some time – I headed over to the Nintendo store and kicked some kids off the demo Wii U consoles so that I could play them. OK – technically I didn’t kick the kids off, but as soon as a console became available I made a bee-line for it and didn’t immediately give it up. Whatever – it wasn’t really that crowded and those kids should have been in school anyway. I didn’t really know what I was doing as I wasn’t familiar with the controller (and too embarrassed to ask), but I still tried my hand at Sonic for a while. I don’t think I made it beyond the first level. My video game skills have really deteriorated. Regardless, before I knew it, it was time to head back to get in line for the studio.
I knew from my last experience that when they tell you to come back at 4, they really mean 4; come back at 3:45 and the NBC pages will politely shoo you away. This is partially a space issue – there are a lot of businesses in Rockefeller Plaza who probably aren’t too keen with people blocking their hallway every day. This problem has become even more exasperated by the fact that now two late night shows are taping in the building. That means a lot more people have to be corralled and led to the proper studios. Thought the process ran pretty smoothly, it took a lot longer than the last time I was there. This is one of the unfortunate side effects of bringing The Tonight Show back to New York.
While we were biding time in line, you inevitably wind up chatting with the people around you. I became a minor celebrity when people found out that not only had I been to see Jimmy before, but that I knew a little about the VIP ticket process. Being the seasoned veteran of TV tapings, I spent most of the wait answering people’s questions about the show and what the experience was like. They were also endlessly fascinated with what I do as my day job, which isn’t all that riveting, so clearly people were just making conversation. But I did find it funny that when someone several people back had a question, the crowd directed them to ask me. Give me my NBC page jacket already!
Because there isn’t a lot of space outside the studios, we were seated in small groups of 20. As we did last time, we had to go through security before we could take the elevators to the studio – a tedious process because at least half the people fail to follow basic instructions and set the metal detector off. My group was actually pretty attentive and we made it through security pretty quickly, though we joked that it was easier to get on a plane than to get into the studio. We huddled together and waited to be sent to the elevators.
And we waited….and we waited.
We must have stood there for 20 minutes, waiting for the page in the studio to radio down that it was OK to send our group up to be seated. After 10 minutes lapsed, I started to get nervous. This didn’t take this long last time. Was there a problem? Was it possible that we weren’t going to get in? While we were standing there, we saw Steve Harvey (one of that night’s guests) and Frank Knuckles (of The Roots) get on the elevator and go up to the show. While that was cool, this didn’t allay my anxiousness. While I was 99% sure that we were going to get in to the show – not that many people had gone in before us – that 1% chance was giving me angst. The taping was supposed to start around 5 and we were perilously close to that time. Even the pages looked confused as to what was causing the delay. WHY. WERE. WE. STILL. STANDING. HERE?
Then, at long last, we received the go ahead. We all issued a collective sigh of relief. Our brief nightmare was over. We would not be denied our dosage of Fallon and The Roots. We never did find out what the problem was, but the taping did not start on time. The studio was only about half full when we finally were seated, so there were still a lot of groups to be situated. Once I took my seat, I finally completely relaxed. It’s exhausting being this high strung.
Comedian/Tonight Show writer Seth Herzog did a little warm up with the crowd and encouraged us to be enthusiastic. He needn’t have worried – this was a pretty lively crowd, especially for a Monday. People were just really, really excited to be there. When I’m not the most enthused person to see Jimmy, that’s a hot crowd. It was during this warm up that we found out about a slight change in the guests: Demi Lovoto had been advertised as the musical guest, but while shewould appear on the show, she wouldn’t be performing. I found out later that this was because she wasn’t feeling well:
Instead, Bobby McFerrin would be the musical guest. I was pretty indifferent to both of them, so this change had no impact on my excitement for the show. I honestly didn’t care who the guests were; I just wanted to see the show. The Roots once again came out early to play for the audience and then it was show time! This was my third time breathing the same air as Jimmy, but it wasn’t any less exciting.
Jimmy’s monologue went much more smoothly this time than it did when I went to see Late Night. There weren’t any jokes that bombed and honestly, jokes involving Mayor Rob Ford are never not going to be funny. That man is a gift from the comedy gods. Having Sarah Palin material never hurts either. Plus we got to see Jimmy dance!*
*Sorry peeps….the dancing got cut in the final edit.
After the monologue, Jimmy headed back to his desk and introduced what I think was a new feature for the show, Celebrity Photobomb. I don’t remember ever seeing them do this bit before, but it was an instant classic. Jimmy and Jon Hamm teamed up to sneak into the background of toursits’ photos at The Top of the Rock.
My heart started to flutter with the mere suggestion that Jon Hamm and I had been in close proximity of each other; here I was, wandering around the area surrounding Rockefeller Plaza when my future soul mate Hamm was goofing around on top of the building. As much as I enjoyed this segment, which was legitimately hysterical, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Hamm would make a brief appearance on The Tonight Show when the bit was over, but that didn’t sadly didn’t happen. So close and yet so far. Actually, it’s probably for the best for all involved that he didn’t come out on stage because I’m pretty sure that I would have lost my sh*t and would have to be escorted out of the studio. I wish I was joking.
The first guest of the evening was Kristen Bell, who was there to promote the Veronica Mars movie. I’m embarrassed to admit, marshmallows, that I never watched the Veronica Mars TV show and am not a member of this particular pop culture subset. I’m sure the show is awesome and I do plan on watching it, but I’m not quite as caught up in the hoopla for the movie as a lot of people I know. Bell seems like a fun person and I respect her recent crusade against paparazzi. She also talked a lot about Frozen and its runaway success. I really enjoyed that movie, so it was a nice bonus that she brought Blu-ray copies of the film for everyone in the audience. Score! I’ve done pretty well with the free swag from Jimmy – last time I was there we received Olympic mittens. I’m glad to see the value of the swag is escalating – only 345 more visits and perhaps I’ll get a car 🙂
After a “commercial break,” it was time for Kristen and Jimmy to play Pictionary.
They were joined by Steve Harvey and Demi Lovoto. This was a fun, but pretty uneventful segment – the only thing notable was Lovato’s hair. I don’t think I really knew what she looked like before this – not my style, but she knows what kind of look she is going for. The team of Jimmy and Demi were clearly better at this game than Kristen and Steve; the latter pair did not do very well. Team Fallon marched on to early victory – and Jimmy couldn’t help but gloat a little at their success:
After another “break” (during which the foursome cut some promos for the show), it was now time for Steve Harvey to sit on the couch. He came out to the theme music for Family Feud, which is undeniably catchy. I’m not necessarily a fan of Harvey, but he was very entertaining. He told a hilarious anecdote about when the Honey Boo-Boo family was on the Feud; sister Pumpkin shut down production until she was brought a bowl of corn. That is AH-MAZING!
After that segment was finished, Steve and Jimmy filmed a joint promo for both of their shows. They did a “lip flip” bit, which Jimmy has done recently on the show with Tina Fey. Basically, though the magic of technology, Jimmy’s mouth appeared on Steve’s face and vice versa. The person is the supposed to try to sync up their facial expressions to correspond with what the other person is saying. This typically goes off the rails pretty quickly, which is what makes it so deliciously funny. This promo was no exception – Jimmy put on a mustache to match Steve’s but Harvey never quite got a handle on what was going on, which only increased the hilarity. I have no idea what they will do with that segment in the editing bay, but watching it unfold live was really fantastic. Even if that bit never airs, it totally killed with our audience.
Then it was time for Bobby McFerrin to perform. I enjoyed his performance just fine – he’s a very talented guy – but the best part was when he and Jimmy sang together. Jimmy looked so excited to be doing it that you couldn’t help but get excited too – Fallon’s enthusiasm is just infectious. I know that McFerrin is very well respected, but I didn’t know much about him other than that annoying song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” so it was cool to get to see him live. I had no idea, for example, that the song he performed (“Drive”) is one of his signature hits.
And with that, the show was over. Jimmy once again came into the audience and though I was closer to the aisle this time around, I wasn’t close enough to high five him without being obnoxious to the people sitting next to me. I saw myself on the monitor when he was in the audience, so I assume I was on TV during the end credits. Unfortunately, I can’t confirm this since my DVR cut off the end of the program and the video on Hulu doesn’t show this part of the episode. That’s OK – in my heart, I know that for one brief shining moment, Jimmy Fallon and I shared some TV time.
The restraining order ticket agreement means that I can’t go back to see a taping of The Tonight Show for six months, which actually works out perfectly since that’s just in time for me to go for my birthday. If you are able to get tickets to The Tonight Show, you should absolutely go – I’ll even give you a hint: like their Facebook page and you’ll be among the first to hear when they are booking tickets for upcoming shows. It was a long day for me, but well worth it. It’s absolutely a lot of fun.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights at 11:35 on NBC. Watch it!