Author Topic: 'Late Show' visit unique  (Read 1174 times)

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'Late Show' visit unique
« on: March 05, 2009, 03:03:20 PM »
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To get a seat for the Late Show with David Letterman, you had better get up very early and have a lot of patience.

Even after 16 years, it is still the hottest show in town and the ultimate tourist attraction.

I was not expecting it to be so difficult.

It all starts by standing in line at 9 a.m., in the freezing cold, in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway. I am surrounded by people from all over the world - Sweden, Ireland, you name it. We're all praying for last-minute tickets.

After filling out a form, you are taken to a small room for a quick interview, where your Letterman knowledge is utterly tested. You then cross your fingers and hope to receive a phone call, since it's a lottery that decides things.

I got lucky this time. Thousands of people tried to get in on Tuesday night. U2 is in the house all week, which explains at least part of the madness.

The show doesn't air live, of course, but is recorded at 4:30 p.m., local time. But for the 500 lucky members of the audience, it all starts at 2:30 p.m.

We stand in line again, ID in hand, to get a number. We then are given strict instructions: No using the restroom, no gum-chewing, no drinking, no eating, no cell-phoning, and most important, no picture-taking from now on.

At 3 p.m., we all meet in an empty theatre across the street. On my way there, I notice a crowd - and 20 heavily armed policemen - in front of a French bistro.

I ask a gun-toting cop, "What's going on?" He doesn't blink. But a nearby fan shouts out, "U2 is having dinner with Mayor Bloomberg."

You can see them through the window. Talk about a power lunch!

At 3:15 p.m., U2 emerges from lunch and Bono takes the time to sign some autographs, which, of course, causes chaos on 53rd Street. Taxis honking, people screaming. It's amazing how calm Bono remains.

Bono then jumps into a big SUV to go to the Ed Sullivan Theatre, which is only a block away. Hey, not very green friendly, Bono!

Then it was time for the instructions session. They separate all 500 of us into five rows. Then a cheerleader gets on stage to tell us the Letterman rules.

"No matter what Dave does or says, you laugh harder than ever - you can think about the joke on your way home," we are told. "Keep the smiles for your living room. Here we want belly-laughs."

We all had to practise our belly-laughs. What is this, group therapy?

"If you don't react enough to the jokes, Dave won't be as good, and some of the jokes will be cut in the editing process and kept for a more receptive crowd," he continues.

We've been warned. The pressure is really on us.

4:10 p.m.: Time to go to the Ed Sullivan Theatre. We all file in, kindergarten-style. Inside we are welcomed by more cheerleaders. They're jumping, clapping and smiling a bit too much. The scene is surreal.

First reaction? The room is smaller than it appears on TV. Microphones are suspended above our heads to amplify our excitement. Every row is watched by a security guard. Purses and toques are moved out of the way. They're not pretty for the cameras.

A comedian gets on stage to warm us up with jokes about New York. Someone in the background is polishing the floor. The members of the CBS orchestra, Paul Shaffer and redhead announcer Alan Kalter make their entry, one by one.

Meanwhile, we just keep clapping like there is no tomorrow, hands on fire.

4:25 p.m.: Here comes Dave, running on stage, without his jacket. He's tall and thin. He talks about the crazy weather and the state of the theatre when he took it over in 1993. "This place was a (bleep)-hole, you cannot imagine," he says before running backstage, just in time for the opening of the show.

All his jokes are written on cue-cards next to the camera. Dave is pretty old-school. During commercial breaks, the band keeps playing to ensure that the audience stays wound up. Dave removes his jacket each time and knocks on his microphone with a pen, like a kid. He chats with the staff. No stress.

U2 eventually brings down the house, with Bono's signature peace sign enough to make the audience members jump out of their seats.

"Well, that was a nice rehearsal," Letterman concludes in his typical deadpan style.

All things considered, an interesting experience.

Oh, I almost forgot: Yes, they change the cups between each guest.