Thanks to my mom, I spent Monday night in the audience for a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. However, what I saw will not be on the air until Friday night. As I kinda knew going in, most talk shows tape their Friday episodes earlier in the week. That’s what we saw. So, when you tune in on Friday night (and you should), what you’re gonna see was actually recorded on Monday. This wasn’t a big deal, except for the fact that no one really gave us a head’s up beforehand. So, all of the mentions to the Democratic National Convention being over? Lies!! Kim Kardashian answering questions about “today’s opening” of Disaster Movie? Untrue!!
So, here’s how the deception went down: you line up by 5:30 p.m. and no later. You are security-checked to the nth degree. Some speculated this hardcore security lineup was due to Letterman’s recent stalker arrest. Regardless, it rivals getting into The White House. You get your ticket, and then are told to come back in 45 minutes and line up for the taping. Once you do that, on the corner of 53rd and Broadway, a bunch of nice (yet overeager) staff members try to get you pumped up, but also give you information about the taping (e.g. don’t shout, if you’re not excited then Dave is not excited, etc.). You file in, and grab your seats inside the Ed Sullivan Theater, which looks pretty small once you see it in person.
You sit tight for a few minutes and then a warm-up comic comes up to get you in the comedy mood. He shows you a classic Letterman clip (in our case, it was the famous “Taco Bell drive-in segment”) and then tells some so-so jokes. After that, he introduces the band, concluding with bandleader Paul Schaefer. The band plays some cover songs, and then out comes Letterman, to say “hello” to the crowd. The show begins promptly at 7 p.m. The monologue is primarily John McCain jokes, because the Republican National Convention is right around the corner (except, it’s not!!). It’s pretty funny, and Letterman appears to be in a good mood.
During the first, and each consecutive, commercial break the band plays a full song. During this time, show staffers descend upon Letterman’s desk, and they go over what one can assume are the various details of the episode (which jokes are working, what a guest has to say, etc.). When we return, there’s a funny bit involving a guy from Wisconsin dropping giant water balloons on a used car. Then, it was on to that night’s guests. The guests were: actress/comedian Amy Sedaris, actress/reality-show star Kim Kardashian, and comic Brian Regan. Letterman is highly entertaining throughout, even when you can sense that he either: feels Sedaris is wearing thin, or really wants to flirt with Kardashian.
I grew up watching Letterman, and idolizing his showbiz spirit, so this was a great experience. He did not disappoint, and kept the audience engaged and the show on track. As soon as it was time to end the taping, we were asked to exit the theater. And, just like that, 60 minutes flew by and we had witnessed one of the last great TV hosts working today.