Reflections on the Late Show

Last night we got to attend a taping of Colbert’s The Late Show. It was a lot of fun, and definitely worth doing if you’re a fan and can coordinate getting tickets the next time you visit New York City.

It pretty much played out as I expected. But there were a few things that didn’t:

  • They’re surprisingly strict about keeping track of who the tickets are for. It’s not possible to transfer your tickets to anyone else, and even changing the “guest” on the ticket (which we had to do) required special intervention by one of the ushers. Who was very helpful! Just make sure you allow extra time to get the change done.
  • There are no bathroom breaks during the taping, not even when they’re setting up for the next take.
  • The seats were better than I expected. Very comfortable, and well-positioned (e.g., each row slightly offset from the one in front of it) so there was no problem with sight lines.
  • The band is awesome! You don’t get to see them in action much on what gets broadcast/streamed because their role is focused on keeping the audience entertained, and enthused, during the setup for each segment. They do a fabulous job at that!
  • The average age of the crowd on the night we attended was older than I expected. I guess that’s in keeping with CBS’ underlying viewer demographics.
  • It was also whiter. There were plenty of people with more melanin in their skin than us, but not as many as I expected.
  • Most of the cameras are gigantic! I expected modern cameras would be much smaller than their tube-based ancestors but apparently not.
  • They also blocked off a lot of the monologue action for us (we were seated in the center of the theater on the lower level). Fortunately, there are TV monitors mounted every few feet on the ceiling above the seats.
  • One camera operator had this cool hand-held rig which he used to take shots while wandering around the stage…in a crouch. Gyro-stabilized or not (I suspect it was), I felt for him. Because it looked like a great way to develop lower back pain.
  • Colbert consults with one of his writers (not always the same one) between every segment. Last minute changes? Reminders about what to do? We weren’t told, but it looked intriguing.
  • At the end of each segment Colbert walks off to the side of the stage, by himself. He doesn’t interact with anyone on these sojourns. In fact, it looked to me like he was doing some internal focusing/prep work for the next segment.
  • He is very polite, as befits someone who grew up within Southern culture. Even when he flubs a line and gets pissed off at himself, it’s a very genteel pissed off state. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone kick something, repeatedly, as gently and as carefully as he did :).
  • The out transitions and in transitions to and from commercial breaks are shot after an interview with a guest is completed. The fact that it ends up looking like it was part of “normal continuity” is the result of post-production editing.
  • Speaking of post-production editing, our session ended around 8 PM…which means the post crew must have to work feverishly to finalize that night’s segment (we attended on Thursday, when they record both Thursday and Friday shows). Because it aired only a few hours later that evening.
  • The transition from “we’re taping” to “we’re done” was incredibly swift. In fact, I didn’t even realize we were done until the ushers began urging everyone to get up and leave.

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