Live (and Free) from New York…

Don’t tell my parents, but the main reason I moved to New York was for The Colbert Report. Going to Columbia was a convenient way to get here, but I came for Colbert. I hoped (I guess I still hope, really) to work for him, but that hasn’t happened yet. I did, however, score tickets to a live taping of his show, which excited me to no end. Going to tv tapings is, in my opinion, one of the best activities to do in this city – and the best part is, it’s free! It’s not just The Colbert Report that offers a fun and potentially fruitful afternoon activity, of course, but any of the tv shows that film in New York and require a live audience. I’ve been to a bunch of them over the past four years – Colbert, The Daily Show, The Tyra Banks Show (now in its final week of shows), Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Martha Stewart Show, Late Show with David Letterman, and Good Morning America – and it never gets old.

What does get old, unfortunately, is the trying and often futile attempt to get tickets to these shows. Because the tapings are free, tickets are typically unavailable for months at a time, particularly to shows that are hugely popular, like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. While it is definitely worthwhile to stick it out – the celebrity guests are fun to see, and some of the shows will feed you (Martha Stewart and Tyra Banks), in addition to giving away lots of free stuff (Martha Stewart is the best for this; she usually gives away at least three free things per show… more on that later) — the process of getting tickets can be confusing and frustrating, so here are a few tips for scoring seats at your favorite tv show!

1)   Keep your options open. You may have your heart set on Colbert, but Tyra Banks is fun, too! The more shows you’re willing to check out, the more likely you are to see one at all.

2)   Check back often. Some of the show websites allow you to choose a date when you’re applying for tickets, but often you’ll find the dates are all blacked out, meaning there are no tickets available. But don’t fret! Tickets sometimes become available for dates that are already blacked out, so be sure to check the site frequently for any newly available tickets.

3)   Check your spam. When you finally find available tickets, be sure to stay on top of your correspondence with the show. The show will be in touch with you to confirm your reservation, and they will usually give a deadline for when they need to hear back. I lost tickets to The Daily Show one time because the confirmation email went into my spam box, and I missed the deadline. Not cool.

4)   Be on time. The shows will give you a time that you have to arrive at the studio, and they will absolutely not hesitate to put you on standby (which is a group of people without tickets who are hoping against hope there are empty seats on that day. Standby is first-come, first-served), or to turn you away altogether. It may not seem like it when you’re there, but the shows run a tight ship, and by arriving late, you’re throwing off their finely tuned schedule.

Which brings me to the last tip….

5)   Bring a book. You will inevitably end up waiting in line, sometimes for hours. I waited so long in line in the freezing cold to see The Daily Show that my lips were blue and my extremities were numb. These are the times when the audience coordinators will seem disorganized and mildly sadistic, but it’s usually worth it! So bundle up if it’s cold, leave the layers at home if it’s not, and bring something to keep yourself occupied.

Finally, a note on free stuff: There are shows that pretty much never give free stuff (The Colbert Report), shows that only give free stuff depending on the guest (Tyra Banks, The Daily Show), and shows that always give free stuff (Martha Stewart), and a cash-strapped Columbia student is thrilled with just about anything he or she can get. The free giveaways range from the relatively useless – collection of peanut propaganda; Mike Huckabee’s Christmas book – to the pretty cool – DJ Hero; 50 Cent’s self-help book – but they always represent a profit. I might never use my turkey-shaped cake pan, but man, was I pleased to haul it home after the taping was over! Free tickets + free stuff = best way to spend an afternoon. But don’t let the promise (or impossibility) of receiving free goods sway your decision about a show: Jimmy Fallon’s show has great music (The Roots are the house band); The Daily Show is a solid hour of laughs; and David Letterman gets huge celebs. So even if you leave empty-handed, you’re still getting way more than you paid for.

Also, there are tons more shows that tape in New York than the ones I’ve been to, so do a little research, and find your favorite. I may be all about Colbert, but maybe Live with Regis and Kelly is more your style, or 106 & Park.

Oh, and remember: if my parents ask, the last four years have been all about my education.


Emily Mousseau, GS’10

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