“Stephen did a segment that ended up getting cut out completely from the edited version, possibly because the interview with Buddy Roemer was long enough without it. It concerned the Iowa straw poll and Michele Bachmann talking about why celery was her favourite food and Stephen made jokes about her and Iowa and corn and celery etc. He brandished a stalk of celery during the whole segment.”
Hello, all! Wow…I still can’t believe that I was actually there. I confess, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a taping report, and I didn’t want to feel pressured to do one, so I purposefully kept quiet about going to the taping. But after experiencing what I witnessed that night, and seeing everybody’s comments about it on the episode guide blog post, I decided that what I knew was too good to keep to myself. Fortunately I wrote down notes beforehand so this was easy to type up. I apologize and hope you’ll forgive me for being so secretive and for taking so long to write it. So without further ado…I present to you the accounts of my first TCR taping, through my eyes!
My BFF was supposed to come with me, but in the end she couldn’t, and no one else I knew could come with me on such short notice and my parents don’t watch TCR as much as I do, so I decided to go to the taping on my own. If there was any consolation, it meant more Stephen for me at the very least. My family and I live in NJ about an hour away from NYC, and I visit it frequently, so this was just another Manhattan adventure for me…with a very special destination at the end. The early part of my day was pretty low-key: I arrived at Penn Station at around 11:30am, had lunch at this little Japanese restaurant in the East Village that I love, then gallivanted about until it was time to walk to the Colbert Report studio.
I decided to take the 1 Train to 50th Street to gain some time. Once I got out of the subway, I walked along Broadway up until 54th Street, and then turned left and headed in that direction. It was good to walk around, even though the heat was stifling.
Suddenly, in the distance, I saw a patch of navy blue with a white curved shape on it amongst the reds, greens and browns of the city. And I caught my breath. My heart rate immediately began to increase, and I felt myself breathing a little deeper than normal. I had a very strong feeling that I knew what it was. I kept my pacing constant and just continued on. As I came closer, the blue patch eventually took on a more rounded, defined shape and revealed more white etchings in similar curved shapes. Once I reached the traffic light, it came out in full view. I involuntarily let out a squeak and raised a hand to my mouth. It was it.
It was about 2:20pm, but there were already 3 girls waiting, which I was a wee bit disappointed about since I had been hoping to be first. But I was immediately comforted by the thought that I would at least be one of the first 10 people. Then dismay hit me again because I saw (as you may or may not have heard by now) that the walls have been completely painted over, erasing all traces of graffiti. It’s all gone. Here’s the proof, with a stern spray painting of warning:
I felt really bummed because that was one of the things that I’d been looking forward to at a TCR taping. I was planning on leaving some graffiti of my own (all in the name of Stephen, of course). Whatever their reason may be, I guess it’s for the best. However, it didn’t stop me from turning around where I was sitting and leaning against the wall every so often, and placing a sad hand on it, wondering if I pressed hard enough, I’d be able to phase through the extra layer of paint right through to the graffiti messages and be able to read them.
From that point on, it was just a lot of sitting around and waiting while more people joined the queue. I chatted with people on either side of me in the beginning, but after that I was mostly on my own since they’d come with their own lot. But I had my iPhone with me so I did a bit of surfing and checking my e-mail and texting to pass the time. I also napped a bit since I’d been up since 7am that day and didn’t get enough sleep the night before due to being really anxious about my first taping, even though I’d read as much info on the CN forums as possible to prepare myself.
Finally, at 4pm, an intern came out (never got his name, but he was quite good-looking so I had some appetizing eye candy to indulge in from afar before the main course) appeared and starting checking IDs and names on that night’s audience list. I always get nervous when it comes to checking that someone’s on the list, like somehow it gets messed up and my name’s not there. Thankfully it was, and I was able to relax.
Around like 5:15pm, a girl came and gave us our laminated tickets in numerical order in which we were in line. I thought that I would be 4 since there were 3 girls ahead of me, but apparently 3 VIPs had the first 3, so I ended up being #7. But that was okay, ‘cos it was still a good number, AND it’s my lucky number! So hopefully it was a sign that there was a good seat ahead for me…
At about 5:45ish, they finally started letting us in. Went through security without a hitch, although I admit that I was a little taken back at how seriously they took the whole thing. And I was finally in the waiting room. At first I noted just how small and intimate it was, then I got excited about its furnishing and went a little photo-crazy.
When I was done taking pictures and getting refreshed, I purposefully situated myself right underneath the TV so that I could pump myself up with some pre-show Stephen goodness. Just as I had read about before in past taping reports, it was a DVD compilation of Stephen classics like Eleanor Holmes Norton (a true Formidable Opponent, IMO), BKADs (yay Robert Wexler and Barney Frank), Green Screen Challenges, WORDs (my favourite, “Sigh”, popped up), Barry Manilow, that sort of thing. In the beginning, people were just standing around talking so I focused on watching the TV. As time went by, people eventually began watching the TV as well. I felt a bit sad that I missed out so much on TCR, noting the nostalgia of these now age-old classic segments from when the show was just starting out, on top of seeing a show on the new set and the graffiti gone from the walls. But hey, better to experience it now than never.
At some point someone paused the DVD and a very energetic girl jumped on a high platform and started telling us the rules and regulations of the show, along with getting us pumped up and reminding us that Stephen feeds on our enthusiasm as an improv performer. She got us to cheer and shout to let Stephen know (who apparently was still rehearsing) that we were an awesome crowd and to give him a taste of the kind of energy for him to expect when he came out. It gave me a thrill to think that he was actually close by. After telling us more rules and that, as a Thursday night audience, we wanted to end the week on a bang and to just go wild (but not too wild), we continued watching the DVD as we still had to wait a little longer.
Finally, at about 6:50ish, the doors opened, a guy came out and repeated some of the rules again, then started calling numbers and letting people in. First white tickets, then red, then finally blue. I felt a slight tinge of smugness being one of the first few people to go in as I handed my ticket to the guy. The next second, I felt a bit scared by the imminent darkness facing me. Then I took a breath, and walked through the door.
I felt like I was in a whirl, and several things flashed at the corners of my eye but didn’t have time to pause and look: the giant paper mâché head of Puppet Stephen from the Rally, 3 single colour lockers in a row in red, white and blue, a desk lit with an overhead lamp and overflowing with papers…
Then blasts of light and smoke hit me, and I gawked at what I saw, scarcely daring to believe it. It was all there. The desk. The shelves filled with memorabilia from shows past. The interview table. Cameras and crew milling about in preparation. Spotlights flashing sporadically, attempting to touch every part of the vicinity with star-shaped glory. The bleachers of seats where the audience sat. And smoke gently wafting and filling every crevice of space in the vicinity, giving the whole thing a very dreamy, surreal feel. Standing in line, waiting to be seated, I tried to slow my breathing and found myself clasping my “Eat Me” necklace in my hand again. It was official. I had jumped down the rabbit hole (replete with objects on all sides that I did not get a chance to check out), and landed in a new world…Colbertland. I was really here. Oh my God.
Unfortunately there were a lot of VIPs that night who took up the whole front row. But I still ended up getting a good seat, right at the very far end of the third row on the left side right where the railing was, with a very clear view of the desk once the cameras were in place. I was soon joined by a young couple who were seated next to me. As people drifted in and were seated, I observed my surroundings and allowed myself to be filled with awe, trying to drink in every detail as possible and still in disbelief that I was really there. It seemed too good to be true. I noticed the overhead TV monitors above my head and I realized that was how the audience watched Stephen with graphics just like we see it on TV and how the crew elicited the proper reactions from the audience depending on what Stephen was talking about.
At some point I noticed the LotR pinball machine underneath a black sheet. My thoughts rapidly went from “What’s a pinball machine doing in the studio?” to “Wait, is that the LotR pinball machine from Stephen’s office?” to “OMG is he going to play it tonight on the show?!” to “Wait, how did they manage to get that down from the office? It must have taken ages!” Then I just continued relishing being in this new world, even if all I was doing was sitting, ‘cos I knew that it would all be over very quickly.
Listening to the music being played in the background also helped to pass the time. I never tire of admiring how eclectic Stephen’s musical preferences are. I didn’t know all the songs that were played, but it was a good collection that night. One of the songs that I recognized (which is one of my favourites) and that played while people were filing in was “Dirty Little Secret” by American Rejects. I had a fun time boogieing to that.
Finally, when everyone was seated, Paul Mercurio, the stand-up comic, came out, introduced himself and proceeded to skewer whatever lucky person was in his peripheral vision as his way of warming up the audience before Stephen came out. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but here’s a lowdown on what I remember:
- He talked about Stephen’s routine before the show, including when, once he’s at the desk, he “does 2 rounds of crack and smears peanut butter on different parts of his body”
- Said that one guy looked like a Jewish Seth Rogen with his crazy Jewfro
- Bonded with various people of Sicilian descent like himself
- When trying to get us to be loud and had us practice shouting, one guy was impressively loud
- There was one man who works in animation in CA. Paul was interested in him and told him that he was preparing a programme with various animation bits, and the guy told him that he’d seriously produce animation for him and gave him his card
- At some point he introduced Mark the stage manager, who was very nice and friendly and enthusiastic, who told us how the audience knows when to cheer and clap and had us practice a few times by waving a rolled up paper in his hand. After that Paul continued on with his stand-up as Stephen was still not ready then.
- One guy who brought two pairs of yellow-tinted sunglasses and acted obnoxious (I think he was just putting on a show to get attention). He and Paul traded faux insults back and forth for a while
- He told us how he hates his shoes because his foot was taped up and the shoes he was wearing were the only ones that he could wear, and he took off his shoe and sock to show us the tape, and he said it was the first time that he’s ever taken off his shoe and sock to show the audience his foot in all the times that he’s done the pre-warm up show before Stephen comes up (yay for being first?).
- Talked to a 24-year old gay guy in a pink shirt and Paul asked him, “If I were gay, would you date me?”, to which the guy answered “Yes.”
- Gave out his card to some people to let them know of a stand-up show that he’s doing later this summer where they happen to live (forgot where)
Then Paul got the hint from Mark that Stephen was ready, and he began to get us really pumped up. Once he was satisfied with the volume and raucous enthusiasm we were throwing at him for Stephen, he sweeped his arm around and called out for Stephen.
And out from the entrance where guests come out for the interview came running out Stephen, with his trademark grin on his face, to ear-splitting cheering from the audience and major squeeing from me. He hugged Paul, took the microphone, then proceeded to run around his desk and high-five everyone in the front row and his staff on the sides, with “I Want You To Want Me” blasting in the background. Then he flipped the microphone very high in the air (I held my breath), and flawlessly caught it to more thunderous applause and cheering. Then he took a deep bow and started motioning to us to take our seats.
I could scarcely believe it. It was really him. He’s even more handsome in real life than I ever thought before, though it did strike me how the years were etched so in his face compared to when he’s on TV and makeup and lighting are employed, but he was/is still so beautiful: the hair, the suit, the tie, his inner Stephen-ness…everything perfect. I had to steady my breathing. He began by introducing himself and asking, “Does anyone have any questions for me to humanize me in their eyes before I say these terrible things?” After reading that statement in so many taping reports, hearing it live just made me so happy.
I loved the Q&A. There was just something about watching Stephen focus all his attention on you and answering each question with sincerity. I finally did not ask him a question; I was advised beforehand that sometimes just watching the procedure gives you an idea on how it goes and takes the pressure off, especially if you don’t have a question that you’re absolutely burning to ask Stephen, which was my case, along with me being shy. Part of me feels sad that I let that moment pass, but the other part is glad since I know what to do for next time. I remember all the questions that people asked him so in no particular order, here they are:
• One guy said that he’d seen Stephen’s appearance in a car-themed documentary not too long ago and that [Stephen’s] done a lot of great movies, and he asked him if he would be in another movie soon. Stephen gave him this incredulous look and exclaimed “I’ve done a lot of great movies?!?”, then he answered that he was not looking at doing another movie any time soon, that TCR was where he wants to be and he loves doing it and any thought of adding more to that (doing 161 shows a year) makes him “want to poop blood” (ew).
• Another guy said that he was Stephen’s Venezuelan friend from January 2011 (who Stephen didn’t remember) who had come with his family and introduced them and didn’t really ask him a question so it was a little awkward and Stephen pointed that out and told him to ask him a question because he was taking away someone else’s potential question (he said this firmly but not unkindly). Finally the guy said that he’d gone to TDS the night before and his question for Jon was what it was like working with Stephen, and Jon answered that “it’s like f***ing pep” (I don’t know what he meant by that; if he means energy, then it makes sense). Stephen chuckled a bit, then answered in a flat voice, “I make a pretty good lover.” You can imagine the immense squealing and shrieking all the fangirls made, myself included, I admit, being caught up in the moment. It was still annoying to me how he tied up the Q&A by not actually asking a question and taking up question-asking time.
• The guy with the two sunglasses asked him if he’s ever doubted himself out of character, and Stephen immediately responded, “I am human.” He talked about how when he does things like testifying in front of Congress, doing the Rally etc, he always thinks “Oh, this is not gonna work out”, and he always expects someone to slap him with a list of fraud legalities (i.e. “You are a fraud.”) that will get him fired, but it works out in the end.
• Yet another guy asked him what his favourite musical to sing along to in the car was, and mentioned that he and his friends’ bets were on Les Mis. Stephen laughed then shot back at him, “You are DEAD WRONG!”. He said that he wasn’t very familiar with Les Mis, but his favourite musical to sing along to is Jesus Christ Superstar, and then he launched briefly into a song from JCS (I don’t remember/know which one; I myself am not familiar with the music from JCS). Cue in cheering crowd and a very squeeful and happy Anais because I’ve always wanted to hear Stephen sing live (and hopefully more opportunities like that will follow).
• A woman asked him whether he could let us know what he’s been up to with the Super PAC as it had been a while since he’d talked about it. Stephen first made a joke that made everyone laugh, but he told her that he would talk about the PAC in the show that night (a foreshadowing of things to witness).
• Another woman asked him which LotR character would he want to be if he could. Here he got really excited and said that was a very good question, then he answered that he would be Faramir, Boromir’s brother (I double-checked on Wikipedia to make sure that I got that right for other LotR fans). He then proceeded to go into this lengthy explanation on why, drawing very astute observations between the books and the movies and how they got it all wrong in the movies with that particular character. At some point, he sat down on the platform where the desk sits while still talking, with such an expression on his face that I just can’t describe, and just that image alone was enough to give me goosebumps. The man’s passion and knowledge of the Fellowship knows neither boundaries nor limits. I was very impressed, even if I couldn’t follow what he was talking about. It was a very good question as we saw later, since we never know what Stephen is going to be up to each night.
• A guy saw Stephen at The Book of Mormon one night, and asked him what he thought about it. Stephen said he loved it and how he loves the ending when the musical ties everything altogether and people understand Mormonism more now even if their thoughts and beliefs don’t change.
At that point he noticed Mark motioning to him and he said “We’re ready? Is it go-time? All right, let’s do this!” And he turned around and bounded up to the eagle’s nest.
Once he sat down, he explained to us that there would be no table of contents that night as there were a lot of jokes in the show and a possible 2-part interview. That was fine by us, as we were just eager to get into the spirit and cheer until we lost our voices and clap until our hands were raw. Then he explained further how there were 2 characters in the show. The first was, of course, him, but the 2nd character was us, the audience, and how he reacts to us and we react to him makes the show what it is. He then told us that he always tells the audience to have a good time, and with that he told us “Break a leg!” and gave us another of his warm smiles, which nearly made me swoon while the others whooped and cheered.
The staff quickly went into preparation mode, and 3 women went up to the desk towards Stephen, who promptly took off his glasses. One touched up his makeup on his forehead (I could see the face powder lightly falling off the makeup brush), another fixed his microphone on his tie, and the third one put the finishing touches to his hair with hairspray. As she was patting it down, he was smiling at her, and then he reached up and started patting her hair in turn. For one envious moment, I fervently wished that I was that lucky woman playing with Stephen’s hair. Once she’d gone, though, that moment passed.
Then he started launching WristStrong bracelets into the crowd. The guy of the couple sitting next to me managed to grab one bracelet flying over his head and gave it to his girlfriend, but no luck for me, no matter how vigourously I waved my hand ☹. Guess I’m gonna have to buy my bracelet on the website.
When everything was all set, Mark started getting us into position and, once he was sure everyone from the staff to us was ready, he began counting. The concentration from all sides was palpable. I knew I was in preparation mode. I was ready to start playing the game. When Mark finished the countdown, the credits were played on the monitors above us, and near the end, I quickly glanced back at Mark, who was motioning to us with his rolled up paper to get ready to stand up and clap and cheer. When his twirling stopped abruptly and he held it up in the air, the whole studio erupted…and we were off.
As we saw, the taping that night was not as action-packed as the night before, but it was still a great one. There were 3 character breaks during the whole thing, none of which made it into the final edited televised version. Good for the audience, bad for the late night viewers.
One break happened right at the beginning. At the point when Stephen was saying “take it take it take it”, he started laughing (which, of course, made us start laughing), and he apologized and told the manager that they had to do that over and that “it would be nice to get through the first line just once!”. He added: “I’m so sorry that I have to do this to these people, who’ve given me so much already!” Isn’t he just darling? Then he said the whole spiel on “no one else has to know about this as long as you don’t blog!” *shifty face* Oops. Sorry, Stephen. I love you, but it was too cute to not share. So we redid the whole thing right from the credits, but at least we got to cheer like crazy again (I was especially happy and excited to do the Stephen chant and cheer obnoxiously loud with the other audience members). But yeah, the line he says “I love that so much I could hear that twice a night!” has a double meaning in that episode.
The LotR segment went off without a hitch. People started cracking up when he started bringing out the LotR toys, myself included. Even for someone who’s not very familiar with LotR, seeing all those toys and Stephen totally geeking out was pure comedic joy. I especially loved seeing the giant sword of Aragorn. I then realized why the pinball machine was in the studio, though I was hoping that he’d play on it. I guess he probably wants to keep it in pristine condition since it is limited edition. Then at the end he made the little shout-out of being Faramir if he were a LotR character based on that woman’s pre-taping question which garnered much applause and cheers. I loved Stephen’s subsequent knowing smile and wink.
It was good to hear Stephen talk about the PAC again since we hadn’t heard more about it since the time he announced that the FEC had approved it. When he was reading the kids’ letter, at the point when he was saying their names and age, a photo of the kids appeared on the screens (they were very cute), which elicited the proper reaction from the audience. I love it when he fake cries and has that plaintive, wibbly lip look on his face, though seeing it live nearly did my heart in.
A second character break occurred after the crying: when he was leading into mentioning Karl Rove, he turned to his left and looked down as he was saying “Karl Rove”, then he let out that adorable sounds-like-he’s-exhaling-audibly laugh of his and did a little head-desk, which made me really happy because I love head-desks (as long as he doesn’t do it too hard). While trying to stop laughing, he said that the left side of his desk was so full of LotR props and that he had like 8 or 9 more hobbit figurines. You can imagine how hard we were all laughing at that. I thought that my sides would split. He redid the bit from when he was reading aloud the part in the letter where the kids ask him what the PAC stands for. It looks seamless on the edited version, but I know where the break is: the 1st run-through ends at the close-up of the turtle T-shirt and the 2nd run-through starts from when it pans back to him holding the shirt. Personally I think that his delivery the first time was better than the second time, but that’s just my opinion, and it was a bonus to watch and aww at his crying again.
As Stephen was finishing up talking to Ham Rove and wondering how to answer the children’s question, I could see a staff member quickly setting up a chair next to the desk and Matthew Dowd (though we didn’t know it at the time) quickly being escorted to it before Stephen’s introduction. I couldn’t see him from my angle as a camera blocked him from view, but that’s okay because I was more interested in watching Stephen and I could see him clearly. It went well, no mistakes, and it intrigued me how intently Stephen was concentrating on what the man was saying, and you could see the improv wheels turning in his head, mentally preparing “Stephen”-esque replies. The man is a genius. I can’t wait to see what he does with our suggestions on what the PAC means to us.
Once the theme music was done, the first break began. Dowd was led away and three men walked up to the desk: Mark, a man with curly brown hair, glasses and a cream sweater and khakis, and Paul Dinello himself. When he quietly came out, arms crossed and being all cool and collected, I let out a little gasp, since I’d seen him in Exit 57 and SWC clips and photos, but, again, there’s just something about seeing something or someone in person. For any Paul fans out there (if you’re interested), he was wearing a light green sweater over a white T-shirt and half-tucked into jeans with black boots or sneakers. Suited his physique quite well, I have to say, especially when there were times when the starburst-shaped spotlights landed along his silhouette perfectly.
Stephen was surrounded by these same men during each break. From where I was sitting, he was completely obscured by them so all I could see were their turned backs. The few times when one of them shifted a bit, I caught glimpses of Stephen intently looking over his script, occasionally crossing things out or adding something in, and looking up and talking to the men once in a while. He didn’t look stressed, but you can tell how seriously he takes his work, even though it’s comedy. I felt that I could watch him for ages. I especially loved seeing the real-life rapport between Stephen and Paul, when they’d smile and gaze at each other with the warmth of a long-time friendship and partnership.
After the break, Stephen did a segment that ended up getting cut out completely from the edited version, possibly because the interview with Buddy Roemer was long enough without it. It concerned the Iowa straw poll and Michele Bachmann talking about why celery was her favourite food and Stephen made jokes about her and Iowa and corn and celery etc. He brandished a stalk of celery during the whole segment. He made no mistakes and when we cut back to commercial, he took a bite of the celery. He ended up munching on that celery stalk the rest of the taping during the breaks and finishing it off before the sign-off, pausing to take a sip from that white canister of his every so often. After he was done with that segment, he said half-jokingly to us, “I hope none of you folks have dinner reservations.”
The breaks in-between segments allowed much opportunity for me to get a sense of what happened behind the scenes, though sometimes I wished that the people around me were more friendly or that I had a friend to chat with. But I was fine just sitting and observing. The waiting in-between the breaks went very long, maybe because of Herman Cain cancelling at the last minute and they had to tweak some things.
The song during the break before the interview was Cee Lo Green’s hit “F*** You”, and it was this song that people were boogieing most to. I quickly glanced at the desk, and saw Stephen and the curly-haired writer lip-syncing to it, which was pretty awesome. When Buddy Roemer was escorted out to the interview table, we clapped politely for him. He seemed to have a quiet air about him, and he just sat at the table patiently waiting for Stephen to come over and interview him. After an especially long wait, people started setting up again and we resumed taping.
Part 1 of the interview went very smoothly. Stephen’s attention to what Roemer was saying was so intense. At the end, the 3rd character break occurred, but only a tiny one. Stephen was trying to say “We’ll be right back…”, but he ended up saying something like “We’ll Barack back…”, which made him and Roemer laugh, but after a re-do, it looked just fine. During the break, Stephen and Roemer looked like they were having a pleasant conversation, and Roemer was foot-tapping to the interim music all the while.
Part 2 went just as smoothly, and you should have heard just how raucously people were laughing during the “Cone of Silence” bit, especially when Roemer was trying to turn it off and Stephen said “Just tap it, Grandpa”. I know I was laughing really hard. He just looked so silly, and it was a very creative prop, too.
I admit I had been a wee bit apprehensive about the interview, but finally I was pleasantly surprised. Having never heard of him before, Roemer came off as surprisingly friendly and good-natured for a Republican, which was a nice change, and what he had to say made sense and had somewhat of a foundation. It’s still too early to tell what I really think of him, but that night, from where I was sitting, he seemed like a good sport and he and Stephen seemed to get along quite well. Being a Muslim and being very irked by some of the anti-Muslim comments that Cain has made, Roemer made a very good replacement and possibly made the evening all the more better for me.
When Roemer left and Stephen went back to his desk, the song that came on was Movits!, and people also boogied to this song. Stephen was hand-tapping on top of his desk to it. It made me remember the 2009 episode when Movits! came on TCR and how they came to be on the show, as well as exemplifying Stephen’s unique taste in music. It was fun to watch Stephen and his staff occasionally lip-syncing, foot-tapping and hand-tapping to the background music throughout the taping.
The sign-off went perfectly, and I wondered if he could hear properly at all with that prop over his head or if everything was muffled. Once the cameras were turned off and Stephen took the thing off his head, he put it down on the desk and, with a look of mild incredulity, said, “ ‘I’m not legally allowed to communicate and plan with you what you need help with, but I can legally watch the show later tonight and hear what you said…”…isn’t that the craziest thing ever?” Then he turned to the lady who asked him the LotR question during the Q&A and said, “Bet you didn’t know that your question would fit in nicely!”
He thanked us for being so patient with the long taping, and he hoped we enjoyed ourselves, and then he took one more question before leaving. Imagine, after another long week and an extra long Thursday night taping, he could have taken straight off for home and the weekend, and yet he graciously devoted just a few more minutes to let someone else ask him a question. He is a true gentleman.
The last question was asked by a girl, actually one of the trio of girls who’d been in front of me in the line. The girl explained that she’d written her thesis on a man who does podcasts on Tolkien (he had spoken at her college and she’s on friendly terms with him somehow). Stephen got excited and said that he listens to the man all the time on iTunes. The girl told him that she and her friends want him to invite the man on his show. Stephen seemed a little taken back at that request and answered that he wasn’t sure what he would ask him, but he loves what the man discusses about Tolkien and he told us a story about how the man had helped him: one day he was really, really stressed to the point where he felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest (or something of the like), and his wife told him to go and take a nap, so he lay down on the couch, put on his earphones, and started playing a podcast by the Tolkien guy while he was dozing, and when it was over, he felt much better. I guess Tolkien can be soothing to the right people. He asked the girl, since she’d mentioned that she kind of knew him personally, if she could tell the man to hurry the hell up with the next episode (apparently it was on hiatus and only 4 episodes were up). Then he said something else after that, don’t remember what, and then he wished us all good night, waved and walked off. No hand-shaking for the front row this time.
He didn’t disappear completely; I noticed him stopping to shake hands and briefly chat with people who were standing on the side, but then he was gone, and we started shuffling out of the studio. It had all happened so fast. The next thing I knew, I was outside on the sidewalk, with TCR staff closing the doors of the waiting area firmly shut behind me. I had come back out of the rabbit hole, and was back in the real world.
As people slowly started walking off to get dinner (I saw the trio of girls being especially giddy from actually getting to talk to Stephen), I was faced with a dilemma: whether to wait and try to get a picture with Stephen or just go straight home. I didn’t want to leave just yet. I was in that dreamy, floating high you get when you experience something wonderful, and I knew that if I left, those happy feelings would get pushed out and reality would settle in again. The only other people who were left besides a body guard were a young couple (not the one sitting next to me), who apparently were waiting around for Stephen.
After about twenty minutes, I made the difficult decision not to wait for Stephen. I felt self-conscious being around all by myself, the body guard kind of intimidated me, and I was beginning to feel tired. So I started slowly walking away. But I still was a little reluctant to leave just yet, so I ended up standing at the corner of the street light, gazing at the studio and going over the parts of the taping that I had loved best. Eventually, though, I knew that I had to get home, so I took one last picture of the studio washed in soft, artificial lighting which still gave off a dreamy effect.
Then, with a heavy heart, I turned and started making my way back to Penn Station to catch a train back to NJ, trying not to look behind me in case I was tempted to stick around. I took the 1 train from 50th Street all the way back to 34th, and once I was on the train, I started writing down everything that I could possibly remember, and once I was done, I spent the rest of the train ride, the drive home and even when I went to sleep committing the whole experience to memory.
I had a wonderful, awesome time, but I still can’t help feeling a sense of lost opportunity, of not asking Stephen a question nor waiting around to see if he’d consent to a photo, not knowing when will be the next time I’ll get to attend another taping. It’s tough to summon enough courage when you’re on your own. Even then it would not be until next year since the mandatory 6 months in which I have to wait before getting tickets again go over into 2012.
But one thing is very certain. Now that I’ve had a taste of what goes into the show and how it comes together and being so close to Stephen…I want more. I want to go back down the rabbit hole and immerse myself in that wonderful world again. So I can only hope now that another opportunity will arise, and that not only will I actually go with friends, I will actually ask Stephen a question and wait around to try and get a photo with him and maybe even chat with him…if I’m brave enough.
I promise that the next time I attend a taping (*fingers crossed*), my report won’t be as lengthy as this. It being my first time, I wanted to document as much as I could possibly remember…what I saw and thought and felt, so I apologize if I went a little overboard. Next time it should be a little more concise having gone through the procedure. But avid details and enthusiasm will certainly not be left out! Until another time, I hope you enjoyed reading this and see you around the site!