Attending Colbert Report 4/1/14

After my Facebook and Foursquare updates at the Colbert Report yesterday, a number of people have asked me about attending the recording/getting tickets for the show. My experience may be different than others who have attended in the past, but here's a summary of what the experience was like:

On a random day in February, I was on the Colbert Report website ( when I suddenly had the urge to get a ticket for the show. Tickets are FREE, but they are not always available. Luckily, as soon as I clicked the "tickets" option on the top of the website, there was one ticket remaining for the April 1 show (I was on the website on Feb 8). I quickly entered my information and was sent an email confirmation, which I printed and brought with me to the studio.


The email says "you cannot join the line after 6pm" but make sure to go MUCH earlier if you want (good) seats! Colbert Report overbooks in order to have a full audience, and you actually may be cut from the line if you are too late. I was thinking of arriving by 5:30pm but after reading a number of Yelp reviews (yes, Colbert Report is on Yelp and yes, Yelp saves my life a lot), I ran downstairs, took a cab, and headed to the studio (thank God for Uber on unexpectedly crowded NYC Tuesday afternoons).

outside, before going into the waiting area...

outside, before going into the waiting area...

I arrived around 4:20, showed my ID (government issued ID!) and confirmation email, and was shown into a line. There is a tent above the line so no worries for rain/snow/wind but we had to wait until around 5:30 to walk into the waiting area. I was #38.

blue ticket, with waiting number on top right

blue ticket, with waiting number on top right

5:30 comes, and we walked into a waiting area after passing through a short airport-style security check (metal detector, bins to take belt and coats off). The waiting area has funny portraits of Colbert on the wall and show re-runs of past episodes on monitors, so the waiting wasn't as bad as standing/sitting outside. Small restrooms are available in the waiting area, and we were told that this was the only chance to use the restrooms as we would not be able to use them after entering the studio (which turned out to be true). Around 7ish, we were told to turn off all digital devices (no pictures inside the studio!!) and were called into the studio by our ticket numbers. VIPs received a red ticket and were let in first, and then the blue tickets were called by number. (People tried to stand closer to the studio door in order to go in faster but everything was done by ticket number.)

The studio was a lot smaller than I expected, and the seats were raised pretty high each row so that every seat had a clear view of the desks that appear in the show. After sitting and waiting for what seemed like a good 20 minutes, Comedian Paul Mercurio came up and engaged with the audience. He was great in interacting with specific members of the audience--even pulling some of them out to talk with them--and got the audience pumped up for Stephen's appearance. He also introduced the VIPs who were attending: Robert Kraft (owner of the NE Patriots), Philippe Dauman (CEO of Viacom), and Indra Nooyi (Chair & CEO of PepsiCo).

One of the producers of the show (seemed like the main PD but never introduced himself) came out, introduced himself, and introduced Stephen onto the stage. In character (at least for the first few seconds), Stephen ran around the stage, giving high-fives to everyone in the first row before coming to the front and introducing himself. He (out of character) gave us an opportunity to ask a few questions. After about four or five, he ran back to sit down behind his desk and the filming began almost immediately.

It was amazing to see how Stephen could go in and out of his character so well, and he really did "suck up" the energy from the crowd as he made the hilarious jokes and references that made us all laugh watching it back home. The producers and staff constantly encouraged us to "engage with the show, not just sit back" because the show was exactly delivered to the television without much edits (no audience tracks or clap tracks are used--all the laughter and responses are purely the live reactions of the audience at the studio, fed into microphones hanging in the air). 


The recording ended around 9:20, Stephen came out to answer one last question before disappearing into a waiting area behind the studio. There was no time to meet him in person or take pictures with him (although two members of the audience told him it was their birthday and he told them to meet him after the show), and security/staff was swift in getting the audience out of the studio.

The entire experience was amazing, watching a show that I loved since middle school live in person (the show itself was 18+ entry... maybe I wasn't supposed to watch during middle school?) and because I have always wanted to learn about how American TV programs worked on studio. The staff are very friendly and swift in taking care of confirmation and security issues, and I would encourage anyone interested to take a chance at a ticket and attend the recording of the show. 

Tae Young WooComment