Week Four: The Late Late Blog (with Craig Ferguson)

February 1, 2010 at 7:16 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )


I like to go to bed happy, which is why you’ll find me in bed with my “Craigers” at least a couple times a week. My boyfriend doesn’t mind. He has a crush on the guy, too. So when he got us tickets to the show knowing we were going to be in LA, I jumped around the apartment giddy.

We were — ok, I was — so excited that we planned for weeks to get up pretty early from my best friend’s home in Westwood Village on the Thursday of the taping, and then we were going to head to the CBS studios before noon and wait in line with the other screaming fans for about three hours, hoping and praying to get inside the enormous studio. I FREAKED OUT when our cabbie told us the six-mile ride (yes, I had researched) would cost $25. I thought he was anticipating major traffic and I wanted to MAKE SURE we were going to get to see Craigers. No, it turns out LA cabs cost twice the price of New York City’s. I’ll just leave that for you to ponder.

When we arrived at the CBS Studios, I was sure we were in the wrong place: the buildings were as unimpressive and gray-stoned as the National Institutes of Health Research Campus outside of DC. Boring, government-like, set back from the road and shielded from view by hedges. SO not Hollywood. There were no signs anywhere, so we confidently chose an entrance and awoke a parking attendant who leaned out of his box only to wave us around a block-and-a-half. The whole distance of the black metal fence there were no signs. Nothing that indicated “taping” or “Craig Ferguson” or “line forms here…” Just hedges and sidewalk and fence. Cold and corporate.

The bubble burst a little harder when we ducked into another entrance-thing and the security dude chuckled at us for being so early. Yes, this was where the line was going to form but we should be fine if we came back at 3… for the 3pm taping. WHAT?! Broadway shows sell out but Craigers doesn’t? I was shocked.

In a daze, we walked down to the Grove, a meticulous outdoor shopping area with posh people, too cold in the 68-degree weather to stand outside for long, darting in and out of the extravagant boutiques. We watched a toddler dancing with a Bellagio knock-off fountain as it rose and fell to Frank Sinatra and Lionel Richie. We got some sun on our chalky faces. We people-watched. We almost fell asleep from heatstroke, Chicago’s 2-degree temps a distant memory.

At 2:45, we headed back toward the gate and saw no one. How the heck does the show stay on the air with absolutely no fans? Was the theater going to be empty? As I stood there holding our place in the line (what line?), my boyfriend re-approached the security dude, who pointed us to a shaded area where every other audience member had already gone through a pat down, a metal detector, a bag search and was now sitting on metal bleacher benches. Staff members wrote a number ‘3’ in Sharpie on our hands and put us in the last bleacher row. I now knew we were going to be sitting in the back.

Young warm-up guy who resembled annoying-man-with-spiky-hair from  “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” came out after 15 minutes and told lame jokes and begged us to cheer and clap on cue when his boss, “Chunky B” came out “in a few minutes.” Chunky B took his sweet time, but eventually his appearance brought lamer jokes and more of them, dragging out the process and generally making me too tired too care if we ever got inside. He accosted us like a true panhandler, pleading with outstretched arms for loud cheering on Craig’s behalf, hungry for applause and bowing his head and shoulders in pathetic disappointment at yesterday’s audience. He made me uncomfortable when he asked us to not be smilers but to be laughers. To not use our inside laughter but to really bring guffaws. I was nauseated at how seriously he took himself, but I’m a good kid and I follow directions. This is how I lost my voice before the taping even began.

After 20 minutes more of this exhaustion (and not even a t-shirt!) we went inside something so blah I hoped it was the warehouse, and wound through narrow and pointless corridors, around dark corners, past cheaply painted grey-blue walls with no character, up stairs, down stairs, etc., etc.  I was still in denial, still desperate to be impressed, but I was about to find out how much about television is truly smoke and mirrors. We ambled on; then stood for awhile outside more nothingness, stopping before — perhaps for effect — a small rectangle fluorescent sign that lit up the number ’56’ in red. This was the most impressive thing we had seen thus far. Don’t quote me on the number, but this was definitely the place where it all was about to happen. I felt myself getting excited again.

We got inside almost too quickly to process the studio which I had wanted to be unveiled to me in some dramatic form, and I did double and triple takes, squeezing my eyes shut and then opening them again, hoping to be surprised when my peripheral vision opened up and revealed more studio to me. It didn’t work that way. The studio was unbelievably tiny. “We’re only 108 people,” Chunky B said and repeated. “Letterman is 465, we only have room for 108. We need you to bring that 108 strong so the people at home think we are at least … 116.” Ahahaha… Ugh.

The thought occurred to me that if this guy was in charge of the comedy warm-up it did not bode well for the rest of my day, but I dismissed it, deciding, as he lectured us on how to laugh, that anything that followed would be hilarious by comparison. He gave us test-taking instructions on how to laugh loud and long immediately following anything that came out of Craig’s mouth. If we didn’t get the joke, we were not to pause. Laugh! If it was a bad joke, we were not to sigh. Laugh! If it offended us, no cringing. Laugh! And if we couldn’t hear what was said, more laughter! The woman down the row from me fell asleep. I laughed.

I looked around the studio the size of my apartment and figured other audiences had not laughed hard enough. There was not a square foot to spare up on that kitchen of a stage. When they started with Corinne Bailey Rae and her band, the desk had to be moved out of the way on a track; then moved back when she finished. And she wasn’t even the musical guest for Thursday’s show! It was Wilco who appeared on TV that night, which Craig announced from his desk at the end of the taping; then after the ‘cut’ finally and for the first time acknowledged the audience and said, “No, they’re not here. They were here yesterday.” I felt very sad for Craig.

Surprisingly enough, it was Rosie O’Donnell who brightened my day, and we had only chosen to see her as guest because we figured her self-made and ongoing controversy would be more interesting than anything Jon Heder (our other choice) had to offer. The one thing we really wanted to see were the puppets, and because one of Rosie’s kids begged her to twist Craig’s arm for a puppet skit she could watch on YouTube, we got to see them too. I was definitely sad to see that he doesn’t control the puppets at all — just their voices — but I guess this is something I should have already figured out. Regardless, Rosie, Craig, some crew members who had last been seen instructing us around a corner and three puppets — all clad in Robert Palmer black with blond wigs and red lips — lip-synced through a musical number for the opener of the show. I spent the entire time straining my neck to see if that short, unassuming man in a dress really was Craig Ferguson and subsequently missed the whole thing.

They then moved the desk back into place and Craig came out and started his monologue. No time to straighten up, change into a suit (although of course he did), shift gears or rehearse his lines. The show just started. And I didn’t hear a thing except the audience, roaring with me over a long, drawn-out comedy obit for J.D. Salinger. I’ll have to watch the DVR for the gems because the whole time I was in the audience I just watched Chunky B like a young chorister watches a conductor: waiting for cues. He wanted swelling laughter — I swelled the shit out of my laugh. He wanted it to subside — I babbled it down to a brook. And when he wanted noise, I made all kinds of noise, yelling nonsense and and twice blurting out scales just to fill the room. When there was waning silence, I giggled a few times to make Craig’s good humor seem authentically contagious, sounding awful and unreal and hopefully being cut in the editing room. (Except my friends H and M watched and recorded the whole thing and they said they could pick me right out. I was sitting behind a mike, so I figured that would happen, but I really hoped they had a canned studio audience to put in my place.)

I laughed so hard I hurt myself, and I basically missed the whole show (damn, Chunky B!) trying my darndest to make Craig happy. I did catch the part where Rosie O’Donnell gave us all free Sirius XM radios with car kits and three-month subscriptions. That definitely was unexpected and put me back in the happy place I was beginning to think existed only in Oprah’s cushy studio audience, but it, too, happened SO FAST. And then it was over. I was exhausted, my head hurt from forced laughing, I had lost my voice and I had missed the whole show.

Seeing the man behind the curtain was an awesome and unique experience, but I give a lot of credit to the camera men, the lighting crew and those hard-working audience members for making The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson look so much bigger than it really is. I can’t wait to see my Craigers again, but from now on it will be from the comfort of my own bed. Because I now know that all those times I watched him at home and swore he was talking to me, he really was.

I love him for that.

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3 Comments

  1. Alex said,

    Any Wavy Rancheros sightings?

  2. 52weeksofnew said,

    There were most definitely puppets, and I will have the blog up for you by tomorrow night.

  3. t said,

    The puppets are my favorite!! Especially the cajun croc!

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