You may have seen or read about how I was part of Jimmy Fallon and Paul McCartney surprising fans who thought they were just on an after-hours tour of 30 Rock.
It was definitely the thrill of a lifetime to be a few feet away from Sir Paul, but I also fulfilled a lifelong dream of getting to see a taping of the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon just hours before that. I know, I know. “Sick brag, Dana.” But I have been watching late night shows since I was a kid staying up past my bedtime for Letterman so this was something I have always wanted to do.
We got to 30 Rock at about 3:30 for the taping and were led up the stairs to a holding area. The NBC pages (think Kenneth from the TV show 30 Rock) inform everybody at this point there is absolutely no photography or you’ll get the boot. Some goobers (probably from Wisconsin) decided to chance a selfie anyway. Not sure why that was worth the risk, but you do yo.
After showing our IDs and going through a metal detector you are led to this rad room called The Peacock Lounge that has tons of digital picture frames of Fallon with guests. You chill here for about 40 minutes or so while a page walks around answering questions and taking your photo on an iPad.
They begin lining you up based on the lettering on your tickets and it’s time to head up the elevators to studio 6B. Now, anyone who has ever been in a TV studio always remarks about how much smaller the set it is in real life than it looks on TV. I know this. I have heard it hundreds of times. I told myself I wasn’t going to be that dork who says that. Oh, no. Not me. I am better than that. I am totally woke when it comes to these types of things! I refuse to be another idiot that comments on how small the the studio looks!
“Oh, man. It’s so small!!!!” I say to my wife two seconds after walking in. I was indeed that dork. But it really is so small. It only sits 240 people and has the feel of a small movie theater. We are seated by the pages and there are a bunch of monitors playing classic bits from Jimmy’s past shows.
Once everybody is seated the warm up comedian Seth Herzog comes up to get the audience going. Seth is a funny dude who does a lot of crowd work to get people laughing. He then introduces The Roots and they do a song together. The Roots were all wearing Eagles jerseys, so, ya know, screw them. Just kidding. They rule.
Then Jimmy comes out and the show is off. One thing I didn’t realize is that they tape the show in real time, meaning they treat it like it’s a live show. They play the intro, Steve Higgins does the intros live and Jimmy comes out and does the monologue. They pause down for commercial breaks and the whole thing lasts about an hour, just as the show does on TV.
The guests for our show were Jennifer Garner, Jeff Foxworthy and Sheryl Crow. They have a strict rule at the taping that you cannot be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which was a bummer, because I typically drop acid before I watch Jeff Foxworthy perform live. Just enhances the experience, IMO. Garner was as charming and beautiful as you would imagine. Foxworthy was funny and promoted his new card game. Crowe performed her song not once, but twice, something I guess isn’t all that uncommon for musical guests.
One of the coolest parts is during a few of the commercial breaks Jimmy walks into the audience and chats about his day and answers questions from the audience. He came across very sweet and sincere, talking about how he cried that morning bringing his kid to their first day of kindergarten. Once the show ends he runs through the audience one more time and gives everybody a high-five (his hands are very soft!).
Then that’s it. Jimmy runs off backstage and it’s over. The page’s escort you out in rows and you head back down the elevator. Catching a taping was such a rad experience and I definitely recommend you do it if you can. It is really fascinating to see how things work behind the scenes. It truly is a well-oiled machine, which should come as no surprise.
Just try to show more restraint than I could when you first notice how small the studio is.