But if you’ve never been to a taping of a TV sitcom, it’s something to add to your Bucket List. It’s free, first of all. And tickets are generally available. The only possible hard part is you’ve got to get to Los Angeles. Write the show, the network, or if you’re in LA there are places that distribute tickets (like the Grove).
And if you do go to a TV taping, here are some things to look for:
There will be monitors overhead. You have the option of either watching the monitors or the action down on the stage. The problem with watching it on the stage is that sometimes you’re blocked by moving cameras. Here’s what I suggest. They always shoot scenes at least twice. Watch the monitor the first take. That way you follow the story and can laugh at the jokes. On the second take, watch the action on the stage.
Some little things to observe: There are tiny strips of tape all over the floor. These are the actor’s marks. When an actor moves and then stops he has to stop right on his mark. Finding your mark without looking down at your feet or being self conscious about it is a real art. Watch how seamlessly most of the actors do this. Watch the boom mike swing from actor to actor. When actors move so do the camera. Check out how they are continuously in motion. It’s kind of a ballet.
After the first take you may see a huddle down on the stage. Chances are that’s the writing staff pitching alternate jokes for one that didn’t work. When you see that huddle you can almost bet a new line or two will introduced in the next take. Dazzle your friends.
Watch the director. Does he seem in control? Is he a little frazzled? How much interaction does he have with the cast and the crew between takes? You can get a sense – are the actors comfortable with him? You can tell by body language. Is the director easy going? Tense? Supportive? Distracted? At times Jim Burrows would literally kick cameras during the scene to move them over.
Between takes you’ll notice make up and hair people rushing onto the stage to do touch up work. I’m here to tell you, 90% of the time it’s not necessary.
The warm up man can greatly enhance the experience. He’s got a hard job. He’s got to keep you entertained for long stretches. I did warm up the first year of CHEERS. One time the air conditioning went out. It was the longest night of my life. But a lot of warm up guys will take questions from the audience. If there are things about the process you want to know, don’t hesitate to ask.
Go to the bathroom before the show.
Many shows provide snacks during the taping (candy bars, pretzels, nuts) but not all so you can’t count on it. Plan to eat either before or after.
Bring a sweater or light jacket because sound stages tend to be on the cold side. Once the show starts actually taping it will warm up slightly due to the hot lights on the stage.
Don’t expect autographs.
Sometimes certain scenes are pre-shot. They’ll be shown back to you on the monitors. At first you may think you’re being gyped, but as the evening unfolds you’ll find yourself glad for those pre-shot scenes. They move the night along. And trust me, you’ll see enough actual “show’ being taped, even with the pre-shoots.
You may not realize it but you, as an audience member, are making a major contribution to the show. Actors feed off your energy and laughter. A good audience will lead to better performances and ultimately a better show. You’re not just spectators, you’re an important part of the creative process.
Thanks to everybody who ever attended one of my tapings.
And if you come to the taping of INSTANT MOM tonight, say hello. I’ll be the one looking really proud.
NOTE: Tomorrow for blog readers, a Valentine's gift for you. Check back in the morning.