Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers: How to get tickets to a taping of a live television show in New York

Television demands unbridled enthusiasm, no matter how long or uncomfortable the wait.

Standing in the foyer of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other people on a sweltering New York summer's day, is not for the faint-hearted or weak-bladdered.

We've been cooped up like battery hens for almost an hour while small groups are sent to the toilet for what, we are warned, will be the last opportunity for relief for several hours. But no one is complaining. Or trying to leave.

Outside, a large crowd mills on Broadway, soaking up the humidity in the hope of taking the place of priority ticket holders expelled for using smartphones or who fail to show up.

The crowded foyer, mercifully cooled by industrial fans, is also the last chance to maintain contact with the world beyond the doors of the theatre.

Like prison, smartphones are strictly banned inside the theatre where The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is taped each weekday afternoon for broadcast later that evening.

The discomfort is a small price to pay – in fact, the only price – to see Colbert, whose satirical takedowns of President Trump have cemented his place as one of America's most popular TV presenters.

"Mr President, you know the phrase 'You better lawyer up?' That's short for 'You better get a lawyer and shut up'," he says during the show's opening monologue.

Lovers of live performance are spoilt for choice in New York, with the city's stages filled with show stopping musicals, plays and concerts.

Many of television's most popular talk shows are also filmed in New York, providing another opportunity to see great acts sing, crack jokes and endlessly dissect politics in the age of Trump. And it's free – a rarity in a city that can easily create a gaping wound in your hip pocket.

Advertisement

"Audience casting" website 1iota.com provides bums on seats for a lengthy roster of television shows, mainly filmed in Los Angeles and New York.

However, a free ticket comes at a cost. The more information you provide, the greater the chances of obtaining tickets, especially to popular shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

In addition to signing up with a social media account, the website asks for height, weight, ethnicity, photos and even income bracket and marital status "for special opportunities from some of the largest brands in the world".

But the good news arrives not long before our departure date, with tickets to Late Night with Seth Meyers, The View and The Daily Show as well as a date with Colbert.

A few weeks later, in the rather cool Ed Sullivan Theatre, warm-up comic Paul Mercurio urges us to scream, shout, "do cocaine, whatever it takes".

Television is a waiting game. It also demands unbridled enthusiasm, no matter how long or uncomfortable the wait. As Mercurio says, sitting quietly and clapping politely does not work well on the small screen.

The floor manager, likewise, offers instructions on how to cheer, while Colbert tells us "the audience makes the show".

He points skywards towards the beautiful stained-glass dome of the theatre, which he says was covered during David Letterman's reign as The Late Show host, introduces sharp-suited band leader Jon Batiste and then retreats behind stage for taping to begin.

Colbert's guest list on that roasting Monday afternoon includes comedians Seth Rogan, who talks about tweeting Donald Trump Jr., and Kumail Nanjiani spruiking his new film The Big Sick.

The show is broadcast a few hours after taping, giving producers time to edit out bloopers such as a false start to a rendition of Ain't No Mountain.

The highlight is Colbert's seven-minute monologue, which skilfully weaves breaking news about Russia's role in last year's US presidential election with President Trump's tweets and pop culture references.

A camera swooping over audience heads like an aggressive myna bird keeps us alert, enthusiastic and our hands away from smartphones even when they begin vibrating with warnings of an approaching storm.

The next afternoon we're queuing inside the Rockefeller Centre for Late Night with Seth Meyers. After a cursory once-over by security guards, we're ushered into the Peacock Lounge where NBC's pages, joking about their ill-fitting suits, take photos and quiz the audience's knowledge of Meyers' star sign, university and career on Saturday Night Live.

The show's format is essentially the same: a warm-up comic followed by band and Meyers, who reels off one-liners, before introducing his first guest Will Ferrell.

The duo have an easy rapport and their skit "Seth & Will Clear the Air" is genuinely funny. Meyers milks fewer laughs from transgender actor Laverne Cox, from Orange is the New Black, who is sweet but turns out to be a bit of a yawn.

The early morning cobwebs are yet to be brushed off the next morning to join a queue in a tree-lined street in the Upper West Side for a live taping of The View.

Perhaps it is a nod to the crowd of mainly middle-aged women, who are not to be trifled with, but in 10 minutes, we're scanned, wrist banded, turned out pockets and bags and sat in an air-conditioned cafeteria with a Starbucks and free juice.

There is also a young woman wearing a tiara and sash bearing the words ''Miss Culture USA 2018'', who naturally catches the eye of the warm-up comic. Her talk about inner beauty and helping children to be the best version of themselves is heart-warming and nauseating. Her popularity plummets, however, when her phone rings during the opening of the show.

The View has five hosts led by Whoopi Goldberg, who are unashamedly opinionated, occasionally serious and sometimes hilarious. The show is dominated by politics, with guest former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg calling Trump a conman, to the delight of the audience.

But the winning line belongs to Whoopi's co-host, comedian Joy Behar, who asks: "Where in the Bible does it say 'Thou shalt covet thy neighbour's pussy'?"

TRIP NOTES

More

1iota.com; standingroomonly.tv also offers tickets to a range of television shows

Fly

Qantas flies daily to New York, via Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas, from Sydney

Andrew Taylor travelled at his own expense.

Comments