A Glimpse Behind the Curtain of @midnight

@midnight comedians Chris Hardwick, Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman, and Mike Lawrence entertained me for an hour last Wednesday, at no cost to me.



One of the perks of living in Los Angeles is that at on any given day, you can be part of the live studio audience in front of which many shows are filmed. From talk shows, to game shows, to sitcoms, you, too, can be forced to laugh and scream even when a joke isn’t funny.

When Paul F. Tompkins, The Thrilling Adventure Hour‘s Frank Doyle, Jib Janeen, and King of Coffee, tweeted about tickets to his next taping of the relatively-new Comedy Central ‘game show’ @midnight, I decided listening to four comedians mock the internet was a very pleasant way of passing a Wednesday night.

Unable to find a buddy to go with, I arrived solo at the small studio off Santa Monica Blvd. at 5:15, more than an hour before the time on the ticket. (We don’t need a football team in L.A.; waiting in lines is our sport.) But it turned out I was the second to arrive after a group of three, and let me assure anyone planning to attend an @midnight taping in the near future, you do not need to get there early. Seats within were assigned at the whims of the P.A.s, according to some unknowable system that presumably makes sense to them.

But before you can get to your seat, you have to survive…the warm-up comedian.

The job of the usually middle-aged male comic is to wring every last drop of enthusiasm and joy from their captive audience. They have a routine, and it is performed day in, day out, for a group of hostages. Essentially, he’s a glorified cheerleader; it must be one of the most soul-sucking jobs in the world. I went to the second taping of the day, and the warm-up comedian made jokes about being high that I’m not completely convinced were jokes.

There was some more waiting inside the gates, so I dined on Dr. Pepper and M&Ms from a nearby vending machine and chatted with the people around me, mostly grateful to be sitting. Once we were ‘warmed up,’ we were escorted inside the neon-studded studio and directed to our chairs. There was more banter from the warm-up comedian, before, finally, the show began.

While technically free, you are in fact paying for your entertainment with sweat and cheers, the warm-up comedian demanding more energy at every camera break. Despite his commands, I refused to laugh at something at wasn’t funny, and groaned at jokes that deserved it, but the performers on that particular night were on fire with sharp wit, an impromptu fashion show, and Kevin Bacon, so I didn’t need much encouragement to have a good time. And since I always root for the lone female comic, and Paul Tompkins was the reason I was there, I was very pleased that it came down to him and Jen Kirkman in the @midnight head-to-head challenge For the Win.

By the end of the hour, I forgot about the long wait, the painful standing, the equally painful comedian, and all my other elderly woman complaints, too busy laughing at the terrible Tumblrs, mashed-up romantic action movies, and the promise of Fonzie Versus the Moonmen, funded by NASA.

Maybe you had to be there.


P.S. If you want to be there in the future, here’s the website: http://on-camera-audiences.com/shows/midnight#.

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. I am considering going next week, but have to drive back to Sacramento afterwards. Could you tell me what time they finished taping? Thanks!

    1. It depends on what time of day the taping is, but typically it lasts about an hour. Add in a little time for the standing-around-waiting portion.

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