Personally, it was a little bit of a let down. The whole process of getting in wasn't worth the payoff (basically 30 minutes of rushed entertainment), even at "VIP" status. I arrived at the studio located in Manhattan/Hell's Kitchen on 11th ave between 51st and 52nd streets about a half hour prior to the suggested 4:15 pm. I hung around in the smaller of the 3 lines outside while security guards with unzipped flies explained the rules of the studio. No food, no drink, no gum, no bathroom breaks, no standing, no heckling, no talking, no phones, no cameras, no inappropriate questions, etc. Basically, you're a prop, and they make sure they treat you as one.
At about 4:30 they ushered us through security which was as tight, if not tighter than some of the airport security stations I've been through recently. I think I removed everything except my shoes. After waiting in the very dim and dreary waiting area for a good half hour, we were ushered to our seats inside the studio by three of the most unlikely and inept interns I've ever dealt with. This is where I found out that "VIP" status basically means you're the first wave in. That's about it. They don't make sure you get the good seats that aren't obstructed by camera men, you don't get a soda and a bag of pretzels, you don't shake hands with Jon Stewart, you basically just get in the studio ahead of the other people in the waiting area and get ushered to the far end of the studio.
Once inside we waited. And we waited. And we waited. We sat there, staring at those same three interns and the set (which was a lot smaller than I thought it would be) until about 6:20 pm. Between the four of us in my group, we had two iPhones and two BlackBerry Storms powered down in our pockets and we were all going through some serious withdrawal at this point. Meanwhile some unseen sound engineer blared pop/rock music from speakers above. I do mean blared too, it was hard to talk to the person next to you.
Finally the warm-up comic, Paul Mecurio, came out, and he might just have been the most entertaining part of the evening. It might just have been that I was dying for some kind of entertainment or stimulation by that point, but he definately came to the rescue. He picked on the audience a little while and tried to get us involved. Halfway through the routine he had the fortune of finding a mature lesibian couple in the audience who had met in jail and had been together for 28 years. I'm big on not judging lifestyles, but needless to say that's a lot of ammunition for a comic.
Immediately following that, Jon Stewart came out and did a short Q &A with us which was mildly entertaining. I blame the audience for that though. It was clear that some of the questions that were asked were practiced and tested prior to the show by people who really struggle at being entertaining. Jon did the best he could with what he was given. Jon Stewart calls on you for a question and you ask, "Pirates or Ninjas?" First of all, everyone knows the answer to that. Ninjas of course. Secondly... really? You've got nothing better? The guy is a gold mine of satirical political information and views, get something good out of him.
After a few laughs, it was off to the races. The show was a blur of activity and single takes. I was actually extremely surprised that there were no screw ups or second takes. I was sure the taping of a 30 minute program would take and hour or more. The program was good, Jon was excellent, the guest was eh... boring. Don't get me wrong, Jehan Sadat is an important figure over seas, and she has very important views and influence regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, but this was more of plug for her book than anything else.
And... that was it. Goodnight everyone, get out. Like I said, I'm glad I did it, but unless there's a guest I'm dying to see speak for 5 minutes, I'll stick to watching it air on Comedy Central from now on.
Check out the full episode here. Conservatives confuse tyranny with losing, and Jehan Sadat wants peace between Israel and Palestine.