Our Day at a Taping of Late Show with David Letterman

As we were making our plans to visit New York City in April, we knew we wanted to attend the live taping of a tv show. There are lots to choose from in NYC – from morning shows to talk shows to late-night shows – and they are all free to attend. They just require a little advance planning and a time commitment. After studying our options, we decided to see a taping of Late Show with David Letterman.


Getting Our Tickets

About four weeks before our trip, I used the online form to request tickets to the taping. Late Show with David Letterman currently only tapes Monday through Wednesday, and the site had us pick our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices in weeks when tickets were still available.

I didn’t hear anything back from the show until about two days before our trip. In fact, I had actually forgotten we requested tickets in the first place! I spoke with Paul, an incredibly friendly Audience Coordinator with Late Show, and he had me answer one trivia question in order to qualify for our tickets. I was so nervous!! But the question was “What instrument does Paul Shaffer play?,” and I was able to accurately answer “Piano” (“keyboard” would have worked, too). We then got our instructions for attending (“Bring a photo id. Line up at 2:30. No large bags, no cell phones, no eating in the theater,” etc etc), but we were NOT told who would be on the taping that day. It was going to be a “surprise.”

Showing Up

The day of the taping, we got to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, and even though we were early (about 2pm), there were people already lined up. We met and chatted with some lovely people from the Carolinas, which helped the time pass quickly.

While we were all lined up, Pages and Audience Coordinators with the show mingled with the crowd, asking us where we were from, how our vacations were going, and if we were excited to see the show. I had read ahead of time that they do this to identify excited, enthusiastic people to put in key areas of the theater, so of course I tried to be as bubbly as possible. Which wasn’t hard – we really were excited! And although we kept asking who was going to be in that day’s taping, everyone was very tight-lipped and claimed they “didn’t know.” I’m sure they are all told to say that in case something goes wrong with scheduling the guests, or maybe so that we will all be genuinely surprised at the big “reveal.”

Soon our line was ushered in small groups into the lobby of the theater, where we each showed our id’s and were given a Group Letter (we were “A”) and told a time to return to the theater for the actual taping. A general announcement was made that we were all welcome to visit The Three Monkeys Bar just around the corner from the theater, which Letterman actually rents out so the audience can have a place to get out of the rain or shine, get a drink, and use bathrooms before the show (note: there are NO bathrooms available at the theater. plan accordingly.).

The Three Monkeys Bar was packed when we got there, but the bathrooms were appreciated. There was definitely a party atmosphere, as practically everyone there was with ┬áthe Letterman group (even the Pages came with us), and were excited to see the show. We didn’t order a drink, but judging by others who were gratefully imbibing, the place makes a killing on the afternoons when Letterman tapes.

Pre-Show Waiting {and Waiting…}

We got back to the theater at our appointed time, only to begin what ended up being a somewhat annoying, uncomfortable hour of just standing in the lobby – shoulder to shoulder, in snaking, Disney-like roped lines, breathing warm, stuffy air – while the Pages told us the “rules” about 800 times before we could enter the theater. After the fun and excitement of getting ready for the show, that hour was excruciating. My feet were killing me as we stood there, and I felt very discouraged. It also didn’t help that we were given strict instructions to not scream, yell, whoop, or holler during the show, but to simply laugh-and-clap, laugh-and-clap, laugh-and-clap. The Pages were mildly charming, but the general attitude of the crowd definitely deteriorated during that time.

Finally – finally! – we were ushered into the theater and to our seats. It’s true what they say – the theater is very cold – but after the heat of the lobby, I welcomed the chill. We were seated in the third row from the stage, directly behind the band. We still had a clear shot to the center of the stage, though, and had monitors directly in front of us to catch any action we missed.

Ready for Prime Time

The warm-up comedian was funny enough, and again we practiced our no-whooping, laugh-and-clap techniques as an audience. Soon, Letterman himself came out, and I was surprised to see how much taller and thinner he seems in person. He had just gotten back from a 2-week hiatus from the show, and seemed happy to be there. Paul Shaffer and the band are not really my favorite (never have been), but they are all very talented, and we got to watch them closely as we sat behind them.

We were finally told who would be at the taping, and we were ecstatic: Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, and Jenna Fischer. AWESOME!!! And not only were Martin and Brickell interviewed, but they sang a song from their new CD as well.

The opening monologue was not uproariously funny, but was entertaining, as were the little video spots they interwove into Letterman’s bit. Steve Martin was absolutely charming, Edie Brickell was soft-spoken, and although it was a dream to see them both, I have to say that at times our audience was a little too dedicated to the laugh-and-clap mantra we had been taught (meaning, we laughed-and-clapped at pretty much EVERYthing, which wasn’t always appropriate). I loved seeing Jenna Fischer, and although her time was very brief, she had a few sweet stories to share.

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell on Late Show with David Letterman
Jenna Fischer on Late Show with David Letterman

We’re on TV!

Finally, during one sweep of the audience later in the show, you can see us on the very edge of the screen! My husband was wearing a vibrant blue sweater, so he served as the “landmark” when trying to spot us. I’ve got my hands raised while I’m clapping (my compensation for not being able to “whoop”), and you can just barely see us. Does that mean we’re famous?! (not likely)

in the audience at the taping of Late Show with David Letterman
closer in the audience at the taping of Late Show with David Letterman

All-in-all, we really enjoyed our day at a taping of Late Show with David Letterman, and would definitely do it again!