Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You do Jimmy

Seeing a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show in 40 steps*:

1. Sign up online for tickets that don't guarantee entry.

2. Show up outside the theater two hours before the taping starts.

3. Wait in the queue, watching cars speed along Hollywood Boulevard and glancing at the costumed performers outside Grauman's Chinese posing for photos with tourists. Talk with friends, and avoid making eye contact with the guy who carries his own amp down the line, rapping to people in line in the hope of getting some money for it.

4. After they start letting people in, walk up the steps, turn to your right, then remove everything from your pockets and walk through the metal detector.

5. Realize you have something metal in your undergarments and walk through again two more times before the guards just tell you to go on ahead anyway. Smile sweetly at them.

6. Wait in the lobby while they seat the people in front of you.

7. Enter the studio. Comment to your friends how small it seems.

8. Follow an out-of-work actor acting as an usher up to the next to last row in the room, the one that unlike all the rows in front of it is not elevated.

9. Stare at the back of the heads of the people from Texas seated in the row in front of you. Their hair proves everything really is bigger in Texas.

10. Listen to the warm-up comedian tell you how important it is to applaud a lot.

11. Be admonished by the warm-up comedian for not applauding loud enough, and then be warned (facetiously) that if, as an audience, you don't do better, they'll replace you with the people still waiting outside.

12. Applaud enthusiastically when Uncle Frank comes out to the stage and then laugh when he attempts to make a joke about his sexual prowess. Not so much laughing with him, however.

13. Applaud as Cleto and the rest of the musician stride over to their little pen to the right of the stage (that is, stage right). Notice they're more casually dressed than the people from Texas seated in the row in front of you. Think for a second about how your father would disapprove.

14. Applaud as announcer (and Mighty Mighty Bosstones frontman, and former Indie 103.1 morning show host) Dicky Barrett comes out and perches himself just to the side of the band. Remark to yourself how his gray suit would meet with your father's approval.

15. Applaud with Pavlovian mindlessness as Jimmy comes out from backstage, without his tie or jacket on yet, then listen as he briefly thanks you for coming, then disappears whence he came. And you applaud again as he does that.

16. Half-heartedly clap when Cousin Sal wanders out. He's only Cousin Sal.

17. Be reminded by the raspy-voiced warm-up comedian to follow the "Applause" signs hanging from the ceiling over the audience. Notice to yourself that the bottom half of the sign has another option ("Stop Applauding"), but that does not get mentioned in the prep talk. Ponder what must have prompted them to implement that.

18. Be informed the show is about to start. See the "Applause" signs light up. Hear the band playing the theme song. Try to remember what to do at this point.

19. Applaud as Dicky announces the evening's guests and continue the curtains part and Jimmy emerges to his mark, which proves to be remarkably close to the camera with the teleprompter mounted above the lens.

20. Watch the monologue on the overhead monitors because the large hair of the Texan seated in front of you almost completely obscures the host down on the stage. Laugh when a punch line is reached, for the most part because you found it to be at least moderately amusing. (Concede that waiting in line for all that time and then being conditioned by the warm up make one more inclined to be entertained by whatever happens while in the studio than one might be if watching on TV at home.)

21. At the end of the monologue, follow the instructions from the overhead Applause signs.

22. Listen as Cleto and the band play an instrumental version of "Working for a Living" (by Huey Lewis and the News) as the show goes to commercial.

23. Stop clapping when the sign goes off, but notice that the band just keeps playing the song. Peer around the hair and observe as Jimmy goes to the desk and people from off-stage come to him, and they seem to review notes or discuss the upcoming segment. Glance between the hair and the hair next to it and see Dicky still at his post, pretty much doing nothing but looking sharp doing it.

24. Heed the alert of the warmup comedian who appears in front of the audience, announcing 30 seconds until back on the air.

25. Applaud when prompted, trying to drown the end of the song; realize that Huey Lewis still can only be tolerated so long. After the band finishes and Jimmy starts talking, cease clapping.

26. Sit through the segment where Cousin Sal comes out (dressed more casually than the band) and they show a pre-taped piece (where he set up a table near the end of the course for the recent L.A. marathon, handing out ridiculous items to the runners, such as chocolate-covered shrimp) on the overhead monitors. (The ones on which you were already watching the rest of the show.)

27. Applaud as indicated by the overhead signs as Jimmy sends the show to commercial, then listen to Cleto and the band play another instrumental version a song, this time "Rock and Roll Band" by Boston. Think to yourself about how the music not only keeps the audience occupied but also precludes us from yelling out anything to those on stage (be it vulgar or complimentary).

28. Applaud when instructed that they show was coming back from commercial, despite the profound awareness that there's no chance that even a sweeping camera shot of the crowd would capture you. Notice Dicky (between the Texas hair) still perched next to the band clapping along with you. Ponder how he keeps up the enthusiasm night after night. Then remember that he gets paid to be there.

29. Sit through the interview with Rosie Perez, filling in for Tori Spelling. Laugh at an amusing anecdote she relates, more because she accidentally uses profanity and catches herself too late than because it is that funny.

30. Applaud for the commercial transistion, yadda, yadda, yadda. This time the band plays some funky, jazzy riff. You don't recognize the tune, so you speculate it could be an original composition. It is good enough to keep you from yelling out, were you inclined to do so; if you heard it come on the radio, you'd change the station.

31. You know what to do. The announcement that the show is coming back from commercial elicits a mindless reaction of clapping by this point; there's no need to pay any heed to the signs.

32. After Jimmy announces the next guest, one of the guys from Supernatural (the one who used to be on Smallville), recoil as the women around you erupt into such enthusiastic applause (replete with whistles) that you begin to fear for your safety.

33. Find nothing interesting about his interview (mostly because Jimmy's not trying that hard, dwelling only how on his good looks make him popular with the ladies). Observe Dicky at his spot by the band, standing as though riveting by the conversation, even though he's off-camera. He's a pro.

34. Get drawn back to the moment as Cleto and the Cletones break into "Driven to Tears" and wonder for a moment whether that's some kind of subtle joke about how the interview went. You're applauding already, without needing the ubiquitous reminder.

35. After the show has gone to commercial, wait as the people in the lower rows start getting up and funneling out down a long hallway, so you can all see the performance by Evanescence that closes the show. Although you were told the P.A.s would come to each row and dismiss you one at a time, the need to get everyone outside during a commercial break results in the entire upper half just getting up en masse and making their way out as a blob without direction.

36. Make your way down the stairs and then along a hallway to a door, where you exit the theater and cross the alleyway behind the building, continuing into the fenced area that used to be a parking lot but now has a permanent stage set up for concert performances. As all the people who didn't get into the theater have been out here the whole show, you take a spot near the back of the crowd. Which is fine with you.

37. Finally understand why, when watching the show at home, prior to the music acts there would be one commercial break, then a 15-second program ID, then another commercial break; it's as much to buy time to prepare as it is to get more ad revenue.

38. When the show comes back, stand quietly as Jimmy, not far from you, announces the band and they break into their current single, which involves a baby grand piano. Be amused watching middle aged tourists taking pictures of the band with their cell phones, which you suspect is more to attempt to later bond with their children than an indication they have even heard of the band.

39. Fail to notice how Jimmy got from the back of the crowd to the side of the stage, but from your angle notice during the performance him sitting on a sofa with the Supernatural dude, just kind of hanging out, not really talking much. Eventually spot Jimmy's girlfriend Sarah Silverman crouching behind him. Wonder why they don't let her sit on the sofa.

40. Exit the "concert area" through the opening in the fence out on to the street behind the theater. Walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard looking for an after-show meal, but end up getting a pizza at the little hole-in-the-wall next to the theater.

* Everything after step 2 is optional, and specific to if you were there for the March 14 episode.


  1. Doug:

    I feel so disillusioned. The audience manipulation, the warm-up bits, the applause sign -- you’ve killed the magic. But I still have faith in Leno and Letterman; they would never stoop to use such artifices for their late night shows.

    The rare times I’ve seen Jimmy Kimmel I noticed his show is supposed to be “live.” I don’t think I caught a rerun when I saw the disclaimer “This program was taped earlier.” Live on tape?

    You should make another visit to Kimmel’s show in about five years. Then you could comment on the out-of-work actor working as an usher, one of the guys from Supernatural (the one who used to be on Smallville).

  2. Sometimes I'm flipping through channels after midnight and come across the show. When it starts to go to commercial I am strangely compelled to put down the remote and applaud until the ads start. Then I change the channel and resume my free will.

    [The show was always tape-delayed here on the West Coast, so not being "live" was not a shocker for me.]


So, what do you think?