When I was in New York a couple of months ago, I scored tickets to the live taping of Samantha Bee and it was awesome. I would have loved to have seen John Oliver as well, but I was only there from Wednesday to Saturday and he films on Sunday so it was not meant to be.
For our July trip, we would be there on a Sunday but I was convinced there wouldn’t be a show as it was 4th July weekend. But hooray – there was! It was the same CBS Broadcast Center as Sam Bee, same booking, same waiting process but with a couple of crucial differences.
The first difference – Last Week Tonight tickets ‘sell’ out almost immediately (Sam’s didn’t) so plan in advance. They make the tickets available at 3pm EST on a specific date, so for me, it meant I had the laptop ready at 8pm London time 3 weeks before the show I wanted to see. You have to enter postcode and phone number, and for those not in the US, they suggest entering zeros (ten 0’s for the phone number 000-000-0000 and five 0’s for the zip code 00000). I was worried this would be problematic, but it didn’t cause me any issues. Only enter your details once as they say they’ll disqualify you if you do.
10 minutes after they’d been released they were entirely sold out, so you need to be ready to book exactly on 3pm EST. There apparently is a standby line on a Sunday but they “frequently do not have space” so I wouldn’t want to risk it.
They advise that they’ll get back to you within 5-7 days but I didn’t hear at all so assumed we didn’t get the tickets (fooled again!). Just as with Sam Bee, I got the email confirming I had tickets at about 11pm the night before the taping – YES! I had to reply that I still wanted them, and got into a little email conversation with them on Sunday morning about whether I’d been before – I can understand wanting to see it again, but it’s so great that they discourage this so more people have the opportunity to go.
Anyway, after my 6am email chat, I throughly read the email which I recommend doing as there are a lot of instructions. They suggest getting there no later than 6.15pm, but if you get there at that time, I very much doubt you’ll get in. I was being smug and decided to get there for 5.30 but the queue was already halfway down the block so I did have a little bit of anxiety (I walked straight in for Sam Bee).Our names were checked off the list and we followed the queue of people through security and into the waiting room where the same woman as before told us the rules – no photos of John, switch your phones off, use the bathroom now, no leaving the studio once you get in – and after a short wait, we were led into the studio. I got a bit disorientated going through the Center, but according to Wikipedia, they’re both filmed in the same studio. We sat over on the left side, 4/5 rows back and had a great view.
After a quick warm up from the excellent Craig Baldo, John came out and answered a few questions. He was brilliantly funny from the outset, and although he’s obviously still very British, he definitely has more of an American vibe in his confidence (if that makes sense?). I wish I’d asked him if it was difficult to pronounce words in the American way – he said “math” at once point, and pronounced “aluminium” wrong. Surely painful for a Cambridge alum.
Just as with Sam Bee, everything was filmed in one take (other than one segment where he stumbled a bit over the script) and the clips were all shown as they are on TV, except for one additional clip which we saw in the TV version later.
As you can see in the top photo, a third of the set was curtained off and we didn’t know what was behind it but everyone in the studio hyped us up for it. And when the curtain came down, everyone in the audience just lost their minds – this was the episode where John revealed they’d bought 5 presidential waxworks at an auction, and we were then shown the ‘trailer’ for his Warren G. Harding film. I was torn between watching the video and watching John who was almost in tears from laughing so hard.
And then it was done – it felt super quick, and we were soon filing out past the terrifying waxworks. Seriously, the Bill Clinton was the most freakish thing up close.
I can’t believe I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets for the two best talk shows on TV. I love New York!