My Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Experience, Part 1

Late Night arm bandI went to my second live taping of a late-night talk show on Tuesday. It wasn’t my intention to be an audience member again so soon after seeing the Late Show with David Letterman less than a month earlier. Instead, it was my inability to pay attention that determined my destiny. Here’s part one of my story…

One of the few non-pornographic websites I like to visit from time to time is Charitybuzz.com. It’s an auction site where everyday people like you and me can bid on neat stuff like celebrity meet-and-greets, television and movie set visits, unique merchandise and tickets to Broadway shows, concerts and sporting events. The best part is that the money from each auction goes towards the charity of the donor’s choice. Honestly, it’s a pretty cool company.

On any given week there’s at least one open auction for tickets to a live taping of a late-night talk show. I’ve been a member for roughly six months now, and the usual suspects include the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I’ve only seen one auction for the Late Show with David Letterman, and I’ve never seen one for the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Half of the auctions are strictly for two or four tickets to a live taping of a show. Winning bids for these auctions range from $150 to $1000 depending on the show and number of tickets. The other half of the auctions are for tickets and something unique, such as memorabilia, green-room access or even meet-and-greets with the band or host. Winning bids for those auctions range from $1000 to $3000. How do I know all this? I keep track of each auction with a spreadsheet. Don’t judge me.

If you’re only interested in tickets to a late-night talk show, you may be wondering why anyone would want to bid on and pay for them when they are available for free on the show’s website. That’s some good wondering. The answer is that, unless otherwise specified, the tickets being auctioned allow you to choose the show you want to go to up to a year after the auction closes.

So, instead of getting free tickets a week before a show, and then having to scramble to get to New York City or Los Angeles, you can be the winning bidder and have the luxury of calmly scheduling your trip to the coast. Is that worth paying real money for? Well, in my case, yes it is. Not often of course, but at least once in a while, and especially when certain hosts are planning to move up or move out.

Sometime around the Ides of March an auction opened for two tickets to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Remember a couple of paragraphs ago when I said that tickets are good for up to a year? Well, I prefaced that sentence with “unless otherwise specified” for a good reason. This particular auction was for two tickets for the specific taping of Late Night on Tuesday, April 9th.

It made absolutely no sense whatsoever for me to place a bid on this auction. First, the tickets were for a fixed date, completely negating the entire benefit of paying for the option of planning when I could go to New York. B, the auction closed less than a week before the show date, which meant I would have to wait until I knew whether or not I had won before I could then scramble to make my travel plans.

Despite those two excellent reasons not to bid, my brain found two semi-reasonable reasons to bid. A, the auction had just started and no one had placed an opening bid yet. Since the auction was open for three weeks I knew that if I placed the minimum bid surely someone would outbid me and that would be fine. Second, if by some bizarre twist of fate no one outbid me and I did win the auction, then seeing Jimmy Fallon for such a low price would be worth the hassle of having to arrange a last-minute trip to NYC.

My brain decided that two mediocre reasons to bid outweighed two iron-clad reasons not to place the bid. So, on March 19th, I did it.

On March 23rd I received an email alerting me that I had been outbid for the tickets. “Easy come, easy go” is what I should have said to myself as I read the news. Instead, I thought about the rumors flying around that any day now Jimmy Fallon was going to be announced as the new host of the Tonight Show. If that happened, I reasoned, then it was very possible that there wouldn’t be too many opportunities left to see him while he still hosted Late Night, and perhaps I should take advantage of the one I had right in front of me.

Completely forgetting that the tickets were for a specific date, I concluded that, since Fallon might be leaving soon and I could arrange to see any show before he left, it was worth offering a little bit more for the chance to win the tickets.

Have you ever heard of a “max bid” feature? Here’s how it works at Charitybizz.com:

The bid you enter will automatically be a Max Bid. If your Max Bid is higher than the next Bid Increment, the bid will only be raised to the next Bid Increment. If someone else bids on this item for an amount less than your Max Bid, then you will automatically beat them and your bid will be increased to the Bid Increment necessary to beat them (or increased to your Max Bid itself, if that’s lower).

On March 24th I entered a max bid that was a little bit more than the “little bit more” I was willing to offer. Why? Well, I’m dumb, it was still a lower amount than the average winning bid for two tickets to Jimmy Fallon according to my spreadsheet, I figured I would still be overbid, and, last but not least, I’m dumb.

On Wednesday, April 3rd it was officially announced that Jimmy Fallon was the new host of the Tonight Show beginning in February 2014. I checked the auction. With a day to go the bidding had reached my max bid but not passed it. Well, I thought, either I’m going to be outbid, or I’m going to pay a little bit more than I should, but I get to see Fallon at some point over the next ten months before he leaves Late Night.

I remember Thursday, April 4th very well. The auction was set to close at 3:00 PM. I had the auction page up in my browser so I could periodically check in to see if anyone was going to outbid me. I had mixed emotions. Half of me wanted to win the auction so I could see Fallon despite the cost, and the other half of me wanted to lose the auction so that I wouldn’t have to spend the money.

At noon I dialed in to an all-company meeting. Around noon-thirty I glanced over at the auction page and, for the first time in 20 days, apparently, actually re-read the entire auction title that sits in the upper right-hand corner in large bold font:

LNwJF Charitybuzz auction page

My eyes got wide, my jaw dropped open and, honestly, I was no longer completely focused on what was being said in the meeting.

I re-read the auction title over and over but it didn’t change. I had the winning bid for a show in six @#%^ days.

Naturally, the first thing I did was panic. Luckily, my phone was on mute and the rest of the company didn’t hear me rattle off every swear word in my personal dictionary. After a few minutes I calmed down and researched how I could weasel out of paying for the tickets. I desperately looked for a “just kidding” button I could click. Turns out this button doesn’t exist.

I hoped with all my might that with two hours remaining someone would swoop in and outbid me. This kinda stuff happened all the time to other people, so why couldn’t it happen to me too? But, as the minutes continued to count down, it seemed less and less likely that my wish was going to come true. I had, it seemed, found the correct amount of money required to dissuade anyone else from winning the tickets that I didn’t want.

Company meeting over, I immediately called my wife to confess my sin. She found my blunder humorous and, after all these years, not very surprising. I apologized for spending the money. Being a glass half-full kinda person she said that since we wouldn’t be able to afford groceries for two months it was the perfect time for the two of us to start dieting. I asked her if she wanted to come with me to NYC, but she declined due to a hastily scheduled meeting with our lawyer to discuss divorce proceedings.

The next step was to request the time off from work. Normally this is a relatively painless process. On April 4th, however, my boss was in Brazil with a group of co-workers voluntarily building homes for the homeless. They weren’t installing wireless routers in these homes, so he wasn’t going to be easy to reach. And, even if he did get my email, was asking for time off so soon after winning fifty bucks from him when OSU beat Arizona in the NCAA Men’s Division One Basketball Tournament a few weeks back the right move to make? I was going to find out.

While waiting to hear back from my boss I turned my attention to figuring out how I was going to get to 30 Rockefeller Place. I checked the prices of flights first. I kid you not, Expedia.com shook its head and told me not to even bother, and Orbitz.com laughed in my face. I was annoyed that these websites had been programmed with the ability to do these things, but at the same time was impressed with how far browser technology had come.

I didn’t want to drive to NYC all by myself, and trains apparently prefer stopping in Cincinnati and Cleveland but not Columbus for some reason, so the next logical choice was a Greyhound bus. I found a round-trip ticket from Columbus to NYC for a price I could afford that would minimize my time away from home and work. That was the good news. The not-as-good news was the bus left downtown Columbus Monday night at 9:00 PM and arrived in Manhattan at noon on Tuesday. It then left Tuesday night at 9:00 PM and arrived back in Columbus at 11:00 AM on Wednesday. Doing the math, that’s 29 hours on buses, including two overnights, for nine hours in New York City.

Finally, I had to offer my second ticket that I was an hour away from winning to someone. That turned out to be the easiest part of my day. I called Paul and asked if he wanted to go. He lives in Buffalo, which is less than eight hours away from NYC. It required him to take a very early train on Tuesday morning, but he said seeing Late Night sounded like fun, so he was in.

Forty-five minutes later the auction closed. I was the proud owner of two tickets to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in NYC on April 9th.

An hour after that I heard back from my boss via email. “Didn’t you just go to New York for Letterman?” he asked while, I assume, doing cocaine with a teenage Brazilian prostitute in a half built home. It must have been a rhetorical question, since he followed it up with his approval for me to take April 9th off. He ended the email asking me if I wanted to buy some of the cocaine he was going to smuggle back to the US. I assumed that question was rhetorical too, since I would never pass up the opportunity to purchase cocaine from South America. The quality is much higher than the stuff I get from Canada.

I purchased my bus ticket and Paul purchased his train ticket. In a matter of a few hours after giving Skidmore College a lot more of my money than I had ever intended, we were ready go on our adventure.

Later that evening Paul informed me that he no longer wanted to go, as he had just learned that the Jonas Brothers were going to be the musical guest on the April 9th show. I told Paul to suck it up; I had come too far to turn back now. I was committed, and so was he.

What was the Pittsburgh Greyhound station like at 1:30 in the morning? Did Paul and I have enough time to meet Canadians in New York? Where did we sit during the show? How many times did NBC pages tell us to laugh our asses off at everything Jimmy said and did? Did Paul enjoy the Jonas Brothers’ performance? Did I make it back home alive? The answers to these questions and many more can be found here: My Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Experience Part 2.

– Ben

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