My Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Experience, Part 2

Need to read or re-read part 1 first? Go here. Ready and willing for part 2? Ok then, read on.

Late Night arm bandWhen I walked into the Greyhound station at 8:15 PM on Monday, April 8th I immediately learned that people who take long trips by bus tend not to be very happy about it. As I scanned the men and women who encompassed a wide range of ages, ethnicities and economic propensities, it was easy to see that each and every one of them had no desire to be there. Like me, Greyhound was not their first choice, but a choice of last resort.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything bad about Greyhound. During my trip their buses were clean and the drivers were solid professionals. Those positives, however, do not make up for the simple fact that traveling across the country by bus is difficult on the body and, if you’ll grant me some dramatic narration, the soul. If there had been another way for these people to get to their destinations they would definitely have taken it.

My fifteen hour journey to New York City came with two bonuses. The first was the next-door neighbor who was too large to fit comfortably in his seat. This guy rotated into a different position every five minutes. It not only affected me, but the individuals in the seat in front of him and behind him. Also, he was an expert snorer. No one cared enough to complain about him, however. I guess we all figured it just wouldn’t have made a difference. It was just life on the bus. I’m sure there’s a song in there somewhere. Probably would have to be a country song, though, so screw it.

The second bonus was the scheduled layover at the Pittsburgh Greyhound station from 12:30 to 2:00 AM. During this time we had to exit the bus and wait in the station. Now, you would think that this would be a good thing. After all, who wouldn’t want an opportunity to stretch, use the restroom and grab something to eat after being on a bus for three hours? Well, let me tell you something, after about five minutes in the station there was nothing I wanted more than to get back on that bus and ride the hell out of town.

It was a combination of things, really. First, I was tired. Second, the place was packed with weary travelers who, as time dragged on, appeared to be thinking more and more about suicide. Third, the only food options were vending machines containing chips and candy bars that cost more than they legally had the right to. The worst, though, was the arcade game right in the middle of the waiting area that cycled non-stop through the same twenty seconds of musical notes at the highest possible volume.

I’m probably not surprising anyone when I tell you that trying to sleep on a bus is difficult. I would estimate that between Pittsburgh and our next layover in Philadelphia I managed an hour of sleep at most. I spent the rest of the time watching other people drift asleep and slide into impressive yet unintended yoga poses. Before long their accidental positioning would jolt them awake and force the cycle to begin anew. Then, by the time we left Philly, the sun was up and it was just too damn bright to do anything but stay awake and look out the window.

I arrived at the NYC Greyhound station around 12:30 PM on Tuesday, April 9th. Paul’s seven-hour train ride was twenty minutes away from pulling into Penn Station, which worked out well cause it took me exactly that long to walk the half mile to meet him there. It was a beautiful day in the Big Apple. The sun was shining and the concrete was warm. The streets were crowded with locals rushing to get from point A to point B and tourists actively trying to get in their way.

Despite a billion people going in 367 different directions, Paul and I were able to easily find each other at Penn Station. I almost didn’t recognize him. We get together less than once a year, and he has succeeded in losing a lot of weight since the last time we hung out. He looks great, and he feels great, but this is my story, not his, so let’s get back to focusing on me, shall we?

Tired, stiff and in need of caffeinated beverages we trekked over to 30 Rockefeller Place to pick up our tickets. When we arrived at the MSNBC.COM Café, which is located on the second floor of the NBC Experience Store, the place was pretty dead. “Yes,” I thought with a grin, “first in line. Helloooo front row!” I asked an NBC page where we were supposed to get our tickets, and was told that Paul and I were in the right place, but over an hour too early. Bummer.

For the next sixty minutes we drank and relaxed in one of the two Starbucks located in the Concourse under 30 Rock. I’m not kidding, underground and within less than a half a block radius there are two Starbucks in which to choose from for your coffee needs. Re-energized, we headed back upstairs with home that we would still be a little early, allowing us a nice spot at or near the front of the ticket line. Instead, we ran smack into a hundred pre-teen and teenage girls. Yes, Paul and I, whose combined age equaled that of the moon, were going to be attending a taping of a late-night talk show with a large representative sample of Jonas Brothers fans. And they were all ahead of us in line.

After winning the auction for two tickets to a live taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon I had immediately begun to wonder two things: how many decades was it now going to take me to pay off my credit card bill, and did these tickets come with any VIP privileges. (Those of you who have read my previous late-night audience adventure may remember that I was quite jealous of the VIP and “green dot” ticket holders who were seated in the first five rows of the center section while the rest of us stood in the lobby and lamented our peon-like existence.) I bring this up because if Paul and I were VIPs, then all of these people in front of us who didn’t know how to drive yet were irrelevant, as our tickets granted us special powers and abilities beyond those of mortal idiots. On the other hand, if, after spending a ton of money foolishly, we weren’t VIPs, and all these little snots who had acquired their tickets for, most likely, free, were indeed going to get better seats than us, then it was obvious that the universe did not like me and was actively conspiring against me in hopes that I would shed tears over something so petty as a seat at a late-night talk show on a Tuesday in April.

Late Night ticketDespite being in the wrong line twice and the last two people to justify our existence to the correct pages, I am happy to report that Paul and I were handed our VIP tickets. Not only that, but our tickets had the number “10” handwritten on them. What did this mean? To me it meant that out of 200+ people who would be seeing Late Night with us, 190 of them would get a good look at my ass as I walked into the theater and sat down before them. To Paul it meant that he really was going to have to watch and listen to the Jonas Brothers sing a song about pom poms.

We had another hour before the we were allowed to stand in the ticket-holders line, so we did what any normal tourist in NYC would do, we went to a FedEx Office Print and Ship Center, formally known as Kinkos. Why did we do this? Well, Paul wasn’t heading back home until Wednesday morning, which meant he had to find some way to pass the time after Late Night was over. Not wanting to pay for a hotel room, he decided on a comedy club followed by a Penn Station storage locker, both of which required printing tickets that were purchased online. Believe it or not, NBC does not offer free printing service to VIP ticket holders, so we had to find a place where he could pay to have his printing needs met.

Paul and I returned to 30 Rock and, still having a little time left, decided to browse the NBC Experience Store. It is in this place that you can buy all kinds to stupid crap for an exorbitant amount of money just to prove to people who don’t care that you like and support one or more NBC shows. I mean, really, it’s pretty sad if you come all the way to one of the greatest cities in the state of New York and all you walk away with is proof that you support a television program.

A few minutes later I was the proud owner of a Late Night with Jimmy Fallon t-shirt, which I am happy to report I got for 10% off because I was seeing the show that day. I immediately raced to the nearest bathroom where I made a guy wait to unload his bowels so that I could switch out my current t-shirt in private. That’s the VIP life baby! Don’t be a hater cause I got swag.

Ben and Paul at 30 RockLooking like a passion of fashion, Paul and I went to the designated standing place. It was exactly as I imagined. There was a line of people, we showed the page our tickets, and he placed us near the front between tickets holders nine and eleven. Not since I was upgraded to first class on my flight from Michigan to Washington eight years ago did I feel like such unmitigated royalty.

It was during this time of glee that we met and had multiple conversations with two very nice gentlemen from Canada who were also here to see Late Night. I don’t remember their names, what they did or where exactly in Canada they lived, but I do remember that they were great guys and we had fun getting to know them. They were kind enough to take this picture of us, and then immediately apologized for not doing a better job. Silly Canadians.

Then, a strange phenomenon began to occur with an unstoppable frequency. As the minutes ticked by, more and more people were being placed ahead of us, and our new favorite Canadians, in line. How could this be? Paul and I were number ten. There were only nine spots ahead of us, and there were already bodies occupying them. Had NBC invented new numbers between zero and ten that the United Nations had not yet approved?

No. Instead, NBC had redefined the concept of assigning one group of ticket holders to one number. That’s right. Instead of a single group with, for example, ticket number “3” there were now five groups of various shapes and sizes with that same ticket number. And each time a new group with a lower number than ours arrived, we were pushed farther and farther back in a very un-VIP-like manner. By the time the last group had arrived I could no longer see the person at the front of the line who only ten minutes earlier I had been able to smell.

Were the fifty people who were now in front of me bigger VIPs? Had they spent more money than I had to be here? Were they bigger fans of late-night television? Was I being a huge baby about all of this? I didn’t have the answers to any of these questions. Well, except maybe that last one.

It was now time to head to Studio 6B. I trudged down the corridor, through the metal detector and up the elevator carrying my watered-down VIP-ness. With no hope of sitting in the front row of the center section I resigned myself to getting a good look at a bunch of asses as they walked into the theater and sat down before me. I was also confident they were laughing at my pain. I couldn’t prove it, but I was sure nonetheless.

Paul and I exited the elevator and entered the studio. We walked up to the page to be assigned our seats. Despite close to a hundred available seats in the center section, I could see in the page’s eyes that we were not worthy of such a highly regarding placement. Instead, she sent us to the fourth row on the stage right side of the theater.

Why does that location sound eerily familiar? Maybe because it was the exact same audience row on the exact same side of the theater that I and Mr. V had been assigned to by a page at the Ed Sullivan Theater just three weeks earlier. In fact, if it hadn’t been for our two new Canadian friends who, despite being behind us in line, were already sitting in the seats at the far end of the row, I would have been in the exact corresponding seat I was in for the Late Show.

Fear not fair readers, for all was not lost. Studio 6B is considerably smaller than the Ed Sullivan Theater. This meant that our row only had six seats, so I wasn’t nearly as far away from the center of the stage as I was when I saw David Letterman. In addition, Jimmy Fallon’s desk is also stage right, which meant that for most of the show he was sitting right in front of Paul and me instead of across the theater and at an angle. Last but not least, our view was completely unobstructed by cameras. In other words, our seats were actually quite good. I was happy.

It wasn’t long before everyone was seated and the warm-up comedian Seth Herzog came out to talk to us. I can sum Seth up in one word: terrific. He spent the first minute instructing us on how to be good Late Night audience members, and twenty-nine minutes being hilarious. His ability to interact with members of the audience and use their feedback to create dark and edgy jokes on the spot was incredibly entertaining. He really did a fantastic job.

Figuring we were warm enough, Seth introduced The Roots. They played a couple of songs for us, which was pretty awesome. It’s neat to watch them on television, but nothing compares to hearing them live. Then Higgins came out. He tested our ability to clap and cheer so that we’d be ready when he introduced Fallon at the start of the show. I guess we passed on our first try, because he didn’t make us do it over. I would estimate that between Seth and Higgins we were given maybe four or five minutes of light instructions. By comparison, it was well over an hour of grueling lessons at the Late Show.

Finally, it was time to start the show. The lights dimmed, the Roots started jamming, Higgins made his introduction, Jimmy Fallon came out from behind the curtain and we all clapped and cheered.

Hey, wanna see a great shot of Paul and me right at the start of Fallon’s monologue? Here you go:

During Late Night1

How about another shot from the same angle two seconds later? Your wish is my command:

During Late Night2

After the show was over Paul and I discussed our opinions of each segment so that I could share them with you now. We both agreed that the monologue was just ok. There were a couple of decent jokes, but there definitely weren’t any home runs. Here was my favorite:

This week on the Today Show Chelsea Clinton said she’s open to running for political office one day. When she heard that, Sasha Obama said, “Cool, how does Secretary of State sound?”

The comedy segment was Pros and Cons: Being Kim Jong-un. Paul thought the segment was mediocre, but I felt it was pretty good. We both liked the part where Higgins messed things up a tad:

During the first commercial break Jimmy said hi to the audience and asked us to watch the pre-taped cold open, as our reactions would be recorded for when the segment aired. I hated this bit. I couldn’t relate to it in the slightest so I thought it was stupid. I expected Paul to feel the same, but was surprised when he said he had thought it was really funny. Apparently he knew girls who acted like the one Jimmy played, and thought his mocking impression was great.

Julianna Margulies was the first couch guest. She stars on the show The Good Wife. The interview was fine. Julianna was pleasant and told some interesting stories. I think I enjoyed it a little bit more than Paul did. He doesn’t think much of pre-planned semi-rehearsed interviews. I agree that they’re not ideal, but most of them do have some entertainment value. Here’s the first half:

After a break Jimmy and Julianna played a game of Catch Phrase. It was fun to watch live, but it’s definitely a lot more exciting edited for television:

Adam Scott was the second couch guest. He’s on the show Parks and Recreation. The interview was good. Adam was nice and told some amusing stories. Paul thought the interview was good too, since he’s a Parks fan. Here’s most of it in case you’re interested:

Once the interview with Adam was over there was a long break to prepare for the Jonas Brothers. As with any musical guest on Late Night, this is a two-part process. The first part is getting all the instruments in place and tuned for the musicians. While a group of people work on that, another group of people get the Band Bench in place.

WTF is a “Band Bench”? The Band Bench is fans of the musical guest. They get tickets to the show basically the same way as anyone else (except me, obviously) and sit on a literal metal bench behind the rest of the audience during the show. Then, while the instruments are being prepped, the Band Bench is escorted across the stage to a platform directly behind the musical guest.

There are definitely some advantages to being a member of the Band Bench. First, you’re pretty darn close to the musical guest. Second, you have the potential to be on television often over a four minute period. Finally, you have a better chance of convincing the musical guest or one of his or her co-workers to sleep with you. I don’t know how much better your chances are, but they’ve got to be at least a little bit higher than being in the regular audience.

While not necessarily my kinda music, the Jonas Brothers gave a pretty decent performance. Paul didn’t like it, but he did survive it, which is something.

Even though we weren’t part of the Band Bench, Paul and I were promptly featured right after the performance was over:

During Late Night3

There was one final quick break and then Jimmy wrapped up the show in the usual manner of thanking his guests and then running up and down the aisles high-fiving people in the audience. Paul, being closer to the aisle and longer, was able to successfully high-five the Late Night host. It was a special moment that I know Paul will treasure forever.

I wasn’t able to get as touchy and feely as Paul was, but I’m happy to report that I was featured on television for a whole additional second:

During Late Night4

A few minutes later the Roots finished playing and the audience was instructed to exit the studio. Paul and I bid our Canadian friends a safe trip home as we got off the elevator and left 30 Rockefeller Place. After dinner at an Indian restaurant Paul walked me back to the Greyhound station and we said our good-byes. A short time later I was on a bus back to Columbus. Exhausted, I tucked myself into the Marichyasana I and fell asleep. I awoke on Wednesday morning in Columbus wearing the same underwear I put on two days earlier. The adventure was over.

Thanks for reading.

– Ben

Want to read about my other late-night audience member experiences? Well, if you ever change your mind, here they are:

My Late Show With David Letterman Experience

My Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson Experience

My Two Conan Experiences

My Tonight Show With Jay Leno Experience

My Second Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson Experience

My Late Night With Seth Meyers Experience


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