Yesterday I got a chance to go watch The Ellen Show. Well, kinda, let me step back just a bit. My wife asked me recently if I wanted to go and watch Ellen, Helen's a big fan of her so I thought: Why not, it should be fun. I like Ellen, and I think she's great and her positive outlook and "dance" attitude is awesome, but I'm not a huge fan; I am not a big fan of any celebrity really, I think they're overrated and other than having a huge voice to spread good ideas, they really are just like you and me. I'm a big fan of my friends and mentors. In any case... onto the story.
The main reason I was excited to go was to see how a show is made, if you're a regular visitor of my site you may know that I think technology is fucking great. Seriously, I don't think you can present a problem or an issue to me where I can't tell you how it could be enhanced with a piece of technology. Whether it is hi-tech, or low tech, technology is spurs innovation and fosters efficiency so I'm a big fan of that. I was looking forward to see how they get 300+ people coordinated to sit, stand up, clap, and most importantly to dance. You may think that its easy for a celebrity to get 300+ people to dance just because of her name, and because there are some phat beats playing, but you'd be wrong. Besides the psychology of getting everyone to participate, enthusiastically, cheerfully and practically the way *you* want it, I was looking forward to seeing the cameras whiz around the studio, I would be the geek looking for the cues that tell the guests where to look, when to speak etc. You don't think this is all spontaneous do you?
About a month ago, my wife got "stand by" tickets, I guess it was too late to get the regular tickets, these go really fast. Stand by tickets, if you don't know, are exactly what they imply, standby similar to an airline standby ticket where you may get on board if there's a seat but really, there are no guarantees. We arrived to the Warner Brothers studio around 1:00 pm. We parked and promptly were greeted by WB security staff, dedicated to the show, the show has a waiting area in the parking lot where you sit and wait. The space is litterally in the parking lot, but it has been converted to be a waiting area; there are benches and the walls are lined up with flat screen tvs that continually play Ellen's past shows. A PA system is also tucked away in a corner and the hosts use it from time to time to give you directions an status about what's going on.
Shortly after we arrived, we were given our real tickets, and were told to be back by 4:00 pm. It had to be close to or over 100 degrees out there so we walked to El Torito for a drink and some refreshing air conditioning. We came back around 3:50 and the place was packed but not to worry they said, your ticket is your pass and it doesn't matter where you are, we let you in in numeric order. We thought, well that's cool, we got a ticket so we're good to go. As we waited, the other show was being recorded and sometime around 5:00 or so the audience from that show walked by us. Our anticipation was heightened and we really wanted to get out of the heat, despite having a fan right above us, the temperature was still uncomfortable. Then our hostess started calling out instructions and explaining the next step. First the VIP group would go in, then they called numbers in order from 1 - 200 or so. She then said, sorry for the rest of you but the show is pretty full, and we'll do what we can to get you in, and those of you that don't make it in, will have a chance to hang out at the "riff raff" room. Now, forgive me for not jumping on the bandwagon of happiness and mirth, and drinking the rainbow fairy koolaid, but isn't riff raff the same as undesirable? the garbage per se? That put me off a little but oh well, we were there so what the heck.
We were lined up, in pairs, very methodically and calculated. All the staff have cool little radio systems and they're constantly checking with each other and giving status updates. They do a great job of moving about 400 people in like 4 or 5 minutes. From a parking lot, across the street and into the studio. First of course were the VIP and the people with regular tickets, then us. Luckily for two out of the four people in our group, they got to go in. Helen and I got to hang out in the "riff raff" room, -- that word still irks me. In there, the hostess tried her best to cheer us on but I can't help but say that not everybody was all happy and cheerful. I mean we wanted to see the show, not hang out in the back room and watch tv. I could have done that from home. But the positive was that we got tickets for a later show in January. Then for me, it was interesting to see at least some of the dynamics of producing the show, albeit very little, but I noticed quite a bit. About 10 minutes before Ellen comes out, the people in the audience are briefed. Don't chew gum, take off your sunglasses, dance, don't stomp, don't yell out random stuff, don't be disruptive to the show, etc.
Then they get everybody pumped. Both in the studio and in the... shall we call it the store room, instead of the riff raff room? There's merchandise there and its nice but lets not call it the riff raff room anymore, pretty please? Inside both rooms, the staff gets you dancing and moving, and in the studio room they have random people come up to the stage and actually dance in front of the audience. These are all classic crowd interaction techniques to prepare you for the big show. By the time Ellen gets in, your blood is pumping, you're excited and you're happy. Its all a setup, I can't say its bad, but it certainly unveils a little more of the reality that is show business; its all staged. There are no coincidences, no real surprises and well, that's the way it is I guess. Nevertheless, I'm excited about having gone there because we got tickets for the real show. Unfortunately and as I expected, no cameras are allowed so I have no pictures to show you other than the crowd waiting in the parking lot, you can see it in my Tumblr. (btw, thats just some random guy sitting there... not me)
It wasn't the best outcome and I can't say I had the best time, but it was ok. I hope when we get to see the real show that things are different and I'll be able to see the stuff I wanted to see. I asked our two friends what was going on in between commercial breaks and they said, nothing exciting. Yeah, for you! but for me, this is what I live for, the "how its done", the real logistics, the people that actually run the show and make it all happen, the behind the scenes stuff, that's what I want to see, and well yeah, Ellen too.