Every once in awhile, Karma smiles down upon you and grants you the opportunity of a lifetime. In my case, her gift was two tickets for a taping of The Daily Show in Tampa, Florida during the Republican National Convention. Now, some of you may be snickering or rolling your eyes because
you’re complete and utter morons I think watching Jon Stewart doing his gig in person can only be surpassed by an event that involves me sipping Moët from the Holy Grail while David Sedaris reads aloud to me and Johnny Depp massages my feet. Sure, I realize his show shoots five days a week for most of the year up in Hell’s Kitchen, so you’re probably thinking that filming The Daily Show isn’t exactly rare like, say, a sober Amanda Bynes or a pale Donatella Versace.
But you would be wrong.
Shooting Comedy Central’s top–rated show in Tampa is extraordinarily unusual. And after Stewart and his team openly lambasted the city in which I reside with embarrassingly accurate observations about the heat and humidity (describing Tampa as the ideal environment for “a struggling strand of streptococcus”), the casual attire of the indigenous population (“the city where flip flops are considered evening wear”), and our fondness of clothing-optional gentlemen’s clubs (“Jon, I’m here in Tampa’s famous strip club district or as they call it here – Tampa.”), it’s unlikely that the program will ever be filmed in the Peninsula of Death again – unless a palmetto bug decides to run for President in 2016.
Still, I feel compelled to share with you a few of the lessons I learned from this experience in the event that, one day, you have the opportunity to bathe in the dazzling, golden light that is Jon Stewart.
1. Arrive Early
The Daily Show overbooks in order to ensure that they always have a full house, so if you’re lucky enough to get tickets, you’ll want to pretend that the show is actually British Airways and that you’re catching the last flight out of JFK to London…on Christmas Eve. No, you don’t have to wear your fugliest holiday sweater; however, you do need to arrive early if you expect to see Jon Stewart from anywhere besides your living room sofa – because your tickets are really just reservations. And no, you can’t attend the next taping on standby, nor will the staff provide complimentary pretzels. Please leave your baggage at home – no one wants to hear about the time your ex-husband got drunk at Thanksgiving and asked your mother if the carpet matches the drapes.
2. Dress Appropriately
After hearing that some fans had arrived as early as 7:30 a.m. on previous days to wait in line for tickets, my friend, Stan*, and I were prepared to work on our farmer’s tans in the broiling August sun, while simultaneously watching my hair frizz and my muffin top swell to mushroom cloud proportions. Anticipating that we could be baking in the heat for several hours, Stan and I both dressed comfortably, knowing there would be time to run home, shower and change before call time at 4:30 p.m. Then Karma blew us another kiss and threw in a bear hug to boot. Unlike previous audiences, we were permitted to wait inside the lobby – in a world of glorious air conditioning, commercial carpeting and public toilets. Though we would still have to stand or sit on the ground, we preferred the cushioned nap of industrial flooring against our asses over the dry scrape of hot concrete.
Despite this bit of good fortune, there was one woman who managed to spit in Karma’s face by wearing six inch high platforms and a mini-dress so snug, I suspected that it was actually a Space Bag. By the time Miss Impractical 2012 wobbled in with her flip flop-wearing boyfriend who reeked of a, erm,
wake-n-bake stupidity Keanu Reeves kind of intelligence, Stan and I were seated cross-legged on the floor, leafing through the latest issue of Creative Loafing and sipping on bottled water. Of the 150 plus folks in line ahead of us, most had plopped down into various slumping shapes on the carpeting, but not Miss-My-Dress-Isn’t-Tight-Enough-Until-The-Vacuum-Hose-Has-Sucked-Out-Every-Molecule-Of-Air. Nope, she stood there, arms crossed, a forced smile on her face.
I suppose if she’d been a young sprite of a girl, I would have been empathetic, but she was clearly older than I – a fact which made her decision to dress like an underage strumpet while waiting for tickets to a show about politics considerably less sympathetic. Did she think Jon Stewart was going to call her out in the middle of the show? Holla to the hottie in the fourth row. Here’s my hotel key. Meet you there in an hour, bitch – and bring a chilled bottle of Manischewitz.
In front of us squatted two identically-dressed women whose combined girth drew me to conclude that they were Anti-Aerobic Activity Activists, unless tapping the keys on your phone at the speed of light qualifies as heart healthy. They never spoke (though I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their own language and if REDRUM was their standard greeting) – and I suspect a visit to their home would have revealed a shrine to Jon Stewart lit by candles and dripping with chicken blood, along with a massive collection of New Kids on the Block figurines still in their boxes.
As the crowd grew, the staff encouraged all of us to squeeze together in line so that everyone could wait in air-conditioned comfort. Stan and I scooted closer to the REDRUM Twins, whose expressions darkened at our approach. Meanwhile, Keanu disappeared, only to reappear with a chair he’d borrowed from halfway across the lobby in his hands – a throne for his Platform Princess. Minutes later, he placed another chair next to hers and plopped down onto it. His self-satisfied smirk screamed, “Suckas!“ At this point, approximately 400 pairs of eyes narrowed and the room erupted in a low growl which could not only be heard, but could be felt as it vibrated its way through the carpet fibers of the lobby. Keanu simply shrugged at all of us and murmured, “Duuude! Better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.” Not one head nodded in agreement, though I’m sure each of us was musing, “Why the fuck didn’t I think of doing that?”
3. You’ve Got Your Ticket – Now Go Away
Okay, that’s not exactly what the staff said. It was more like, “After you’ve gotten your ticket, please leave. Seriously, we don’t want you to hang around here until the show starts in two hours. There’s a bunch of restaurants within walking distance. Go get some lunch or something.” At the mention of the word walking, you could hear a collective groan from the future audience members.
Walking is a big enough challenge for many Americans, but when you instruct them to hike through a downtown urban heat island in the middle of summer, what they hear you say is: Prepare for heatstroke. Don’t jaywalk. No, you’d better jaywalk because if you wait for the light, you may die of heatstroke. Unless, of course, you are mugged and, subsequently murdered by one of the many homeless people who inhabit the urban jungle. Because that’s what homeless people do. Kill people with homes and then squat in those homes. Perhaps you should just stay here in the lobby, take a Xanax and bite your nails. If you wander off onto the streets of Tampa, you’ll probably get lost, then get mugged, then collapse from heatstroke and, finally, be murdered by one of those homeless people I mentioned. There’s also a slim chance that a zombie horde or some dude high on bath salts will eat you alive.
Oh, wait. Forget it. These people were Daily Show fans; fearmongering is useless against their powers of reasoning and logic. Now if I was talking about Rush Limbaugh’s show…
4. Don’t Drink Anything All Day
The Daily Show taping rules are, erm,
taken verbatim from an old Nazi military manual pried from the cold, dead hands of a former Gestapo a bit rigid. Once you are admitted into the theater, you can’t leave. For any reason. As the doors close, the glaring red exit signs flicker, then go dark. Gotta pee? Tough titties; you should have been cathed before the show. Going into labor? The bad news is you won’t be getting an epidural; the good news is that Jon Stewart will kiss your baby once you wipe the amniotic goo off of her face with the bottom of your tee-shirt. Stroking out? No worries; audience members on either side of you are instructed to tape one of your hands to their own to assist you if clapping becomes difficult.
trapped locked inside a room with 600 other people who’ve been standing around all day in the August heat in Florida for two to three hours isn’t an issue for you. Then again, your nickname in sixth grade probably wasn’t Miss Peabody. However, mine was and I can assure you that, in your excitement, your body will betray you. Throughout the day, it will suck moisture from every possible source – the air, succulents, toilet bowls, your neighbor’s swollen ankles, the Juicy Fruit in your friend’s mouth – and that fluid will puddle innocently in your bladder, refusing to exit your body despite numerous visits to the bathroom, until two minutes after you have settled comfortably into your seat, the theater doors have slammed shut and the deadbolts have slid into lock down position.
At that exact moment, you will feel slight pressure against your lower abdomen – as if, say, Honey Boo Boo, her entire clan and their stockpile of frozen roadkill have taken up residence in your lap – and you’ll need to take a leak. For the first time in your life, you will realize that old people don’t wear Depends because they must; they don them because Depends are the most fucking brilliant invention in history. In fact, you will frantically search the seats around you for an elderly woman who looks just a little too smug, a little too comfortable. Perhaps she’ll have an extra pair of adult pull-ups in her seventy-seven compartment purse that she’ll give you? If not, no worries. You’re bigger. Stronger. Bitch don’t have a chance.
5. Don’t Break The Rules
Groupthink despises the individual…especially when that individual is breaking the laws as set forth by the groupthink society. Before we were shuttled into the theater, we were warned repeatedly by The Daily Show staffers that our phones must be turned off and that no photos were permitted. Anyone caught taking a photograph would have their camera or phone confiscated. True, it was a bit of an Our Gang’s Miss Crabtree kinda move on their part, but we diligently silenced our phones and kept them in our pockets and purses.** Except for one woman sitting directly in front of Stan and me. As soon as the warm-up comedian appeared on stage, Rule-Breaking Bitch brazenly lifted her iPhone from her lap and began clicking away. Within an hour, she’d taken so many pics, I was pretty certain we could use them to put together a stop-motion version of the entire show.
And Stan wasn’t having it.
In fact, Stan was having a Jeanie Bueller moment. After following the rules all of his life, he felt something in him snap. Why did Rule-Breaking Bitch get away with taking photos so blatantly? She probably used to skip school, sing “Danke Schoen” on parade floats, catch fly balls at Wrigley Field and whiz around the city in a “borrowed” 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California convertible. “How come she gets to take pictures?” he whispered in my ear. “I hope they catch her and take away her phone.” I held my breath, half expecting him to next say, “If I was bleeding out my eyes, you guys would make me go to school. This is so unfair…”
Part of me wanted to tell him, “Look, you can risk it and take some photos. No one’s stopping you,” but I didn’t. Why? Because I got it. Despite the fact that each of us likes to think that we’re as cool as Ferris Bueller, the majority of us are spiteful Jeanie Buellers deep down in our little, black hearts. Our cardiac organs don’t beat; they tremble with the fear of not being accepted. And no matter how daring or cool Stan may have thought he was, no one had ever painted Save Stanley on the side of a water tower for him. Thus, he suffered in silence, broken up by many periods of non-silence, during which he complained to me about Rule-Breaking Bitch and the many ways in which we could end her life prematurely.
6. Ask Jon Stewart A Question
After the warm-up comedian finished his shtick, Da Man strode out onto the stage – all confident, but not cocky like, say, Stephen Colbert. Prior to the shtick-throwing, a Daily Show staffer had prepped the audience, advising us that Jon Stewart would speak to us mere plebeians and would take some questions. As soon as I heard this, my heart began pounding in my chest because I am one of those people whom you either loathe or envy – a hand-raiser. My celebrity hand-raising to question ratio is currently at 92%, meaning that over 9 out of 10 times when a celebrity accepts questions at an event, mine is one of them.
Could this have anything to do with the fact that I have freakishly long arms? Possibly. More likely, it’s that when my arm is raised, my eyes tend to bulge a bit (I think Tyra Banks calls it “smizing”) and my lips spread so wide that you can immediately determine that I’ve had my wisdom teeth removed. I’ve been told it’s a tad disturbing to watch, so I have to surmise that celebrities are praying that if they entertain one of my questions in a public forum, I won’t show up at their dressing room door later with a bouquet of flowers woven from my hair.
Seeing as how I had just spent the last couple of days following RNC protest groups around town, I could have posed one of a myriad of serious questions to Jon:
“Hey, Jon! Do you think Mitt Romney’s wife ever calls him ‘Mittens’ when she’s feeling frisky?”
“Hey, Jon! If Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney aren’t elected in 2012, do you think Ryan will replace Jack Gleeson as King Joffrey on the Game of Thrones?”
“Hey, Jon! Who’s more orange: Donald Trump, Oompa Loompas, or Mitt Romney when speaking to a group of Latinos?”
“Hey, Jon! Do you think Governor Chris Christie will spontaneously combust one day while giving a speech?
But no…I elected not to ask the King of Comedy Central an incisive question about the political landscape of our country. Instead, I would ask him the single question that was in the mind of every person in that audience – besides, of course, “When can I go pee?” Raising my arm, I waited. And waited. And waited as Jon called on one boring person after another and answered their equally mundane questions about things like the African-American woman who was harassed by two alternate RNC delegates or Reince Priebus’ endless promises to share “The Mitt Romney story,” which I’m pretty sure involves a tricycle with a dog strapped to the handlebars. I mean, c’mon, people. Jon Stewart isn’t an amateur. Ask him something that matters!
Still, this didn’t stop a few members of the audience from simply shouting out questions, even though the rest of us were being respectful and raising our mother fucking hands. The Stewartster entertained their queries because, well, that’s what you do when you’re dealing with the kind of people who enter the bathroom stall the moment a celebrity exits it, with the hope that there’s an unflushed turd they can scoop up and add to their Jon Stewart shrine.
And this is what happens when people who don’t know how to raise their hands are allowed to speak:
“Omigod. Okay, Jon. Umm, if you were playing, umm, Monopoly, umm, what piece would you be?”
“Hey, Jon! Why isn’t there a Florida banner on your set? (To which Jon replied, “Because we’re here. In Florida. Are you guys insecure or what?”)
My inner Jeanie Bueller awakened and snarled at the loudmouths. I’d show those damn anarchists how to ask a proper question and Dean Rooney could give them all detention when I was done with ’em.
Thrusting my hand higher in the air than ever, I left it there, even though polite society dictates that you should lower your hand while a question is being proffered by another person. However, I’m pretty sure that polite society also dictates that you don’t ask Jon Stewart whether or not he’d be the shoe or the race car when you have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask him a question. (Everyone knows he’d totally be the thimble.) When you’re dealing with the master, you gotta bring it.
And bring it, I did.
“Uh, and you, M’am,” Jon said, pointing in my general direction.
I hesitated, then looked around to see if anyone else was jumping to their feet. Finally, I asked, “Me?”
Jon nodded at me as if to say, “Okay, this one’s not the sharpest crayon in the box. Yeah, you, idiot.”
“Really?” I said, grinning maniacally at Jon. “Awesome!” Yes, I was off to an impressive beginning. “Okay, umm, Jon, first I wanted to thank you for coming down to Tampa to cover the RNC. We’re so glad you’re here.” Erm, duh! Would we wait in a line for hours to get tickets if we weren’t glad Jon Stewart was here? Way to go, Captain Obvious.
Jon smiled. “That’s Mister Stewart to you,” he said.
Oh no, he diiiidn’t! Jumping to my feet, I retorted, “Why? Are you insecure or something? So as I was saying, Jon, we’re grateful that you came down to Tampa…”
Wait. You don’t really think I said that to Jon Stewart, do you? If so, you clearly need to reread my very first post, Why I Hate Witty People, in which I explain that I suffer from Dilatory Epigram Syndrome, a heinous condition which, while allowing the inflicted to be clever in print, impairs their ability to deliver quips in person. So instead of bantering with Stewart, I chuckled nervously, then said, “Oh, sorry. Mr. Stewart, we’re really glad you brought your ass down to Tampa to see us, but I was wondering why the hell Stephen Colbert didn’t bother to come down here.” Yes, I thought that I had somehow redeemed myself by including the words ass and hell in my question.
“Because he’s a pussy,” Jon said, not missing a beat. The crowd roared with laughter and applause, but all I could think was: Jon Stewart just called Stephen Colbert a pussy.”
And for the second time this year, a celebrity had responded to one of my questions with an, erm, lady part. I’m starting to get the feeling that if manage to meet President Obama, the exchange might go something like this:
Me: “President Obama, what do you like best about Florida?”
President Obama: “Your vajayjay, Miss Snarky Pants. Definitely your hootchie cootchie. I gotta get me a piece of that snatch.”
(Forgive me, Michelle. No one rocks J. Crew like you do!)
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* Stan’s name was changed to protect the Jeanie Bueller inside of all of us.
** After the show ended, we were allowed to take photos of the set as we exited the theater:
Photo Credits:Jon Stewart: comedycentral.com Donatella Versace: zoomoda.com Paris Hilton: gawker.com Storage Bag Dress: flickr.com REDRUM Twins: scaryandfun.com Zombie Horde: podcastingnews.com The Daily Show Rule Book: observatory.designobserver.com Honey Boo Boo: businessinsider.com Our Gang: gamehounds.net Save Ferris: roadtripmemories.com Tyra Banks: fabuloussavings.com King Joffrey: pajiba.com Jeanie Bueller: pyxurz.blogspot.com Stephen Colbert: cjr.org