Something Quite Different
Christina and I have attended three tapings of “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” together. Despite the way it looks on TV, the production is fairly tightly run, and once the show begins they rarely even take the full two or three minutes for commercial breaks before they roll tape again for the next segment.
So our experience on Friday afternoon/evening was quite different.
Christina got an e-mail on Monday from Ryan, one of the 1Iota folks who help coordinate the audiences for shows like Craig Ferguson’s. The e-mail noted there was a special show slated for Friday that would include only Ferguson doing sketches. She put in for the free tickets, and did a little research that helped us find out that they were going to shoot some taped segments for a show that will run after Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.
Much of the pre-show activities were the same as the previous three shows we saw at Television City. We were allowed to park in the adjacent lot, then walked to the sidewalk on Fairfax Avenue where we lined up with about 150 other audience members. I got there a little bit before Christina since I was driving up from Torrance while she took a half-day off of work.
Because it was a Friday, the small snack bar and CBS store adjacent to the area where audience members go through security was closed. It was cold (for Los Angeles) and they kept us in the outdoor holding area for a bit longer than I remember waiting for other shows.
When they let us in the building, we waited in one of three lines upstairs before going into the studio, once again the usual drill. It was when we were seated in the studio that we first saw how different this experience would be.
On the right side of the stage a green screen was set up while at the center was an old leather couch and a 1970s console television set with rabbit ears. At the left, one of what turns out to be two Geoff Petersons was in a leather chair.
The regular warm-up guy, Chunky B, was joined by another staff member since there would be several scenes that required time to set up, rather than the one-shot, 50-minute talk show. The camera guys came up and they set up around the couch and TV set and we were all ready to go…and then we weren’t.
Union break. See you in a half hour (or so). So Chunky and his cohort did their best to keep the audience entertained. It reminded me of our experience at “Mike & Molly,” except that having someone to play off of made it flow a little better. But we still had the series of quiz questions and bad singers that we dealt with at the sitcom taping (with the exception of fewer parlor tricks). People will do almost anything for a T-shirt.
When the union break was over, they crew came out and moved the cameras to the green screen, where they started the actual taping with Josh Robert Thompson (the voice of Geoff Peterson) doing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tips on visiting New Orleans. The bit was well-received, but the audience was getting antsy. Where was Craig?
Finally, Craig arrived, ready to do a Sean Connery impression. As usual, he was spot-on, reflecting on past Super Bowl memories, a few of them even rooted in some sort of reality. Midway through taping the various segments, the crew brought Craig a bowl of popcorn, and then he went into one of the cabinets in the living room set and produced a stuffed sheep, which joined him on the couch for the remainder of the bit. They had to stop tape a few times when Craig’s bald cap was coming loose. I suspect difficulties in makeup may have also led to the delays that had stretched our time in the studio past two hours.
After he wrapped up the Connery segment, he asked the crew if Michael Caine was next and then went off stage. After about 10 more minutes of warmup, Craig came back, this time to the green screen, to tape some “Michael Caine in space” for use in the Super Bowl show. This was when the difficulties of the night came into full focus.
Holding a drink in one gloved hand and a cigarette in the other, he asked a crew member for a light. Craig read about three or four of the jokes off the teleprompter before someone told him he had to put the cigarette out because there was not a “special-effects person” on the set. He then read about five or six more before someone else said he could not have the cigarette at all.
This led to a bunch of inside jokes that only the audience would get as he continued to plow through the material on the teleprompter. For the most part it was still funny, but you could tell there was a growing level of frustration as he would say things like “You know what would make this better? A cigarette.” He also made several references to how a comedy bit could possibly make impressionable children want to smoke or speak in an English accent.
After finishing what was in the teleprompter, Craig looked at the staff and asked if he needed to do the ones where he was holding the cigarette again. We could tell he was not pleased with the prospect of having to get in makeup again another day before the show airs to redo the segment, so he and the staff decided it would be better to do it again. Of course, that meant the audience had heard the jokes already once, which proved to be an issue at the “Mike & Molly” taping as well.
The absurdity of the whole thing kept us laughing. We could all feel for the situation he was in as the taping stretched past three hours. He ultimately wrapped up the Michael Caine segment, did a cold open (which we are not sure is for the Super Bowl show) and said it would take too long to get out of makeup for the last bit they had planned, something with Geoff. He thanked the audience for sticking around as long as we did (7:15 p.m.) and left the stage.
It appeared to me that the ill-timed union break probably threw off the entire schedule. Craig probably planned to do the Connery thing first, then the Caine, and the Schwarzenegger segment could have been taped while his makeup was being removed.
While we love the program, and cannot wait for the chance to see another regular show, Christina and I agreed that Friday’s taping was interesting to see, but something we did not need to do again.