Kevin Smith at Carnegie Hall
Last month I spent two wonderful, sleep deprived days in New York. It didn't matter that it rained nearly non stop the entire time. It didn't matter that the Greyhound bus we'd booked tickets on ending up overbooking, leaving up with six hours to race to NYC from Baltimore by car with a dying GPS system as our only guide. Ok, scratch that. That last part mattered. I'm still bitter.
Mishaps aside, my friend and I made it to Manhattan with an hour and change to spare before the start of Kevin Smith's Q&A at Carnegie Hall. Having never attended anything at Carnegie, I was intimidated by the level of prestige the place itself represented. This was a high class, high society realm. With the framed pieces of sheet music on the walls and the finely painted stonework in the hall itself, let's just say I was scared to breathe wrong lest security be called to escort the riff raff out.
Now, if you've never seen or attended a Q&A by Kevin Smith, well, you've never heard dick and fart jokes put so eloquently. Each story he regales the crowd with is either a snippet of the daily life of a loving father and husband or a brief look into the ups and downs of the entertainment business. Carnegie Hall was no exception. To hear the man talk about breaking a toilet in the same hall distinguished by the musical artists and symphonies that have played there made the night all the more enjoyable. All in all, though unfortunately the show was only three hours long (short by Smith standards), it was more than worth the nerve wracking, heart attack inducing, trial by fire, that is driving in Manhattan for the first time.
Catch Kevin Smith coming to a city near you soon.
The Daily Show Taping
The next day we attended a taping of the Daily Show. The drill is pretty much the same as attending a Colbert Report taping, except you don't have to show up as early to TDS. Since the studio (which I've now nicknamed 'The Jon Stewart Memorial Amphitheater' in recognition of just how much bigger it is compared to the TCR set), can seat nearly three times as many people, it's hard to get a bad seat in the house. Show up around 1-2pm, and you should be good. Granted, it was a torrential downpour the day of our taping, so take that advice with a grain of salt.
Once let into the studio, seating went smoothly and soon the warm up comic, Paul Mecurio, came out and kept us entertained while we slowly dried off, but it's hard to motivate a cold and wet crowd of people. Now, this next part isn't meant to be a swipe at the TDS staff, but as far as audience preparation and revving up goes, TCR had them beat. Over at TCR they lay down the ground rules quick and jump right into how to clap loudly, how to laugh loudly, etc. We didn't get that primer at TDS unfortunately. Again, it might just have been an off day, or they don't have to compensate as much when they get a slightly lackluster crowd because they have larger room to work with. Or the fact that the guest was Mike Huckabee and I think people might have expected the interview to be a bit on the tense side if the last interview was any indication. Whatever the reason, I felt that a little explanation would have helped the crowd get more motivated than what I saw.
However, any momentary griping I had about the crowd faded away the moment Jon Stewart walked out. I don't know if it's possible for someone to radiate sheer intelligence, but Jon was doing a pretty fantastic job at it. He answered a handful of questions, one of which lead to a story about when the President of Pakistan was a guest on the show, the President came with his own personal secret service, complete with trained snipers on the rooftop. All of them assigned to protect the President... and JUST the president. As in, if something were to happen, Jon was told "you should duck too", but beyond that he was pretty much on his own. He was also asked what was his most awkward moment on the show, to which he replied,"Have you SEEN the show?!".
Soon the show began and my near Pavlovian TCR clapping and laughing training kicked in. The jokes were excellent as usual, Wyatt and Larry's segments especially. But the real meat of this show was obviously the interview. Seeing that Huckabee interview in person was a big treat. I was literally on the edge of my seat with the back and forth between the two of them on an issue with no real sides. I'm not going to go into my own personal views on the issue of abortion, but watching them, mostly Jon, break the issue down into the many shades of gray that it is was amazing. The immense amount of thought that Jon attempted to put into everything he said was palpable. And I've also got to give props to Huckabee for coming back to talk about such a volatile subject.
Comparing both shows is like trying to compare yin and yang. They're two distinct parts of the same comedy whole. Stephen is boundless energy personified, Jon is intelligence and wit encapsulated. Each show has a different feel to it, but the end result is the same. A very enjoyable experience watching a comedy show mixed with a layer of something meaningful.
Page Branson 2009