Live Laptop — A report from the studio audience
I witnessed a historical event Monday night: the first time a late night show was filmed entirely on a laptop Webcam. I was part of it by being in the live studio audience; tonight, everyone with access to ABC can be in the audience too.
My gracious hosts in Los Angeles are committed to a touristy itinerary for my weeklong visit to the “Best Coast” and secured tickets for the taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. Those who wish to be part of a studio audience have to make reservations in advance, arrive early (no later than 5:30 p.m. for a 7:15 p.m. taping), and hope not to be turned away. We were among the last 10 to score seats; dozens of others missed out on the low-tech/high-tech night.
Members of a studio audience also have to put up with an hourlong warm-up. An in-house comic teaches the audience to clap loudly for people they might not know (John Henson from Talk Soup and Wipeout, anyone?) and laugh loudly at jokes they don’t find funny.
We were all primed and ready to laugh no matter what came out of Seth Rogen’s mouth, and were watching a farcical airplane safety video, with Jimmy Kimmel as captain offering instructions for the show’s take-off, when the DVD ground to a halt and the power to the show’s Communications went out, which meant no cameras. This also meant that the warm-up comic had to kill another hour as the show’s crew tried to get power back — he invited questions and “talent demonstrations” from the audience.
It turned into an open mike night. A McDonalds drive-through worker showed off his Donald Duck voice. A guy from Long Beach did his best Mick Jagger impression. And an editor from the Kalamazoo Gazette played Happy Birthday on his knuckles, followed by his son singing Ice, Ice Baby along with the Jimmy Kimmel house band (Kimmel later interviewed them on his laptop, so they may be on television tonight). When I rose my hand, the house band played the opening chords to my namesake song (Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir — da da duh, da da duh) — all in all quite entertaining.
Finally, it became evident that power was not coming back. The crew handed out candy — it was 8 p.m. by then and the natives were getting restless — and Jimmy Kimmel finally emerged with laptop in hand. He explained that the cameras were down and that he would be attempting to film on his Apple MacBook. And he did not seem happy about it.
He started by interviewing the musical family, and then a kid in a muscle shirt with koi tattooed on his back. Then he announced that he would be bringing Seth Rogen out. The crew then swapped out his laptop — throughout the night, he had two laptops. Every time he finished a segment, the crew would swap them out to upload the last segment. It was amazingly low-tech. They didn’t even have an external microphone, so the sound had to suffer.
Before Rogen came out, Kimmel told his crew in an annoyed voice, “Clear the stage. Get off the stage.” It seemed he was not pleased with their inability to get him normal cameras. Rogen kept looking out to the audience to tell his stories (Thanks, Seth!), despite Kimmel’s insistence that he look at the laptop. They, of course, started out with some Chatroulette jokes. According to this New York Times story, the Henson interview had to be retaped due to a sound malfunction. Then Dierks Bentley crowded around the laptop to sing a country song.
All in all, it was pretty impressive, even if Kimmel’s fuse was short along with his studio’s. At one point he remarked something like, “I guess I don’t need this whole crew. I can just do shows on my laptop.” The network, though, decided to show a rerun Monday night, with the laptop episode airing Tuesday night instead.
The whole time, my friends and I kept thinking to ourselves that it was reminiscent of the BP oil spill — as if no one had ever thought about a back-up plan should the studio cameras malfunction. Luckily, though, an Apple MacBook saved the day. Has BP thought about throwing those at the slick?