Friends and followers in my social networking circle have the assumption of late that I have been traveling a lot. To a certain degree, yes, I’ve been doing my best to keep my Life eventful but I have not left the United States since my trip to Vietnam speaking at a tech conference. Majority of my recent travels are still within the west coast and southern California area. (I guess one can still consider that traveling.) In the past month or so, it’s been mostly bookstore hopping and a lot of hiking…
Anyways, to catch up by rewinding a bit: almost a month ago, on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014, I attended the Conan O’Brien Show in L.A. with Eszter. Thanks to her, she was able to snag some tickets after registering over a year ago. This was happening in the middle of a work week, so it was a quick flight down and back within a day. We didn’t get to enjoy a long stay but this was for “Team Conan,” folks!
We flew down early out of the San Jose airport, and, if I recall correctly, we arrived at Burbank about 9:30am or so. Eszter and I wanted to allow enough time for us to find a good brunch spot not knowing how long the process of getting into the show would take. Check in time was 12:30am at Gate 8 at the Warner Brothers Studio. But, to confirm we were in the right area, we taxied over to the studio once we landed. The ride over was only 15 minutes.
Gate 8 was a parking lot. But, there was a floor area for the Conan show that looked like rows of park benches surrounded by a small gate area. We talked to the parking attendant to assure us that we’re in the correct area. She told us to come back around 12pm, as it would get crowded. We inquired if there were any good local spots to eat. The attendant asked,”Did you drive?”
According to Yelp, there weren’t any local restaurants located within about a one-and-a-half mile radius. We were surrounded by nothing but studio buildings. And, since we had no access to a car, we started walking. It was good cardio for about half-an-hour until we arrived at a nice local family cafe spot. Again, being not good at remembering restaurant names, I just recall a hospitable family serving us, with crepes and coffee on the menu. We sat outside of the cafe, enjoying the sun and our meals. Then a professionally dressed, fit, Asian woman gabbing away on her Bluetooth walked past us and into the cafe. Fantasizing about the Hollywood life, we naturally (and probably stereotypically) assumed the woman must be a movie producer. At this point, we were done eating, and it was time to walk back to register for the Conan Show.
Back at Gate 8, there were five security guards ready to check us in. Two at the front who made sure we’re not carrying in anything bigger than a backpack, and a scanner door to confirm we don’t have any weapons or bombs on us, or not wearing a belt. And, small loose items in a tray for them to scavenge through. Two more guards sitting at a table verifying our ID and name, and hand-stamping us. And, one more patrolling the area. Friendly folks, tho. But, I felt as if I was boarding a plane again. Terrorists alert for Conan must be high. (After a bit of research, I found out Conan had a fanatical fan that stalked him, with potential death threats.)
There were already a good number of people lined up for the show on the park benches. It wasn’t too long before we were asked to stand up, and check in at the front with the studio show runners. After being instructed on how the whole process works, one-by-one, we were given wrist bands and a number card. We were number 14. It was only 1pm, at this point, and we were told that the next step won’t begin until about 2:30pm. It was time to walk back a mile-and-a-half again, and find something sweet to kill time.
We found a local spot that served ice cream and soda. At this point, unbeknownst to me, my triglyceride levels were increasing. I’ve been over-indulging on ice cream drumsticks and sandwiches. Trying to maintain a healthy diet as I age, Costco-sized ice cream in my fridge has been my vice in the past couple of months. (A couple weeks later, after this trip, to the doc for my annual check-up, I was scolded.) We killed time chit-chatting about our excitement for the show and what to expect, and also about staying healthy and living long lives. As a filmmaker, I would often get questions about why I don’t move to L.A. Despite the stereotypes, there are a lot of good people that I know of who live here working in the industry. But, I’m more of a Silicon Valley kinda guy, tho. I enjoy a more relaxed hustle and bustle environment, I guess. We shall see what the future holds.
What felt like a good hike alongside Warner Brothers Studios again, Eszter and I were back at Gate 8, again. We were told to be ready to do an eight block walk through the studios. And, also, that no pictures were allowed once inside the building. After a few strolls through the studio lots, we were ushered into an area where we walked past a giant bobble head Conan and other props. Up some stairs around the back studio, and into our seats: we got good spots next to the band, third row from the front row, far left.
By this time, it was almost 4pm. Our tickets says the show starts at 4:30pm. An unknown comedian (at least, unknown to me) came out with the fire marshal to crack a few jokes and talked to us about safety hazards. They instructed us to look for the “applause” sign, and to remind us that no pictures and video recording is allowed. And, what was most important was not to heckle Conan, or interfere with his routine. During this entire process, I saw various camera and production crew setting up all over the stage area, including an extensive camera crane.
I immediately noticed a producer to the side yelling and counting down “10-nine-8-seven…” and once he reached “One!” – the band started playing, and I was mesmerized by the number of cameramen in sync shooting for apparently live television. It’s not going to air for another 5 or 6 hours, but everything was being edited through the screens next to the “applause” sign.
Andy Richter walked out to his podium and introduced the show, causing louder applause…
When the curtains went up, there was Conan. We applauded even before the “applause” sign lit up. He walked out and it was apparent that he was a tall but lanky guy. Television does add a few extra pounds. He looked older than I recall what I’ve been seeing onscreen. It’s not that I noticed any wrinkles or anything, but maybe it’s because one can see the obvious make-up when he is really live in person. The camera crane swooped past over us as I tried to look into it… and the abyss looked back.
He did his monologue center stage, as I switched back-and-forth, watching the screen versus him live in person. There’s a surreal indifference that what I’m seeing on screen is projecting Conan’s honest self as a TV host. He’s a natural without missing a beat. There may have been audience members who interjected his routine out of a sense of attention-whorism, but Conan organically takes control of the situation by making a point that he’s in control of the show.
The show went into its first break, and the lights go out, as the production crew maneuvers around to get into place to shoot the next segment of Conan at his desk. During these breaks, Conan moves into his mode where he’s not looking at the audience or anyone else. He’s hopping up and down, or grooving to the music the band is playing as he’s psyching himself for the next segment.
The show’s first guest was Elijah Wood. He walked out with a bit of facial scruffiness, but it still doesn’t fail that people in the audience are chanting “Frodo! Frodo! Frodo!” I’m looking for hints that he’d be tired of this by now. But, Elijah just jumps into a conversation with Conan, and went on to promote his character on the show “Wilfred“. I’ve never heard of the show. I’ve watched Elijah in various films but I will also always remember him as Frodo, as well as the cannibalistic serial killer, Kevin, in Frank Miller’s “Sin City“.
My most fav Conan segments are the ones where he is the “Clueless Gamer“. These segments have him playing the latest console games as a non-experienced gamer. They’re hilarious skits of him having frustration and, well, clueless reactions while lacking coordination with the joysticks. Imagine my excitement when this showed included a segment of Conan attending this year’s E3 convention. But, of course, the ending of this part of the show had him involved himin having virtual sex to have any coordination with a video game from P4R Gaming.
The second guest was Jason Mantzoukas of “The League“. I know what the show is, but I don’t watch it either. Jason had an equal amount of bantering skills matched with Conan to keep the conversation between them entertaining and hilarious. During the moment the lights go out for us to watch a scene from the show on the screen, I noticed Conan is attentively watching as well, as if he’s gathering material for when the lights go up again – to be prepared to make fun of something.
And the final guest was the band “The Both“. I’m not clear what genre their music is, but what I heard sounded like alternative rock. I could be wrong. I wasn’t too interested, I’d admit. I was still fascinated focusing on what Conan is doing to the side as the guests are performing. It’s almost a behind-the-scenes opportunity experience when attending these shows. But, in this instance, Conan was just standing in the dark corner watching the band. He wasn’t even grooving to the music. *shrug*
It’s TV folks. It’s bullshit.
– Conan O’Brien
An hour into the show, and it begun to wrap up… Conan thanked us all for coming and the credits rolled on the screen. But, he didn’t leave. Conan explained to us that we would be spending a little more time together by shooting some extra side clips of audience reactions and himself doing more monologue for tomorrow’s segment, which then he espoused the above quote. He does his routine, as if the show was starting over again, and then goes into a song and dance running up through the middle section of the audience. Then, in which, he told us to applause for guests whom are not present while the camera crew recorded our reaction. At one point, Conan danced to a non-existent band’s performance. Remember this when you’re told the show is live.
All in all, it was fun experience. I’m always fascinated by the production side, and what it takes for the host celebrity to muster the skill and personality to command such a project.
Note: When in L.A., make sure you drive (as insane as the traffic gets). It’s better than waiting for a cab. It took 45 minutes for ours to arrive as we waited again at Gate 8, fearing that we would miss our flight back home. Although, we still had plenty of time to work with, it’s no fun when you hope to be eating something else besides airport food.
Finally, as we were flying back, already I was receiving messages from people that the episode had aired, and they could make us out in the audience. Although, I’m a web developer, and techie nut, I still find that I have to be A.D.D. to keep up with how quick and real-time the production of things are. The “Internet of Everything” is truly here.
Hmm… Originally, the link to the show could be found here but for some reason, it re-routes to the front page of the “Team Coco” site. I guess they archive shows at a certain point. I did say this was almost a month ago, and for people in this Internet Era, that’s an eternity of content ago. Oh wells… I’m sure if you Google “Conan show Elijah Wood Jason Mantzoukas the Both Band,” you’ll garner the results you’re looking for. Nothing is ever really lost.
As I’m catchin’ up here on rayhomdotcom, I can’t wait to blog my next post about my love for the “Planet of the Apes” series, as recently “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has been released theatrically. And then, I shall travel again, as I am preparing for Comic-Con next week!
As always, thanks for stoppin’ by!