“Then Bill Hader, in character as Stefon, spit vodka into Paul Rudd’s mouth and all over his face.”
“It sounds like you’re describing a crack!fic.”
But it wasn’t crack!fic. It was crack!fact.
Last night, Kim and I trekked all the way to 11th Avenue to The Daily Show studios to be in the audience of the live telethon portion of Night of Too Many Stars, Comedy Central’s annual autism benefit. I booked the tickets through provider 1iota.com, who also fill seats for Jimmy Kimmel, The Voice, and loads of other special events. But the ticket confirmation gave us little detail beyond where to be and when to be there. A celebrity-oriented mystery adventure on a Sunday night? Consider us in.
After waiting about an hour with 75 or so other seat fillers, we were ushered onto The Daily Show set. Instead of Jon Stewart’s news desk, the soundstage was occupied by four curved tables arranged in two concentric semi-circles. In front of each chair was a phone, laptop, and name plate. As we are wont to do, Kim and I grasped hands and whisper-screamed each name: Julianne Moore. Jerry Seinfeld. Meredith Viera. Wendy Williams. John Oliver. TOM. HANKS.
We took our seats in the second row of the center section and watched headsetted PAs and producers running around in controlled chaos. Then, the celebrities started streaming in. The name plates served as fair warning for some of them, but we had absolutely no warning at all for Paul “Picture of Dorian Gray” Rudd and Seth “I’m Gorgeous and Smart and Funny” Meyers. As usual, we seem to be reacting way more than anyone else around us. GUYS. Tom Hanks is RIGHT THERE.
I judge anyone who can keep their cool in the presence of HANX.
The main live benefit concert event had already taken place at the Beacon Theater. It was airing last night, with live cut-ins from the telethon. The monitors in the studio showed us the televised Beacon sketches and performances, and the producers counted us in and out to the live feeds. (“We need energy from you guys!”) The celebrities in the studio were absolutely taking calls and video chatting non-stop. Paul, Seth, and Hoda Kotb were sitting on a couch playing “Draw Something” with donors. A gal in a White Castle uniform was passing out burgers. It was really a pleasure to watch so many of my comedy heroes giving back and enjoying it.
Things that I saw/experienced last night and still need to deal with:
- Jack McBrayer was challenged to take one vodka shot with every $25K raised. I’m not sure if the vodka was real, but his expression of terror with every total reveal was 1000% believable.
- Between live feeds, Robert Smigel was just walking around with Triumph hanging off of his hand. Surreal.
- Jon Stewart kept coming over to us and asking if we were having a good time. A. NO, JON. WE’RE HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME. B. My number two silver fox, ugh.
- About a half hour into the whole thing, Bill Hader strolls in, in full Stefon garb, and CUDDLES with Seth on the couch. I am now hyperventilating. He and Paul Rudd come over to BS with the audience for a while. When Paul walks away, Bill (I mean Stefon) looks directly at us and mouths, “Guys. That’s Paul. Rudd. He’s GORGEOUS.” He also asked us if we had seen his boyfriend, Seth. Sethon, OTP.
- Onstage at the Beacon, Louis CK auctioned off the chance to have Al Pacino be in your Christmas card photo and bought a photoshoot himself. That would explain the family of five decked out in holiday sweaters sitting next to us. The PAs pulled in a fireplace backdrop and Christmas tree, and Al Pacino nestled right in the middle of these adorable parents and kids. How do you sufficiently prepare a small child to meet and not be terrified by Al Pacino?
- I can’t concentrate on Bill Burr on a monitor when I can concentrate on Seth, Paul, and Stefon giggling over Bill Burr on a monitor.
- After Jack McBrayer gave up on his vodka shots, Stefon grabbed the bottle, chugged half of it, and then sprayed in Jack’s face. And then sprayed it into Paul Rudd’s open mouth. And then chased Jon Stewart around the studio.
- P.S. While all of this amazing-ness was happening around us, it felt like we were the only people laughing and enjoying ourselves. Why so serious, audience? We were told that we were supposed to be reacting and applauding! With all the sourpusses around us, it felt a church-laugh situation.
Stefon knows what I’m talking about.
The producer gave us the all-clear, and we scrambled for our phones to tweet, text, and Facebook every mindblowing thing that we’d seen. We’re both scrambling to take a few grainy cell phone photos of the studio, when I hear a voice say, “Do you want me to take one of you guys?” Um, NO, Fred Armisen, but we want a picture with you.
Meanwhile, the poor crew is trying to get us all outside. But the celebs are all hanging out and talking, taking photos with fans. I see the Holy Grail but a stone’s throw away. We make the move.
Best. Picture. Ever.
We would have tried for more, if there had been time. Let it never be said that we don’t follow the rules. The crew swept all of us out into the night, but not without some complimentary White Castle. If we could only get two pictures from the pool of celebs there, Fred and Stefon were incredible gets. And, as Kim pointed out, I wouldn’t have been able to handle a photo with Seth Meyers.
Lots of people ask us how we get ourselves into these situations. We definitely don’t have money and we’re really not that well connected. In New York City, there are plenty of rewards for those who don’t mind waiting in lines for dubious amounts of time or being herded like cattle through various cramped spaces. And sometimes that reward is Tom Hanks. You just have to pay attention.