Think participating in a TV
audience is just for fans? Not always. When Jenny Jones was preparing for her
show’s launch in 1991, she dropped by a taping of The Phil Donahue Show. “I
thought I could learn something from the inventor of the genre himself,” Jones
says. However, she says, the only lesson she walked away with was that “people
will make up any question to be on TV.”
Jones has since traded in her
TV show for a foundation, Jenny’s Heroes, but making up questions for your
favorite talk-show hosts remains a pretty good idea, especially if you’re
looking for some camera time. Even if you just want to get in the door, we have
the lowdown on shows from New York to Los Angeles. Follow these tips, and who
knows—you may end up with your own Daytime Emmy.
First, some general guidelines:
Getting Tickets. Most tickets
are available for free on the shows’ websites. “Always get tickets in advance
of the trip,” says longtime television producer Scott Sternberg. If that’s not
possible, standby lines outside the studio can be worth the wait. Make sure you
show unconditional enthusiasm; production assistants watch the lines for energetic
Getting Camera Time. Bold,
bright colors are universally encouraged, but make sure there are no visible
logos. Most important, follow any dress-code policies outlined on show
websites, as even people who have tickets can be turned away for improper
Deciding on a Show. The more
you know about a show’s routine, audience, and host style, the better equipped
you are to ask appropriate questions, participate in audience games, and enjoy
What to Bring. Since live shows
don’t have a laugh track, reacting as an audience member can be exhausting.
Jenny Jones suggests bringing a handful of nuts or a protein bar, especially if
the host is new to the industry; newbies can take up to six hours to tape a
show early in their career.
And if you’re headed to one of
the cities below, here are the shows to hit.
The Scoop: Oprah is especially
kind to her audiences, offering lavish giveaways and hanging out for Oprah
After the Show. But don’t try to plan for a “Favorite Things” episode (when
Miss O gives away her favorite swag like cars and computers); producers don’t
say in advance when these loot-packed segments are going to happen.
Camera Time: Don’t
underestimate how many millions of people the daytime diva attracts; if you’re,
say, “taking a sick day” to see the show, keep your head down.
NEW YORK: The Tyra Banks Show,
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Late Show with David Letterman, Live with Regis
and Kelly, The View, Rachael Ray
Deciding on a Show: If you’re
undecided about which of the many New York tapings to attend, go for the ones
with the biggest giveaways. “Regis and Kelly, The View, and Rachael Ray are all
very nice to audience members,” Scott Sternberg notes. “They’re respectful and
kind and often feature interactive giveaways and games.”
Camera Time: Tyra makes sure
everyone in the audience emotes like they’re in a silent film. The more over
the top the reaction, the more likely the camera operators will zoom in. Of
course, crying trumps all, so practice your fake tears before you leave the
What to Bring: Be prepared for
anything by packing a change of clothes, Sternberg suggests. No matter the
season, audience members should wear a heavy coat to the notoriously cold Late
Show with David Letterman.
LOS ANGELES: The Ellen
DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Get Warmed Up: Don’t show up
late for The Tonight Show (now in its final months), says Sternberg. “Jay
actually does his own warm-up before his show tapes.”
Insider Tip: Once you have
tickets to Leno (or any other late-night taping), troll the late show lineups
page for guest schedules.