Going to a Taping of The Tonight Show!

If you know me, you know that I LOVE Jimmy Fallon! He is so funny and seems like such a nice guy and I’m in love with him. If you didn’t know, Universal Studios in Orlando made a ride starring Jimmy! Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon is a simulation ride where Jimmy hops in a special go-kart and you race him through the streets of New York, while other popular stars and characters of The Tonight Show pop up along the way. (My official review of the ride will be coming up in a later post).

With the opening of his ride, The Tonight Show hit the road and did a week of shows from the Universal Orlando Resort!

The Tonight Show actually did a week of shows from Orlando back in 2014. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get tickets for it, but I was at Universal during the day of their first show, so I got to see all of the signs posted around Universal advertising the show. I also got to see the musical performance for that day’s show, since they film that at the outdoor stage inside Universal Studios.

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This is 2014 me being depressed that I couldn’t see the taping of the show, wearing The Tonight Show logo hat I bought earlier that day, because I was depressed that I couldn’t see the show. I JUST LOVE JIMMY SO MUCH, OKAY.

Anyway, since I missed him last time, I was not throwing away my shot to catch Jimmy and the gang this time around!

So how it works is, The Tonight Show opens a wait list for the next month’s shows on 1iota.com. You make an account on the site, and then when the wait list opens, you can apply for up to three shows. Then, about two weeks before the shows you applied for tape, they’ll send you an email letting you know if you got tickets.

This year’s Orlando shows were April 3rd-6th, and the wait lists for those shows opened on February 24th. My best friend, Janessa, and I were dropping her car off somewhere about 5 minutes before the wait lists opened, so we were sitting in my car in a parking lot trying to get tickets. Luckily we were on the site as soon as the wait lists opened, and I was able to immediately sign up for two shows, but then the internet started acting wonky. Janessa and I literally jumped out of my car and started running around the parking lot trying to get signal, and people definitely thought we were psychos. Thankfully, our requests went through and between the two of us, we were signed up for the wait lists for the whole week of shows and a couple monologue rehearsals! SUCCESS!

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Then, on March 21st, I received this email:

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After freaking out and screaming for about a minute, I immediately clicked the confirm button, entered in some information about who I was bringing to the taping (my dad, Janessa, and her hubby Robbie), and just like that – I WAS GOING TO SEE JIMMY FALLON!!!

In the weeks leading up to the taping, I watched a lot of old episodes of the show. I record all of the episodes, but hadn’t watched them in months, so I had about 120 saved up on my DVR. I was so excited that I ended up powering through about half of them in two weeks (I know, I’m gross, BUT I LOVE HIM SO MUCH).

We heard rumors that for seating, it would be first-come, first-serve, so we wanted to get there early to get good seats. Check-in officially started at 9:00, so the morning of the show, we arrived at Universal Studios at 8:30 am, and by the time we parked, got through security, and walked over to check-in, we ended up getting in line around 8:45. There was already a line of about 40-50 people ahead of us. Universal staff walked us back to the check-in people a little after 9:00.

I was so excited that I was bouncing all over the place, which we thought would be helpful, since we also heard rumors that they were looking for enthusiastic people to put in the front. We gave them our confirmation ticket to scan, and they gave us our wristbands and real tickets that showed what row and seats we would be in, and told us to be back there at 2:30. I was jumping out of my skin to see where we’d be sitting, only to have my hopes and dreams crushed when we saw that we were in row U, all the way in the back. It was a complete and total buzz kill. It is only just now I see that in the email I got saying we got picked for tickets, it says “The order in which you reserve your tickets will determine your ticket group”. So I guess we were just one of the last to be notified that we were going to the show.

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Since we had time to kill before we had to get back, my dad and I went into Universal Studios, did a few rides, and had lunch. And we got to go on Jimmy’s ride!

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At 2:30, we met back up with Janessa and Robbie at the spot where we checked in, and headed back towards the theater. The Universal staff put everyone in order by row and seat number, and we stayed in line like that for about an hour. Finally at 3:30, they opened the door and led us into the theater row by row. The theater was a lot smaller than it looked on tv, so even though we were towards the back, we could still see pretty well.

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After everyone was seated, this guy came out to talk to the audience and kind of explain what was going on, bringing out the stage manager who basically just told us to be super loud and enthusiastic. Then, he introduced and brought out The Roots! They played a song and some of the band members came out onto the floor with their instruments to dance around with the guy who had been talking to us. THE ROOTS WERE AMAZING, obviously, and had so much energy!

Then, they brought out The Tonight Show announcer, Steve Higgins! Seeing all of these people in real life was completely mind-blowing to me. They looked exactly as they do on tv, except surprisingly, Higgins sounded a lot different than he usually does.

Anyway, after Higgins came out, they announced that it was 30 seconds to show time and turned all the lights out. Everyone in the audience was so excited, we were all screaming and stomping our feet on the metal bleachers our seats were bolted to, probably very close to collapsing the bleachers and falling to our deaths. Then came the 10 second warning, and I swear to God, everyone (especially me) lost their sh*t. The lights came up, The Roots started playing, Higgins did his intro and announced Jimmy, and I don’t think I have ever screamed so loud in my entire life than when the curtain opened and Jimmy walked out.

He started doing the monologue, and then about halfway through, he stopped and said that he pulled a hammy telling the last joke, and needed to tag someone in. I figured this was going to happen since Jay Leno was a guest on the show, and they always do this when Jay is there. So Jay Leno came out, told a few jokes, and then Jimmy tagged back in so they could tell a couple of jokes together.

After the monologue, Jimmy went over to sit at his desk and told us about the passing of legendary comedian, Don Rickles. Don had been on the show before, and he and Jimmy were friends, so Jimmy had some nice things to say about him.

If you’re a big fan of the show, and super observant like I am, you know that Thursdays are usually the day that Jimmy does the Twitter Hashtags segment, and Thank You Notes take place on Fridays. Since Jimmy didn’t send out a hashtag on Wednesday, and Thursday was their last show in Orlando, I figured he was going to do Thank You Notes instead, and I was right, woo! My favorites were the Yahoo!/AOL one and, “Thank you water slides, for giving me the thrill of having to remove a wedgie in front of strangers.”

My whole group was pretty disappointed with the guests for our show, Jay Leno and Kate Upton. I really don’t care about them, and wish we would’ve had the guests that were on the show earlier in the week, like Blake Shelton or Dwayne Johnson. The Jay Leno segment was pretty uneventful, except for a story he told about making Rodney Dangerfield laugh on his deathbed. Then Kate Upton came out and she and Jimmy had a dance battle that was pretty funny. It ended with Hashtag the Panda coming out and Jimmy doing the Hashtag dance with him, which was hilarious! These guests just weren’t thrilling for me, I was more excited to see Jimmy and the gang.

It was really cool to see what the show does during commercial breaks. They do the breaks in real-time, meaning, however long it takes to run commercials is how long the break is. During one break, Jimmy recorded a message for some NBC/Comcast bigwig who was winning an award. During the break between Kate Upton’s segments, they recorded promos for different NBC news stations. In the rest of the breaks, they just used the time to reset the stage, go over notes, etc.

Back in New York, at the end of the show Jimmy runs up the stairs in the audience to give people in the aisles high-fives, but since the Orlando shows end outside at the concert stage, I figured he wasn’t going to run through the audience at our taping. BUT HE DID!!! After taping finished, The Roots started playing again and Jimmy headed to the stairs where we were all seated. Our seats turned out to be a blessing in disguise because even though we were in the back, we had aisle seats! My dad was sitting on the end and as Jimmy started making his way up the stairs, he switched spots with me, so I was on the aisle. After hugging a bunch of people he knew in the middle rows, Jimmy came up the stairs, walked right next to me, AND TOUCHED MY HAND! Putting into words how exciting that was for me has proven to be very difficult, but needless to say, I will never recover from getting a high-five from one of my favorite people on the planet. My left hand will forever be known as, “The Hand That Jimmy Fallon Touched.”

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After being let out of the theater, audience members were able to use the wristbands we were given to get into Universal for a couple of hours, in case anyone wanted to watch the musical performance from Jason Derulo later that night. I wanted to get a Tonight Show souvenir from the gift shop at Jimmy’s ride, and we had a virtual line pass for the four of us to ride Race Through New York, so we headed back into the park. I ended up not buying anything thing because they only had one shirt that actually said “The Tonight Show,” and I didn’t really like it, so I just figured I could buy one online from the NBC store. We also didn’t end up going on the ride again because we were all really tired, and my dad wasn’t up for getting motion sick again, so we decided to just head home. But, before we left, I obviously had to stop and get a picture with Hashtag the Panda, The Tonight Show’s mascot! He hangs out in front of the ride and inside the queue at various times throughout the day, so you have a good chance of catching him!

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A perfect end to a perfect day! I’m so unbelievably thankful to have gotten the chance to attend the taping. It was an out-of-body, possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience seeing all of these people who I love, in real life and up close. And I couldn’t be happier that I got to share this experience with my dad and my best friend. It was one of the most exciting days of my life, and I will cherish these memories forever. I hope Jimmy and the gang come back soon! Or maybe I’ll just have to catch them in New York!

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Thanks for reading!

Danielle

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