Melanie and I went to the DNC here in Charlotte on Tuesday. We had tickets to the Daily Show. Getting into the Daily Show is a long process so we had time to see a little of the big show going on at the convention.
The first thing we couldn't help but notice was all the police. There were cops everwhere, and I mean everywhere. On every corner, around, on bicycles, on dirt bikes, on street motorcycles, leaning against cars, gathered in groups shooting the shit, putting on a show while directing traffic, flying in helicopters, riding on horses and holding dogs on a leash. It was crazy. There were police officers from all over the Carolinas and Virginia. We were downtown for about twenty minutes before we saw a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. It was kinda stupid. At one point we saw about 70 to 100 anarchists marching down the sidewalk on N. Tryon St and they were easily outnumbered by the police who were hemming them in with their bicycles. In fact, the police were causing more of a disturbance than the hippy-ass protesters. One thing that kept popping in my head was how much the cops on dirt bikes looked like Shriners on minibikes during a small town parade. I was prepared for them to start going in circles or figure eights in the middle of the street.
Getting into the Daily Show was pretty easy. You could tell the staff had done this more than a few times. In fact, I think the woman whose job it was to control the audience said something like that. She did a fantastic job controlling 500+ hot and tired strangers. Once we received our actual tickets we went back about two hours later, queued up in ticket number order inside the Imaginon and then filed to into the theater and sat down in that order. They were real sticklers about putting away your electronic recording devices before the show started. A few phones and an Ipad were actually confiscated until the show was over.
While waiting in line we saw a couple of chartered buses arrive full of police and security. I can honestly say I have never before Tuesday seen a bus full of police. Now I have. In fact, the convention gave me a new way to measure police presence. From now on I can say, "I haven't seen this many cops since the Democratic National Convention came to Charlotte."
During our two hour break we got some coffee at the 7th Street Market and then we moseyed on down toward the Epicenter to see what we could see. I Wanted to see the sand sculpture of President Obama that was put up by the Myrtle Beach visitors bureau. It was during this walkabout that we saw the protest.
The Epicenter was a good destination. MSNBC was broadcasting from a mobile studio in the middle of the courtyard. It was fun to stand there for a while and watch the studio operate and to people watch. We even saw a roving reporter from Fox "News" interviewing some delegates.
We got back to the Imaginon a little before 4pm and were seated sometime after 5. First comedian Kevin Bartini came out and did about 15 minutes of stand up. He was pretty good and had a few jokes ready to go but spent most of the time bullshitting with the crowd. After his time was up he introduced Jon Stewart and Jon spent about 15 minutes joking with and taking questions from the crowd. That was fun, he was all over the map. Jokey and serious at the same time. When he was done he declared the show was fixing to start, hopped behind his desk, got settled in and then the theme music started and the show then started. I was curious about how the show was filmed. I didn't know if they took multiple takes of certain bits or ran through the whole thing and let it stand. I was leaning towards the latter because the show comes off lively and loose when it airs on Comedy Central, Monday through Thursday at 11pm. Turns out they record the show in real time and everything you see on TV happens just as it does in the studio in front of the audience. I was pretty impressed how Jon Stewart pulled off jumping in and out of recordings so he could comment on them. It looks easy as he is doing it on TV but the immediacy of it onstage really showed me the high wire act he pulls off every night.
This was my first time in the audience at the taping of a live TV show and as soon as the taping started I felt immediately distanced from the show. After the theme music ended Jon began speaking directly to the camera, we were no longer part of his vision. I saw then whey it was important for him to come out and interact with us before the show started. He needed us to know that we were there for a reason, to be part of the show, they needed our live laughter. If he had just came out and sat at his desk and started the show the intimacy he needed would not have been there. I guess that is why late night talk show hosts doing an opening round of stand up before they bring on the guests. It also explains why before the opening comedian came out the audience controller told us a few times how important we were to the show. Even though Jon would not be addressing us directly, he knew we were there. He had to, I know he could here us laugh because you could see him pausing in his script for our laughter. I imagine that is common knowledge but it was interesting to see how that played out.
At our feet were speakers, spaced out every four or five seats. Once the show started Jon Stewart's voice came through those speakers and the theater's sound system carried audio for anything played on the video screens. It was harder to follow Jon's comments on videos when the sound was bouncing back and forth from the speakers at our feet and the speakers in front of the stage. I never got quite attuned to that.
It was hard to focus on Stewart at his desk. There were two large screen monitors to the left and right of the stage and I found myself turning my gaze to the video screen since that is the view the whole show is designed for. It was fascinating observing how the background and the cameras were used. When the show opened Stewart was looking at the camera to the left of the stage. Which means during the opening he we were seeing him in a 3/4 quarter profile.
Speaking of cameras, those that got in line early and were able to secure seats close to the stage seemed to spend a good amount of their time with a giant television camera blocking their view of Jon Stewart. That'll teach you not to stand in line for six hours!
After the show, in a steady rain, Melanie and I shared a walk to the improvised transit center to catch our bus home. Our bus was supposed to run every 30 minutes. We waited an hour. It was not a good time. We were hungry and tired. The temporary transit center is a complete goatfuck. I don't blame the CATS system, they had a lot of people there working with commuters and they were working hard to do the best they could in a bad situation. The overall city planning that allowed this to happen was just shitty. I am thankful I am not depending on the bus system to get to work this week. Bus riders have been really hosed over by city, they don't count. We got home at 9pm after catching our bus downtown at noon. We ate and had a drink. Well, we both ate. I had a drink.
I didn't take my camera because cameras were not allowed in the Daily Show so I was was forced to use the phone on my personal communication device.
The stage MSNBC had set up
A portion of truly comical number of police used to keep about 75 anarchists out of trouble.
These officers were in front of ones in the picture above. See? comical.
You can see here how few protesters there were
The roving reporter from Fox "News"
These guys were from Monroe, NC. I am happy to report the Monroe police still carry heavy wooden clubs. Fuck tasers.
The sand sculpture of Obama
The Daily Show stage. They were cool about pictures. They told us to wait until the show is over and as you're leaving take a few shots. They also asked us not to be dicks about and be quick because when the show ended they wanted to go home. Fair enough.
Our view of the transit center while we waited and waited and waited and waited and waited...