Destinations, Film Locations, Guides, USA

8 Live Show Tapings in NYC and LA

4 Comments 21 May 2013

8 Live Show Tapings in NYC and LA

Do you think we’ll see someone famous?

It’s a common question when visiting the USA’s spotlight cities for entertainment, New York and Los Angeles. If it’s going to happen anywhere, it’s going to happen at one of these places. NYC and LA are places A-listers in film, music and theater call home and do the bulk of their work.

While you might see someone on the streets, one way to ensure you definitely see them in person, and attend an amazing show for free, is to visit a live show taping.

Whether it’s politics, comedy, sports, food or just pure entertainment that appeals to you, there is a free live taping for everyone.  Below I’ve list a few big ones, where and when they are taped, why you should visit them, how to get tickets and how likely it is that you will. Make sure to read the end of the post as well, to find out what to expect and how to prepare for a live taping.

New York City

Late Show with David Letterman
Location: Ed Sullivan Theater 1697 Broadway
Tapes: weekdays, unless on otherwise noted

We’ll kick off this list with one of the absolute hardest tickets in town. The Late Show has been on CBS since 1993 and David Letterman is up there with the greats in late night entertainment. This is the show where the most trending names at any moment moment, like Barack Obama during the 2008 election, want to be seen and what’s more exciting is that Letterman is known to give some of them a hard time, like Justin Bieber.

It’s not impossible to find tickets, because the one-hour show tapes so often. Though you will have to be very flexible with your dates. Groups and individuals can request tickets using the online form on the show’s website. They can also apply for tickets in person at the box office. Located at Ted Sullivan Theater, it’s open Monday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m or Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m, unless the show is on hiatus. Tickets:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Location: 11th Ave between 51st and 52nd St in Manhattan
Tapes: Monday to Thursday, unless otherwise noted

This liberal-leaning Comedy Central show is one of the most talked about in political entertainment. Who would of thought from Big Daddy that Jon Stewart could be so witty and quick. The Daily Show can be controversial at times, but it’s always a good laugh. Come for Stewart, other rising comedians and and political debates, but don’t always expect well-known guests. While Stewart often has history-making politicians and Hollywood A-listers on, he also has people not everyone will recognize, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Plus, Stewart takes time before the 30-minute show to answer questions from people in the audience and spends some time after thanking them for coming. What a man!

Look for tickets about two months in advance. The good news is that their ticket page is extremely well organized, so just get there two months ahead and you should find something. Tickets:

The Colbert Report
Location: 54th St between 10th and 11th Ave in Manhattan
Tapes: Monday to Thursday, unless otherwise noted

The Colbert Report is very similar to The Daily Show except Stephen Colbert is much more eccentric and tickets are a lot harder to find to his show. From Colbert you can expect elaborate sets, extreme interviews and hilarious interactions. Like Stewart, Colbert takes time to chat with the audience before and after the 30-minute show.

Booking tickets to The Colbert Report is pretty tough. It’s the same Comedy Central system as The Daily Show, but you’ll only find tickets available for maybe two shows a few weeks away as oppose to eight a few months away. Just keep check with this show or sign up to receive notice when more tickets become available. Tickets:

Location: 221 West 26th Street between 7th and 8th Ave
Tapes: Two per day usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

The bubbly and beautiful Rachael Ray is a welcoming vision for a show that requires people to arrive in the morning. Come to this CBS show for free food and goodies. She often has competitions that members of the audience can take part in on the one-hour show. Plus, Ray books some incredible guests and makes them feel comfortable, so you see an interesting side of people. Don’t expect dramatic or ground-breaking interviews, but the show is a lot of fun. You only have to be 16 years old to be in the Rachael audience, but those under 18 must be accompanied by a guardian.

Tickets for this show are a lot more unsure than the ones mentioned above. People are asked to fill out a general request form online, but they don’t know about specific dates while filling it out. So do it a few months early and see what happens. Tickets:

Los Angeles

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Location: NBC Burbank Lot Studio 11 3000 W. Alameda Ave
Tapes: weekdays, unless otherwise noted

Host of The Tonight Show is the most-respected position in late night. The one-hour show has been on air since 1957. Once held by Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, Jay Leno took over the position in 1992 and has been a household name since then. They tried to switch Conan O’Brien into the position in 2009 and send Leno to his own later show, but the move was controversial to say the least and Leno was given his spot back not long after.

It’s filmed at NBC Studios in Burbank, California, which is an important Hollywood film lot, so it’s exciting just walking to the show. Plus, Leno gets the best in Hollywood A-listers and music acts almost every night of the week. They recommend booking tickets four to six weeks in advance via an online form. You can pick out a few possible dates when requesting tickets online. Guests must be at least 16 years old to attend. Tickets:

Location: Warner Bros. Studios 6564 Forest Lawn Drive
Tapes: weekdays, unless otherwise noted

Though Conan was sort of screwed over in the whole Tonight Show transition. He has an extremely loyal fan base, known as Team Coco and is still one of the biggest names in late night entertainment. Conan is on TBS and features the biggest names in Hollywood and music at the moment as well as up and coming comedians. Don’t be surprised if popular comedians like Will Farrell just pop on the show from time to time, not just for interviews either. It’s definitely one of the funniest late night shows on TV.

Plus, you get to walk through Warner Bros. Studios, where the show is filmed. Along the way to the studio you might see Chuck Lorre’s parking spot, the studio where Ocean’s Eleven was filmed and more.

Tickets to this show are known for being hard to come by, but you’ll also find last minute tickets pop up quite often. I found tickets the day before. Visit Team Coco to request tickets. Tickets:

The Ellen Degeneres Show
Location: Warner Bros. Studios 6564 Forest Lawn Drive
Tapes: weekdays, unless otherwise noted

Out of all the show mentioned on this list, Ellen is probably the hardest to attend. Not only is she a well-known name in entertainment, but she always has the best guests and giveaways. Expect to see her Hollywood friends, like Jennifer Aniston. If they’re going to show their face anywhere amidst controversy, it’s Ellen. But the show is usually pretty upbeat and hilarious. She dances in the audience and people are often asked to volunteer. Further, you’ll have to go through Warner Bros. Studios to get to her show, which, as I mention above, is cool no matter what.

You must be 14 years old to attend this show and all minors must be accompanied by an adult. Just keep checking online to find tickets for Ellen. They go fast and aren’t available very far in advance. This is one of those shows it might be worth trying for stand-by on the day, because it’s pretty unpredictable otherwise. If you want to do that call (818) 954-5929 before 12 p.m. on the same day of the show you wish to attend. Tickets:

The Soup
Location: E! Network Studios 5750 Wilshire Blvd
Tapes: Usually Wednesday mornings

This taping is somewhat of a secret, so thank me later if you end up going. The Soup is not nearly as large as the rest of the shows mentioned on this list and that’s a good thing for audience members. During the 30-minute E! Entertainment show, host Joel McHale who is also known for his role in NBC’s Community, makes fun of everything that’s happened on TV In the past week, especially Tyra Banks.

On E!’s website, they say that the taping is not public and those laughing in the background are only staff, but Joel McHale has tweeted to email for people who want to see the show in person. I’ve talked to people who have been and they say it’s a lot more personal than other live shows, because the crowd is small and McHale will even take photos with people at the end.

What to expect and how to prepare

  • Tickets to shows like Ellen and The Tonight Show tend to go quick, so if you’re planning a trip to one of these spots request tickets ahead. This can almost always be done online.
  • Tickets are always free to the shows mentioned in this post and most live tapings for that matter, so if you’re asked to pay, it’s probably the wrong website.
  • These shows usually just run straight through without re-takes but not always, so expect them to run longer than the their usual duration.
  • Shows are taped usually hours before the they air on TV.
  • You must be 18 years old to attend all these shows unless noted otherwise.
  • Make sure to bring identification, dress business casual and don’t chew gum.
  • You are not allowed to use cameras or phones once you enter a studio. In fact, you’ll be asked to leave professional cameras with security in most places, so it’s really not worth bringing them. Do not bring any bulky bags or luggage either.
  • Visiting a live taping is often a full-day event, so be prepared to wait in line for hours, even if you do have tickets.
  • Presenters hate hecklers or people trying to get attention in the audience. If you’re that person they’ll either poke fun at you or they’ll have to re-tape a segment and you could be asked to leave. Be prepared to clap and laugh though.
  • Some of the shows have time before or after each taping during which you get to chat with the presenter, but it’s not always guaranteed.
  • You’re going to watch a show, so don’t expect to end up on TV.

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- who has written 310 posts on Heels and Wheels.

Creator of Heels and Wheels. Writer, traveler and more.

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  • megan_claire

    Amazing post thanks Bobbi! LOL to the “Sixteenth Chapel” – Love Letterman 😀

  • Jessica

    Thanks for the comprehensive list!

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon


  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    haha me too! I’m going to try for him next time.

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