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I was in Ellen’s Riff Raff Room!

Poster of Ellen outside Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, California
A huge poster of Ellen outside Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, California
When I arrived at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, on May 20th, 2013, I hoped that I was about to see a taping of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. I’ve been a fan of Ellen for years, ever since her amazing performance in Finding Nemo.

I checked in with a security officer at Warner Bros. Studios Gate 3 (an attractive parking garage), got a parking pass, and was told to park my car and then head to the Audience Waiting Area.
Warner Bros. Studios Gate 3 parking structure
The Warner Bros. Studios Gate 3 parking structure, where Ellen DeGeneres Show audience members park
Audience Waiting Area queues and benches  Sign for the queue for VIP Ticket holders for The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Empty Audience Waiting Area queues and benches, after the show
The Audience Waiting Area was filled with people sitting on benches and people standing in lines, lots and lots of people. There were three main lines: VIP, Guaranteed, and Standby. I joined a friend in the line for people with Standby Tickets. When it was our turn, we showed our tickets and photo IDs to an Audience Coordinator and received fancy numbered laminated passes. A security officer gave us cool Warner Bros. wriststamps, and we were told to have a seat on one of the benches. We sat near a large flat-screen TV. On the TV, we watched the episode of the Ellen DeGeneres Show that would air later that day. Ellen episodes typically tape one weekday in advance of their airdates, a fact that Ellen and her guests sometimes joke about on the air. Typically, two episodes are taped on Thursdays and no tapings occur on Fridays.

About 30 minutes before showtime, an Audience Coordinator announced that they had 30 seats left for Standby Ticket holders. She read off the ticket numbers of the people who would be admitted, I looked at our numbers; we weren’t even close.

At most TV show tapings, that would be it for us. They would thank the Standby Ticket holders for coming and send us home empty-handed. But not at the Ellen DeGeneres Show. The woman explained that the rest of us were invited to enjoy the show from the Riff-Raff Room, and that we would be given Guaranteed Tickets to return to a future show taping. I was almost as excited about hanging out in the famous Riff-Raff Room as I was about going to a taping of the show. And now, I was going to get to do both!
The Warner Bros. Studios lot
The Warner Bros. Studios lot
Soon we were led across the street, and into the soundstage where the Ellen show tapes. After a pass through a metal detector and a bag search, we popped into the Riff-Raff Room, where there was a party going on. People danced to the pre-show music. Two big screens and a bunch of flat-screen TVs on the walls featured dancing audience members, both in the studio and (us!) in the Riff-Raff Room. The show hadn't started yet.

As I joined in the dancing, I noticed the Ellen photo booth, which I couldn’t wait to try out, and the Ellen Shop with hoodies, t-shirts, underwear, socks, and other assorted Ellen items. Across from the Ellen Shop, I could hear the studio audience laughing and cheering on the other side of a tall wall.

Minutes later, the show started. We watched TV screens in the Riff-Raff Room. Ellen did her monologue, and then everyone danced.

Ellen invited a couple seated in the audience, whose home desperately needed a makeover, to join her onstage. Jeannie had surprised them at their home the week before with a $20,000 cash prize. After talking with the couple, Ellen announced that she would also be making over the couple’s home, thanks to JCPenney. Then Ellen interviewed her first celebrity guest of the day: actress, Hayden Panettiere.

Between segments there were brief breaks where DJ Tony played music. During the breaks, the TV screens in the Riff-Raff Room showed a placeholder card, and so we couldn't see what was happening inside the studio. It was those moments that I wished that we were inside the studio most of all, because I love the behind-the-scenes aspects of TV show tapings.

My favorite guests of the day were Sophia Grace and Rosie. The spunky little princesses were there to talk about the Billboard Music Awards where they had interviewed celebrities on the "Blue Carpet." We were shown a clip of the interviews where the girls, ages ten and six, said the kind of things we all think, but are afraid to say (because we’re grown-ups) like, “I don't know who she is, but she is very nice,” (about Jenny McCarthy), "Gangnam-Style Man is here!" (about Psy) and, “Did you see how big her boobs were?” (about Nicki Minaj).

Being in the Riff-Raff Room had its advantages. We could shop to our heart’s content in the Ellen Shop; most everyone left with an Ellen treasure or a few. We also got a chance to have our photos taken in the Ellen photo booth. My friend and I posed ("silly, silly, normal, silly, silly, serious") for two strips, one for each of us to take home. Each strip had six photos along with the Ellen logo on a four-by-six inch print, perfectly sized for framing. They made great souvenirs!
One of the two photo strips that my friend and I made in the Ellen photo booth
During the approximately one hour taping, an Audience Coordinator made her way around to everyone in the Riff-Raff Room and explained that we would receive a phone call offering us Guaranteed Tickets for an upcoming taping. I can't wait!

Although I am glad I got to spend time in Ellen’s Riff-Raff Room, I'm looking forward to my chance to stand on the other side of the Riff-Raff Room wall, in the studio audience of the Ellen DeGeneres Show… And dance!

I did this on May 20, 2013 in Burbank, California, USA.

Jen (California, USA)

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