I went to a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show!
A huge poster of Ellen outside Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, California
When I arrived at Warner Bros. Studios Gate 3 in Burbank, California, on May 22nd, 2013, I could hardly contain my excitement. I was about to be a part of the studio audience for The Ellen DeGeneres Show! I had tried to attend a taping of Ellen once before, with Standby Tickets, but because the show is so popular, the in-studio audience was filled to capacity that day, and I watched the show on TV monitors in the famous Riff-Raff Room. I’d had a great time in the Riff-Raff Room (as my Ellen photo booth photos from that visit clearly demonstrate), but I was looking forward to being in Ellen’s studio audience and dancing with Ellen.
The Warner Bros. Studios Gate 3 parking structure, where Ellen DeGeneres Show audience members park
My tickets for the May 22nd show offered me guaranteed admission (at least as guaranteed as anything is in life). When I arrived in the Audience Waiting Area, an Audience Coordinator directed me to the correct queue. (There were three: VIP, Guaranteed, and Standby.) After I showed my photo ID and confirmation letter to another Audience Coordinator, she pleasantly handed me a fancy laminated Ellen “ticket” (that, unfortunately, would be collected later) and directed me to a short line of people who were waiting to be checked in by a Warner Bros. security officer. The security officer checked my ID and then stamped the inside of my wrist with a Warner Bros. stamp that was only visible under blue light.
Soon, we lined up and were led across the street to the Warner Bros. Studios lot. When we arrived at the Ellen soundstage, we funneled through a metal detector and had our bags searched, then we sat, in a hallway, in air-conditioned comfort, on a long row of benches. When the doors at the end of the hallway opened, we entered the familiar Riff-Raff Room. On my last visit, the Riff-Raff Room was my final destination. This time, I walked through the room and joined a queue at the bottom of a staircase that led into the Ellen studio.
The Riff-Raff Room
When I arrived at the top of the stairs, an Audience Coordinator asked how many people were in our party and directed us on where to sit. The seats were unexpectedly comfy, like those at a very nice movie theater, complete with cup holders.
Audience members take their seats before the show
Wide-eyed, I took in the studio. It looked much smaller in person than it does on TV. My fellow audience members pulled out their smart phones and took pictures of themselves in the studio. I followed suit. (We were allowed to bring our cell phones to the Ellen taping, but regular cameras were not allowed.)
In the Ellen studio audience before the show
Tom Riles, Ellen’s audience warm-up guy, introduced himself and went over the ground rules: no chewing gum, cell phones must be turned off, no photos from that point on, and no shouting things out during the show. He told us that the episode that we were about to see would air on Monday, June 10th, 2013. Then he got us up and dancing. By the time the show was about to start, despite the soundstage air-conditioning, I wasn’t cold at all.
The Ellen stage before the show
And then we heard the familiar Ellen theme song. A TV monitor showed Ellen backstage, tossing Altoids toward her mouth; I say “toward” because, after two tries, she gave up and made her way onstage. I’d never seen Ellen in person before (unless you count the animatronic Ellen at Walt Disney World’s Epcot). Ellen looked exactly like she does on TV (unlike the animatronic Ellen at Epcot).
Ellen dove right into her monologue, and then... we danced. I was excited to finally be in Ellen’s audience, dancing “with” her. The dancing time flew by, and Ellen lowered herself into her seat.
Three big cameras filmed Ellen from different angles. There was also a man with a hand-held camera, who was accompanied by a man responsible for that camera’s really long cord, and there was a camera on a crane that swept over our heads from time to time, usually before or after the commercial breaks. There were monitors all over the studio that showed what was going on on-camera, which was helpful because the cameras sometimes partially blocked our view.
Ellen’s celebrity guest was actress and talk show host, Wendy Williams. Ellen’s conversation with Wendy felt very easy, like they were just two friends talking, without a studio audience and a bunch of TV cameras watching. After their interview, Wendy and Ellen made their way into the studio audience aisle where Wendy fielded questions from people in the audience.
Next, we were treated to a live performance by Keaton Simons who sang “Beautiful Pain.” Ellen announced that we would all receive a copy of his CD.
Between segments, there were “commercial breaks” where crew members, many of them wearing telephone-operator-style headsets, came onto the stage and talked briefly with Ellen or moved items on or off stage: Wendy’s gift for Ellen was brought out before Wendy made her entrance and placed by Wendy’s chair; Ellen’s elaborate gift basket for Wendy was carried backstage after their interview; a red velvety guest chair was exchanged for a guest couch. During these breaks, there was music, courtesy of DJ Tony. Tom, the warm-up guy, invited audience member volunteers to come into the aisles to demonstrate their dance moves.
One of the volunteer audience dancers turned out to be one of Ellen’s final guests, although the woman didn’t know she was going to be a guest until Ellen called her and her partner onto the stage. The woman’s partner had entered Ellen’s Viggle app contest and won. Ellen talked to the two of them about their relationship and their difficult financial situation. They are planning to get married next year, but money is tight, and so, in addition to the $20,000 they won in the Viggle contest, Ellen announced that she would be sending them to Fiji for their honeymoon! Wow!!
After about an hour, the taping was over. Once Ellen said goodbye to the TV audience, she stepped out from behind the cameras and spoke directly to us, thanking us for coming. It was very nice!
Finally, we were led out of the studio and back into the Riff-Raff Room. There was time to shop at the Ellen Shop and use the Ellen photo booth.
A fun photo op in the Riff-Raff Room
The Ellen photo booth in the Riff-Raff Room
On our way out of the Ellen soundstage, we collected the free stuff that had been promised to us during the show: a copy of Wendy Williams’ Book, Ask Wendy, and Keaton Simon’s CD, Beautiful Pain.
I had a great time seeing the Ellen DeGeneres Show in person, and I would love to go back to the show again someday. Everyone wants to go to Ellen’s 12 Days of Giveaways episodes, and that would be great fun, but I’d really like to go to her Halloween episode dressed up in my favorite costume (Red Riding Hood). Maybe I'd be lucky enough to get an aisle seat, and then maybe, just maybe, when Ellen danced her way through the audience, I’d get to dance with Ellen for real!
I did this on May 22, 2013 in Burbank, California, USA.
Jen (California, USA)
If you're heading to L.A., check out the novel Lost in Los Angeles
(about a young woman who comes to L.A. looking for a reason
to live). Her incredible experience includes some of the top
bucket-list-worthy Los Angeles adventures. Use it like an insider's
Los Angeles travel guide to plan your own itinerary.
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