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Going to the recording of a TV show
There is always a need for a live audience for TV (and radio) shows, although many of them are based in London. If you fancy seeing anything, the first step is to apply for free tickets! There are many different places to do this, including BBC tickets, Standing Room Only or Channel 4. Alternatively, check out Time Out magazine or Private Eye.

Once you've got the tickets, that's the start of it! Pay attention to any directions you receive with them, for example to wear a dark coloured top, or not to wear anything branded with a logo. The rules vary according to the type of show and how much the audience will be in shot. People don't tend to dress up, and you'll be sitting still for a few hours, so it's best to go for something plain and comfortable - "smart casual".

On the day, you will need to turn up early. This means at least an hour and preferably two before doors open! Because the tickets are free, the ticket agencies tend to issue too many of them - better to ensure a full, oversubscribed, audience than empty seats! This means that the more popular the show, the earlier you need to queue, particularly if you want a good seat. Otherwise you may be asked to see a different show, or simply turned away. I'm always early, so this hasn't happened to me yet!

If you have particular needs, for example you are a wheelchair user, you should queue up as normal to establish your place in the queue, but when the staff begin to assess the queue (or perhaps to call out for anyone on a guest list), make yourself known so you can be taken in early and given a seat for your needs. It's best to check this at the time of booking as well, but I've never had a problem being accommodated.

The queue will probably start to mysteriously move forward before the door opening time, but when the doors open you should shift a little more rapidly. Again, be patient - and pay attention to any instructions. You may be taken through in groups of 100 people, which seems a lot in the queue but seems like a very small number when you see the set and seating!

Some shows will take you straight through to the seating, but most will assign you a number based on your position in the queue, and tell you to wait in the bar. If you're lucky there will be free drinks - if not, you'll have to pay. Whatever happens, get to the bar as early as possible - the queues only get longer, no matter how long you wait! Also, take the opportunity to use the toilets if you need them.

Eventually your number is called and a group of you are led to the audience seating. You will be expected to fill in any remaining space, usually from the front backwards, however there may be a row of seats at the very front, with a camera track behind it. This is so the camera can give the impression of being amongst the audience. You'll probably find the set is smaller than it seems on TV, and that the seats at the front are surprisingly close to the action! However, if you arrive late you'll probably be squashed onto a bench behind a camera with a restricted view...

Finally, someone comes out on stage to address you. This is usually the producer or one of their staff. They will run over any rules and details such as making sure your mobile is turned off (off, not silent!) and then introduce the warm up act.

The warm up act is usually shit. There is no other way around it. I have witnessed this both as an audience member on various occasions, and also on-set waiting for the live show to begin. A good warm up act will find out where you are from, tell a few jokes which are appropriate to the audience that evening, and ask for some rounds of applause so that the technical staff can get a level. A bad warm up act will think they are funny when their jokes are dire, and expect you to laugh anyway so the technicians can get a level. Be prepared to laugh at the most awful jokes. Here's where a free bar comes in handy!

Finally, the show begins. If it's recorded live, or "as live", you can expect it to run from start to finish without halting - usually the time rushes by! Then there is a lull while the production staff decide what needs to be repeated or retaken. A good presenter will be able to make jokes and take the audience along with him, in fact this can be the funniest part of the show. However, a fed up or bad presenter will just do what they are asked and expect you to laugh at the tenth repetition of something as if you've just heard it for the first time...

If the show is not recorded as live, then retakes will probably happen throughout the show at the appropriate point. In a way this is good, because the thread of jokes or storyline is less disjointed, but it can break up the flow of the recording as a whole. Also, you have no idea how near you are to the end of the proceedings.

Either way, the show will probably be twice as long as you are expecting, once you include retakes! You are committed to attend until it is finished, so be aware that you may be sitting for a few hours without a break.

Finally, it's all done! The stars wave and leave, the producers thank you for your attention, everyone makes a beeline for the exit, and that's it!

I have had a range of experiences of being a show audience. It was fun to see Baddiel And Skinner Unplanned, particularly as it is filmed "as live" and so the time flew by. However, I saw Jeremy Clarkson present a pilot show (which never actually made the small screen) and found the repeated retakes tedious. On the other hand, it's free! If you have time to spend, or love a particular show, go for it! If you're short on time, don't bother - you can be queueing from 4pm and then not leave until 9pm for a single half hour programme.

This page last updated: 01 September 2022

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