Next time you're in L.A., you can watch the cast of The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men improvise hilarious lines, be amazed by incredibly smart people on Jeopardy!, or laugh along with witty talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. Being in the audience during a taping gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how these shows are actually produced while providing a look at your favourite stars up close and personal—something that’s on every L.A. visitor’s bucket list.
Cringe at the socially awkward moments of brilliant geeks on The Big Bang Theory. Or watch the antics of Two Broke Girls as the show is being filmed. Sitting in the audience while these and other sitcoms are staged gives you an incomparable behind-the-scenes take of all that goes into producing a professional comedy show. While familiar shows are a big draw and usually a good bet for a great show, don’t hesitate to take a chance on a pilot or a new show; you might wind up seeing the birth of the next hit sitcom or TV star.
The main resource for getting tickets is Audiences Unlimited; the website lists TV shows in offering tickets within the next 30 days at studios in the Los Angeles area. If you don’t score tickets when they are first released, additional and standby tickets may be released at a later date. Keep in mind, too, that the age minimum for most sitcom tapings is 18, and that tapings often last well beyond a half hour—often four hours—but it’s fun to watch the studio at work. And pack a sweater: studios are kept a little on the chilly side.
Insider tip: Audiences Unlimited has a small ticket booth just inside the entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood; theme park admission required for access.
Dance along with Ellen on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. See what celebs are talking about on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Watch political wags and celebrities go toe-to-toe on Real Time With Bill Maher. And, on the grouns of Universal Studios Hollywood and adjacent Universal CityWalk, see Mario Lopez chat with celebs like Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johansson. Talk shows are a great way to see A-list celebs in person—usually dressed in hot fashions and perfectly coiffed—and it sure beats hanging around at a Beverly Hills Starbucks to see one of them slouch in wearing workout clothes for some coffee. Another perk from sitting in the audience: you might get on TV too, since many talk shows include shots of the audience, or even pull one or two folks into the show for a gag or two. Glossy who’s-best shows like The Voice and American Idol also let you see talent—some good, some bad—as well as A-list judges and performers.
Some shows distribute their own tickets via their websites; others use ticket agencies, such as Audiences Unlimited and 1iota. Through Onset Productions, you may even get paid a stipend to be in the audience for some MTV Aftershows and Food Network Star.
Match wits with the contestants on Jeopardy! Take a spin of the wheel with Vanna and Pat on Wheel of Fortune. Bring out your pom-poms and pork pie hats for Let’s Make a Deal. These game shows and other classics are mainstays in Los Angeles; most have been running for decades. Want to be a contestant? For some shows, that just means reserving a free ticket online and getting a callback to attend (then syncing up holiday plans), then crossing fingers that you’ll get picked from the audience. For some shows, it’s a little tougher to make the cut. For Jeopardy!, you’ve got to prove your prowess by passing a 50-question test either online or at a regional in-person screening. Wheel of Fortune asks for a video submission.
If you simply want to sit in the audience for popular game shows like The Price is Right or Family Feud, check out TVtix.com and On-Camera Audiences. Just keep in mind that show tapings are often overbooked, so a ticket is not always a guaranteed seat (show up a little early to keep your odds high). Most game shows require that audience members be at least 18, but both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! welcome audience members as young as 8.
Attending a TV show taping is a blast, but there are a few tips you can follow to make sure it’s memorable—and only in a good way.
1) Be sure to get there early if you want a good seat (or any seat at all, as studios overbook the tickets).
2) Expect to stay at least three hours, especially for sitcoms, which can take a long time as scenes get reworked and reshot. Bring a snack and a book for downtime. (At longer tapings, audience members might be treated to pizza, but don’t count on it.)
3) Bring a jumper; studios are kept notoriously cool to compensate for the hot lights on stage.
If you’re hoping for an on-camera appearance, do your homework ahead of time. What types of things is the show looking for? It might be a silly costume for a game show like Let’s Make a Deal, or it might be well-dressed people for a cameo appearance in a talk show. Also, be enthusiastic: employees sometimes tap the most eager audience members to be part of the show.