Believe it or not, October 23 is a day to honor your favorite TV talk show personalities. It's not a random date either: It's the birthday of famed late night talk show host Johnny Carson, who helped establish the format as a cultural touchpoint.
Experiencing talk show filming when you're visiting Southern California has also become an established phenomenon that anyone can do. It's a great chance to take a behind-the-scenes look at how the shows are produced, and you're likely to get up close and personal with celebs on the show.
Many popular talk shows film in studios across the region on a daily basis. And they're always in need of live studio audiences. Tickets to all these shows are free. In fact, travel insider Pauline Frommer rates going to a show taping as one of the best free activities you can do on your visit to the entertainment capital of the world.
If you're a daytime fan, you could score tickets to The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Talk or Dr. Phil. If you are more of a night owl, check out Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Late Show with James Corden, Conan, Real Time with Bill Maher, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Here are a few tried-and-true tips for scoring tickets—and good seats—to your favorite talk show.
1. Get tickets ahead of time
Most shows book their audiences in advance. How far in advance depends on the show's popularity. Each show has a specific ticket system that sometimes involves a wait list—or waiting in person. Shows like Ellen Degeneres often have months-long waitlists.
2. Do your research
Some shows ask their audience to submit questions or information ahead of time that could be used in the show. For example, Jimmy Kimmel asks his audiences to share their favorite moment from the show's history. If you can find out ahead of time about what you may be asked for, you can up your chances of having it included in the show by giving great answers.
3. Arrive early
Depending on the show, audience seating can be on a first-come, first-served basis, so a good idea to arrive on the early side to be sure you can get good seats. Dr. Phil does seating this way.
4. Wear bright colors
Sometimes audience members are placed in specific seats for visual effect on camera. If you're wearing something bright (no labels allowed, though!), you may be more likely to be seen on camera.
Studios can go from really cold to super hot in an instant when the lights come on, and vice versa. Bring a sweater or light jacket so you can adjust your wardrobe accordingly as the temperature fluctuates.
6. Be enthusiastic
Same goes for attitude. If you're acting like an eager audience member, you may get placed up front, or get a chance to ask a question on camera.
7. Settle in
Rome wasn't built in a day, and TV shows aren't filmed in an hour. You should allow for at least 3 hours, if not more, for the experience. There may be some long waits to go to set or between filming segments, so you might want to bring a book or magazine to read while you wait.