Valerie, Jane, Wendie and Betty are fortunate to film Hot in Cleveland before a "live, studio audience!"
If you watch TV - especially sitcoms on TV Land - you've probably heard that phrase hundreds of times. Being in a live, studio audience means you are actually part of the program. Your laughter and applause helps the actors, writers and directors. You let them know what jokes worked ... and maybe what didn't.
"We feed off the energy of the audience," Valerie explained. "When everyone is laughing and having a good time, it helps us with our timing and delivery. We get excited about the scene, knowing that the audience is excited about it."
The best part of being in a live, studio audience is that it's free! You can see your favorite stars hard at work and it doesn't cost you a dime. In fact, the nice folks at the CBS Studio Center will even feed you a snack for your troubles. Here's how it works:
Tickets: Hot in Cleveland distributes its tickets through Audiences Unlimited. Click on this link for details and reservations. As of June 1, tickets for the next 30 days have been claimed. However, when HiC debuts on June 16 (and is a HUGE hit), more taping dates will be scheduled, and more tickets will be released. So keep checking that link!
Timing: Arrive at the CBS Studio Center - 4024 Radford Street, Studio City - by 5 PM. Park in the complimentary parking garage (floors 4 and above), take the elevators down and queue up for the shuttle bus to the soundstage. Arrive early! Bring a book to pass the time, if needed. Demand for this show has been so high that they have turned away as many as 75 to 100 fans per taping. Plan to be at the studios until around 10 or 10:30 PM. It's a long night, but worth every second! The studio typically provides bottled water, light sandwiches and a cookie to tide you over, but it's helpful to keep a small snack on-hand, just in case.
Security: Leave your camera (and your weapons) in your car. Photography (still and video) is prohibited on set. And don't think you're clever taking photos with your cell phone. They will confiscate it. Remember to silence your phone as well - no one wants to hear your "Ode to Joy" ring tone in the middle of Betty and Jane's banter.
Show Time: You will be escorted into a seating area, overlooking the sets. For Hot in Cleveland, the girls have a rambling home - with living room, kitchen and front porch scenes. There may be a bar or restaurant area as well. Unfortunately, you may not be able to see all the scenes from your seats - but the studio broadcasts all camera shots onto screens in the audience area so you can see what the director sees.
Fun-and-Games: Comedian Michael Burger usually will serve as your host for the evening - playing games, telling jokes, explaining behind-the-scenes action, and conducting the most awesome TV trivia game EVER. His job is to keep everyone happy and laughing during breaks in the filming. Michael, who has been in several different TV shows, can answer questions about the roles of the crew and cast, and why different things are happening on stage.
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It: Have a good time. Enjoy yourself. Laugh out loud. Show your appreciation. The writers, directors and actors depend on your feedback to make sure the script is working... but sometimes you can go overboard: During the taping of the pilot, when Betty White walked through the front door for her debut, the audience went nuts, giving her a four-minute ovation! Unfortunately, Hot in Cleveland is only 30 minutes long - not 34 - so Director Michael Lembeck had to re-shoot the scene, after graciously asking the audience to cut short their applause. Watching a taping gives you insight into how your favorite shows go from soundstage to screen. Valerie, Wendie, Jane and Betty are all consummate professionals, and in a taping, you can watch how they help one another - or maybe even dissolve into a giggle fit. If a shot doesn't work, the director will re-do it, changing dialog or positioning - and this is where you come in.
"We don't like to do a scene more than once - just because it takes some of the freshness out," Valerie explained. "It's so important to hear that feedback from the audience and know they liked a scene."
Fortunately, Hot in Cleveland is so well-acted and well-written, it's not hard to generate laughs over and over.
"During the pilot, I was laughing so hard, my face hurt," recalled Valerie's fiance Tom. "Even on the third and fourth take, we were still belly-laughing."
For other fun things to do in Los Angeles, check out Valerie's recommendations for a jaunt down Hollywood Boulevard.