The cast and crew of NBC’s “30 Rock” performed live to a standing-room only audience at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre last night. According to writer/actress/nerd goddess Tina Fey in a brief pre-show monologue, every penny of the proceeds benefited the show’s PAs, who have been out of work since the beginning of the ongoing writer’s strike.
Please don’t leak any of the story or jokes to the Internet,
because, y’know, this show is like ‘Heroes’ and we don’t want to ruin it for everyone else. Also, all of you who bought tickets to this show off of Craigslist for hundreds of dollars are suckers … this is going to be on TV for free in a few weeks. We hope …
Even though the cast read from scripts, using only chairs for props, the show was enormous, intimate and undeniable. But it’s easy to define a small, crowded space as ‘intimate’ when you’re crammed in there like I was, cross-legged on the edge of the stage floor like a wide-eyed, open-mouthed kindergartner, stuffed scalp-to nostril between the show’s script coordinator and the Teamster in charge of transportation.
What made last night’s performance really, truly intimate was that the cast was obviously having a whole lot of fun. It felt like we were all at party and the funniest hosts on earth were screwing around in front of their friends. Paula Pell stood in for the otherwise occupied Edie Falco, and her scenes with Alec Baldwin were screamingly funny, taken over the top with small flourishes improvised purely for the live audience.
The cast kept having to stop and wait for laughter to subside and while they were all way too professional to let their faces show it, I could see their pupils dance when the jokes really hit.
I was really nervous improvising the commercials tonight,
McBrayer told me afterwards,
but John Lutz is really great to work with. We came up together in Second City, and I felt like we could find that groove pretty quickly.
Maybe I was just fooled by the cast’s acting ability and professionalism, but it really did feel llike everyone legitimately enjoyed working with one another. Not just in a like, “oh, everyone in the industry is so great” way, but for real.
Sure, every office has its high-maintenance assholes, and I wouldn’t expect TV to be any different — but the overall feeling I got was that these people love what they do and really, really like working together.
I ended up at Molly Wee Pub for an impromptu post-show hang, with most of the ’30 Rock’ cast and crew. As someone who is simultaneously socially anxious and extroverted, it was a tough one — on the one hand, I wanted to say “good job, nice work,” and of course wring the experience dry for this post … but not, like, get all starry-eyed on people who just wanted a damn drink to relax after a show.
A telling phrase from an “Ask Metafilter” discussion a while back kept running through my head:
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by someone you admire, more so if you have never spoken to their publicist over the phone.”
Alec Baldwin really put me at ease – he was charming, friendly, asked questions and legitimately seemed to enjoy posing for a photo:
His eye contact was as warm and firm as his handshake … hopefully he found me polite and only mildly cloying. When he gave me the slip after about half a drink, I didn’t mind a bit. If someone was milking me for blog-fodder, I’d do the same thing.
I got to talk to the Teamster in charge of transportation for the show, too. He said
I support the strike, even though I’m not striking. I don’t cross picket lines. I wrote Ellen Degeneres a letter on her e-mail. Or Web site, whatever. I told her that I been doing this a long time now, and I think the writers are in this for equal compensation. And that what she’s doing, still working, doing her show like this, it’s wrong and she should really reconsider. I dunno if she saw it or not, but it’s up there on her blog or whatever.
I asked Keith Powell how he felt about “30 Rock” being shown online, either on NBC.com or leaked to YouTube. He said
Most of my friends watch the show online. very few do it on regular television. Any way people want to watch the show is fine with me, as long as they’re watching. I’d rather you be watching the show in any way possible — YouTube’s just more incentive to see the real thing, I think.
I’d never seen “30 Rock” in its entirety before last night either, to be completely honest. But I’m a believer now.
I’m a media savant in that way — I spend eight, maybe ten hours a day in front of a glowing rectangle, reading, digesting, linking, but actually watch very little television. By the end of the day, I’ve got the same weird headache from bad glasses and a rapidly flickering monitor, and I can’t stomach sitting in front of a different glowing rectangle after about ten o’clock.
The other thing I can’t stomach are my faux-intelligentsia peers who sit around talking about “oh, I never watch TV,” and then know all about Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, the Sopranos, any TV show that gets a mention on NPR. What a bunch of assholes. Over the past few years, TV went and got GOOD, and it’s okay to like it now. People my age, they act like their identity as an intellectual is so precious that having the same laughs millions of other Americans have once a week will like, make their IQ shrink, but it’s okay to pass clips around on Youtube. If that’s true, I must have IQ to burn, because I Netflix the hell out of some TV shows (the poor man’s TiVo), and my vocab’s still tight. Thanks to Youtube and last night’s show I’ll be watching the first season of “30 Rock” with my family over Thanksgiving.
That’s just the way TV viewing’s going. It’s dribbling out of the big box in the living room and into the cracks between people’s increasingly busy lives. People don’t sit down at the same time in front of the same box anymore, but they still watch the same shows for the same amount of time. It’s just crammed in between lunch breaks, coffee breaks, shopping online, general screwing around at work. The people that rack their brains, destroying their posture and sleeping habits just to make us snork coffee and forward Web clips at work need to be paid on a 21st-century scale.
I kinda felt that way before last night’s show, and after seeing the show live and meeting the cast and crew in person, there’s not a doubt in my mind that there’s no argument to it. I’m as convinced as George Bush on this one, with one exception: I’m right, and a LOT of people agree with me.
To see the rest of my photos from the “30 Rock” post-show hang-out last night, click here.
Now that the show’s aired and the news is old, I can tell you — the episode I saw was Secrets & Lies” — clicking the title there will stream it for you.