Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Behind the Scenes at the Today Show
I arrived at studio 1A around 9AM with my friend Adena. She's been a Today viewer for most of her life, and I knew she would be great company for what I figured would be a morning full of lots of waiting. Surprisingly, there actually wasn't a lot of waiting- they run a pretty tight ship at NBC. As soon as we arrived they directed us into one of the green rooms- they have other green rooms for the famous guests, but this one was for the "common folk" guests. Adena and I had been watching the show before we left so we immediately recognized some of the other people in the room, most notably the woman who attempted to assassinate President Ford in 1975. I wasn't sure what to make of her interview on TV, but in person she seemed pretty grandmotherly. I was a little nervous to start a conversation, but after leaving the room for a moment to change pants I returned to find Adena deep in conversation with her about her years in prison and return to the outside world.
A few minutes later, an NBC page led me downstairs to the makeup room. There was a long wall of chairs and mirrors with a rotating roster of various guests getting painted and powdered. I took a seat and Christine started applying some base and powder. I glanced to my left quickly, and then took a double take- James Taylor was getting his makeup applied a mere two feet away. I wanted to say something, but I didn't want to make him feel like he was trapped talking to me. I waited until I was done getting my makeup, and as I got up from my chair I thanked Christine and said, "it was an honor having my makeup done next to James Taylor." He looked over and smiled and asked my name. I asked if he was singing on the show, but he was on to talk about a non-profit organization he works with. Then he asked what I was doing on the show. I told him about the trip and he had a lot of questions- How long had I been on the road? What's my route? How far did I go on the pogo stick? After two minutes of chatting, a producer entered and whisked him off to get ready for his segment and I walked upstairs to the green room.
As soon as I had sat down, Adam the producer who was working on my segment, led me and Adena to the studio. We talked through the structure of the segment and the vehicles I'd be showing off. First, I'd answer a few questions about the trip and then we'd move over to the motorized cooler from Hammacher Schlemmer. They like making jokes about Hoda and Kathie Lee's love of wine, so they'd filled the cooler with a few bottles. As I show off the cooler, I'd pull out a bottle or two and offer it to them. Then I'd get on and ride in a tight circle. At first we thought that Hoda might try it out, but then we noticed she was wearing a skirt. Next, I'd show off the Vurtego Pogo Sticks and do a few jumps on one. Then I'd show off the Razor Powerwings and Kathie Lee and Hoda would give them a test drive around the studio. Then Matt Lauer came into the studio. By 10AM he's long done with his hosting duties but he came down to say hi and wish me luck on the segment. He had to get back to his office, but he said he'd turn on his TV and watch from there. He's honestly one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and I hope I can one day return all these favors. As we got closer to the start of my segment Hoda walked over and expressed some concern about me jumping on the pogo stick, before recommending that I don't jump on it at all without a helmet. A stage manager walked up and mentioned that we only 2:30 for the segment now, down from the original 3 minutes. I thought through what i was going to say and how to do it briefly, and then they were suddenly counting down from twenty as Kathie Lee raced over from the other side of the studio. And then it started- I'll paste the segment below once again in case you missed it the first time:
Before I could even get to the Razor Powerwings, Hoda and Kathie Lee were closing out the interview and suddenly we were in a commercial break. Two and a half minutes had zipped by. I hadn't even had a chance to mention the website, twitter, or that I was looking for more transportation ideas. But I was also impressed with how much we had covered in this short period of time. They cram a lot of stuff into this show, but that's what keeps it exciting. I headed back to the green room, collected my stuff, and ten minutes later Adena and I were back on the street looking into the studio from the other side of the glass.
As soon as I opened my email, the facebook and twitter messages started coming in. Even though I hadn't mentioned the website, people were still finding it and getting in touch. And they still are. Though I still haven't found anyone who can take me over to the Canadian border into Detroit in something other than a gas-powered car. Anyone have any ideas?