'Watch What Happens Live' from the studio audience's point of view

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As part of  Zap2it's week with Bravo in New York City, we attended Sunday's (Nov. 15) live taping of "Watch What Happens Live," Bravo's Internet show that grew to become the network's hit late-night talk/post-mortem show hosted by Bravolebrity and SVP of Original Programming and Development, Andy Cohen.

This entry is all about the experience of being in the show's audience. Later this week, we'll be shadowing Andy as he gets himself prepped for the show and we'll get more of the production side of things.

Location: "WWHL" isn't taped at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as I thought it might be. Don't laugh. After all, that's where sister company, NBC, shoots the "Today" show (another little chat show you may have heard of) and that's where Bravo's offices are located. Okay, laugh. 

It's actually shot in the Tribeca area of New York City in a nondescript building that also houses the production company behind the show, Embassy Row. At 10:30 p.m. ET on a Sunday, Tribeca was a ghost town (if homeless people were called "ghosts"), but my college friend (who was my "plus one") and I turned a quick left at a girl who dumpster -dived for a piece of pizza and then we saw a line of town cars waiting in front of a building. That's how we knew we were there.

Reception: Once we arrived to the Embassy Row offices, we immediately ran into our Bravo PR rep and in moments a young man identified himself as the "bartender." My friend and I both had a drink in our hands in minutes. Then, Andy came rushing through, who is larger than life in person (that's not just TV) and remembered me from when I interviewed him over the summer at TCA. My friend went nuts at the sight of him. He only had a moment to say "hi" before he rushed off to the studio to tape the promos for the show.

So, while we waited to be seated in the studio, we chatted with the folks in the waiting area. It was a diverse group, some who worked for Bravo and Embassy Row and their friends. There was a young woman who worked at CBS news, but I don't think she was there in any official capacity. She kind of reminded me of Olivia from MTV's "The City." Make your own conclusions. Oh snap.

The studio: Before long, a production person showed us to our seats in the studio. It was tiny and not what I expected. That's not to say that's a bad thing, but it's always amazing to see what the magic of TV can pull off. It was cozy and fit maybe a dozen people for the audience, but the small crowd's energy was good. 

When I looked up, just a few feet away from me were the night's guests, the legendary Molly Shannon ( "Saturday Night Live," "Superstar") and Kristin Chenoweth ( "Wicked," "Glee"). First impressions? Molly has legs for days and Chenoweth is a little thing. There are several cameras set up along the perimeter and the director (or producer, I'm not sure) stood just a few feet from us. Sitting in front of us was a good friend of Andy's (who we later found out is the head of a big talent agency) and, though we didn't learn until the taping was over, actress Ellen Barkin was sitting right in front of us.

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By the way, we learned some of those items sitting on the shelves lining the back wall are taken right from Andy's home. We'll see if he will tell us which ones when we shadow him later this week.

The taping: I actually didn't know the show had an audience at all. I believed it was the crew's laughing and reactions that we heard. But, no, that's the audience. And unlike other show tapings I've attended, we were given no instructions to clap or laugh. So, whatever you hear are authentic reactions from the peanut gallery. 

You can watch this part on TV, but I can tell you that while Chenoweth declared she doesn't drink, she sure loved her chocolate martini. By the way, the show's guests get to pick what drink they'd like for their appearance and the "bartender" keeps 'em coming. Also, there's this dedicated three or four-person crew in the studio that are keeping everything and everyone on task and on time. That's not counting whoever is answering phones and tabulating the poll question votes, who aren't in the studio. But, still it's pretty amazing what the few people in the studio are capable of. One cameraman runs back and forth between cameras with a very worried look on his face. I'll get more info on the production side of things when I shadow Andy later in the week.

The after show: After the live show, Andy and his guests shoot the after show for bravotv.com. Before that, though, Andy's mom typically text messages him her verdict on the night's program. Shannon and Chenoweth got a "terrific." Andy shared some other post-show comments she texted him recently, such as "good show," "are you loaded?," and "don't go out too late." Aw, ma.

Is there anything about the show that you're wondering about? Leave a comment with your question and we'll try to find out the answer!

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Photo credit: Bravo

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