The grinch who stole the big laughter

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The grinch who stole the big laughter

It was the last place on earth I ever expected to find myself ― in line for a television show taping.
I know, that makes me weird ― after all, everyone wants to be on TV, if only for a split second.
Every week, huge lines form at the three major TV networks, all clustered on Yeouido island in the middle of Seoul, full of people desperate to get into a taping, any taping. I used to pity those creatures, those slaves to the idiot box. But last Saturday, I became one of them.
It’s not easy to get in, especially to the most popular programs. Viewers must send in a letter, then wait for a response.
A girlfriend of a brother of a close friend of mine had the luck to get tickets for two to the comedy show “Big Laughter Club,” airing at a quarter past midnight every Friday night on KBS-TV. The postcard ordered her to arrive at 3 p.m. sharp on Saturday for the rehearsal and 7 p.m. taping of the following week’s show.
But our TV-phile could not make it. So she gave the passes to her boyfriend who gave them to my friend who gave them to me.
“At least it can’t hurt,” I thought to myself.
That Saturday afternoon I found out how wrong I was. It hurt really badly ― at least it hurt my feet.
I showed up at a leisurely 3:10 p.m., not realizing the competition I faced. It turns out that the most hard-core fans come before noon, when they can hang out in this big, white tent and sit on stools. Those who were unfashionably late, however, had to stand in line out in the cold.
The auditorium finally opened after 4 p.m., and when the doors opened, there was total pandemonium. Everyone started to run, desperate for the front seats where one is most likely to be on camera. Those who walked like I did found all the seats taken.
So there Iwas, sitting on a piece of paper on a stairway, holding a stupid yellow “Big Laughter Club” umbrella.
Before the recording began, there was a warm-up session. The cast of the show came out and asked who came the farthest to be there. A woman who said she flew all the way from California got a 100,000 won ($85) prize.
Then the cast started to train the audience to do the “right kind” of laughing and clapping. The audience, all adults, fanatically obeyed, opening their umbrellas and shaking them on cue. I looked around to try to spot the Dear Leader.
The recording took 90 minutes, and, despite the show’s title, there wasn’t too much to laugh at. The wise cameraman never captured my face, which was contorted with pain ― physical pain from crouching on the stairs, and mental pain from being there.
“The audience is one big, important part of a program. They are the behind-the-scenes stars,” says Kang Young-won, the producer of the “Big Laughter Club.”
I guess I made a poor audience member, but I’m just not into waiting in the biting cold to be a behind-the-scenes star of a TV comedy show.

by Chun Su-jin
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