(And no, it’s not the Gibb brothers.)
Had fun at the taping of Hardball with Chris Matthews today. His guests were Barry Levinson (Wag The Dog and Good Morning, Vietnam, among many others) and Robin Williams. They filmed at Gaston Hall on the campus of Georgetown University, which was an ideal setting for a crazy show.
Under normal conditions, Hardball airs live on MSNBC. But they’re taking their show on the road to colleges and universities, filming episodes that will air on Wednesdays during October. GU is the first stop, and the topic was Levinson and Williams’ new film, Man Of The Year. The film is about a stand-up comic who runs for president. His campaign is a populist success, but the election is fraught with voting errors in electronic machines – a reflection on current voting woes in states that foolishly purchased Diebold voting equipment.
It was a blast to experience Robin Williams up close. He’s a bundle of energy, and while he’s much more sober now (literally and figuratively), his wit is still as sharp as ever. Chris Matthews had a very tough time keeping a straight face during some of Williams’ riffs, which occurred both on-camera and off. During breaks in filming, Williams tried new material on the audience (mostly undergraduate students), then delivered it in a refined manner duing the filming. It was great to watch, and Williams fed off the energy of the students.
Levinson is also a sharp, funny guy, and his care toward the craft of filmmaking is evident when he discusses the need for films that mirror society’s folly. He was also bowled over by the students’ cheers for him – chants of “Barry, Barry, Barry” were heard many times during the filming.
The process of filming a TV show is involved, and I think that Matthews’ assistant wasn’t really used to doing live shows before a tech-savvy audience. When the show was first getting ready to shoot, the producer said that cameras were OK, so long as they were silent and didn’t use a flash. About 20 minutes into filming, Matthews’ assistant put the kybosh on that, saying that “all photos and video are property of NBC, and we ask that you stop taking pictures – even during breaks.” It was a crazy double-standard, but this was likely the first experience of this kind for her. I didn’t have a camera with me, but a lot of students voted their choice, whipping out their cell phones and snapping pictures with aplomb.
It was all over within 90 minutes – and it was a lot of fun, heading into the weekend.