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If You Tape It They Will Come

| December 30, 2005

People spent years waiting for a chance to sit in the “Bozo’s Circus” studio audience. Parents requested tickets to Bozo before their children were even born — and all for the chance to win Archway cookies and a Schwinn bicycle in the Grand Prize Game.

Bozo’s 40-year reign ended when WGN-Channel 9 yanked the show in 2001. But there still are a handful of TV shows that are taped in front of a live studio audience.

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” is hands-down the hottest ticket in town. It may not take years to get in, but the stakes are high (new car, anyone?), and there are a few hoops to jump through.

Audience reservations can be made — if you can get through — by calling (312) 591-9222 on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Apparently the worst time to call is at 3. You must speak to an audience department member to reserve seats (the max is four, and everyone must be older than 18). The “Oprah” season runs from January to May and from August to November.

Make sure to bring a valid photo ID to the taping. Leave the cell phone and camera behind and don’t wear beige or white clothing. Bring as little (literal) baggage as possible, as you’ll be searched at the door.

I attended a taping some years ago and remember feeling alternately like a cow (what with all the herding) and a monkey (clapping when they said clap), but other than that it was a pleasant experience. Most TV studios, by the way, are frigid, so bring a sweater.

The uninhibited can check out the “Be On The Show” page and hope their story fits a particular show theme (Were you conned by your man? Has OCD taken over your life? Ever done something crazy for love?). For last-minute reservations, send the show’s audience department an email. If something opens up, they’ll let you know. For more see

The late Morton Downy, Jr. is long gone, and Jenny Jones shot her last show here in 1999. But Jerry Springer is still going strong (there’s even a controversial musical based on the show, called Jerry Springer — The Opera). Seats are available from September to April. You must be 18 or older to see a taping, and can call (312) 321-5365 or send an email via the Web site ( To appear on the show, you must fit the topic (Are you a polygamist? Are you cheating on your lover and feel it’s time to confess? Do you have an interesting one-night stand story?) and convince the producers you’ve got a good story. It goes without saying that you must be willing to be publicly humiliated.

Since 1996, the musical guests on the cable TV dance show “Chic-a-Go-Go” have included Oscar Brown Jr., Pansy Division, The Cramps, Alejandro Escoveda, The Shirelles, Kelly Hogan, Bobby Conn, Shonen Knife, The Standells, and many others. The show has been going strong since 1996 and is hosted by Miss Mia (Park) and a puppet named Ratso. It’s family friendly and also draws a lot of hipsters. It’s also easy to get in: there are no reservations, no age limit and no tickets — just show up on the day of the taping at Chicago Access Network studios, 322 S. Green. The date is announced via the Web site ( gogo/). Audience members are encouraged to wear costumes (even beige ones, we suspect), and are likely to appear on camera a la “American Bandstand.” It appears Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. on Chicago Access Network’s Channel 19.

Since 2001, WTTW’s “Check, Please!” has featured three Chicagoans discussing their favorite restaurants while enjoying a glass of wine. To be chosen, you have to fill out an application at the Web site ( and choose three restaurants that haven’t yet been reviewed. Choosing a place that has some distinguishing characteristics or a story behind it will help your cause, as well being clever on the app and having an interesting job. Perks include a couple of free meals. And yes, they serve real wine during the (daytime!) taping.

All of these shows are free. But then so is watching the Chicago City Council, which attracts its own share of cameras and meets one Wednesday each month at 10 a.m. at City Council Chambers, 121 N. LaSalle Street (for a schedule see

ODDS N SODS: After being cast out as host and managing editor of “Chicago Tonight,” Bob Sirott has landed on his feet — again. He’s now weekend anchor at WMAQ-Channel 5 — the station where he launched “First Thing In The Morning” with Allison Rosati all those years ago. Let’s hope they give him some room to stretch . . . Longtime B96 mixmaster Frankie “Hollywood” Rodriguez can now be heard doing live remotes on Saturday afternoons from 3 to 6 and spinning an old-school club mix Saturdays nights at 9 on Nine FM, which is simulcast on WDEK-FM (92.5), WKIE-FM (92.7), and WRZA-FM (99.9). For more go to . . . Nine FM is also where you can hear Johnny Mars spin cutting edge and old-school new wave on “Now And Then” Sunday nights from 10 to 12 . . . Hearing former WBEZ “Odyssey” host Gretchen Helfrich fill in as local anchor is an experience not unlike watching Michael Jordan play baseball. Let’s hope the public radio station awards her a new show — and soon.

— Cara Jepsen

Category: Media, Monthly

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  1. Kat says:

    I attended a taping of Jenny Jones in Chicago in 2000 or 2001. I know this for certain.