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The comedian wanted people to laugh. But not all the time. Sometimes, not at all.
Ryan Reiss typically spends his evenings warming up studio audiences for Seth Meyers’ “Late Night” show. Big guffaws are in demand. On recent Friday evenings, however, Reiss has held forth in a different studio at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters, asking visitors to clap and show their energy – yet remain mindful that some moments of the program they are about to see won’t be very funny.
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Some may get them angry. No matter what you hear, he reminds them, keep in mind one rule: No booing.
On these Fridays, in the studio once reserved for Megyn Kelly’s morning program, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes bounds out from backstage and offered – while standing on a set festooned with elaborate video walls – an energetic monologue (it’s “more like TED-talky or narrative storytelling than news delivering,” Hayes says). He then presents lively conversation and visits with guests like Richard Engel, the NBC News chief foreign correspondent who was recently in the midst of war-torn Syria, or the celebrated New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. The hour-long shows take place in front of a live studio audience (as well as the one sitting home watching on TV), and the crowd can clap or voice disapproval depending on what is said.
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“There’s a real tone thing we were most worried about,” acknowledges Hayes in a recent interview. “How do you do a news show in this environment, when the fact is on some nights the news is really grim?”
So far, audiences seem to be towing the line. Last Friday, people sitting in Studio 6A were spotted laughing, and sometimes even gasping. But they didn’t disrupt the proceedings, which has given MSNBC enough courage to keep Hayes’ Friday nights in front of a crowd...
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