Before visiting Los Angeles, I had heard numerous stories of how utterly disappointing the city is since “there’s nothing to do there”. But if you are determined to make the most of your trip, you can always find something interesting – for instance, besides the usual tourist spots, you can visit one of the famous talk shows to be given a first-hand experience of how things work off-screen. When I was in LA, I went to the Jimmy Kimmel Live show and it was indeed one of the highlights of my trip!

Somewhat surprisingly, you can’t really buy tickets to such shows – instead, you enter a competition by registering your details online and telling them why you’d like to win. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive the tickets to your email account for free. We applied for a couple of shows on different days and won 2 tickets to Jimmy Kimmel Live, but only found out the line up a few days before the recording – actor Larry David and animal trainer Dave Salmoni.

On the day of the show, we received an email saying we had been upgraded to priority tickets. That meant we were one of the first people to enter the venue, which is located in the very centre of the Hollywood Boulevard, with Jimmy Kimmel’s star just at its doorsteps. As we were waiting outside in the queue, the staff members approached us one by one to check our tickets and explained some basic rules – from the moment we entered the venue, taking pictures or videos was strictly prohibited. We were also asked to leave our bags at the entrance. Besides the priority and regular ticket holders, there were several people without tickets, waiting to join the audience should any seats remain unfilled.

Upon entering the actual studio, the audience members were seated by the crew based on their preference. The rules of the show were then explained, and we soon realized that all the clapping and chanting from the audience is staged: we were asked to follow two signs – “Applause” and “Stop clapping” – that were hanging from the ceiling and would light up throughout the show. When Kimmel entered the stage, our clapping and shouting was supposed to be so loud that it was impossible to hear him for the first 15 seconds. We were then asked to gradually fade out when the “Stop Clapping” sign lit up, rather than ending suddenly, to make it sound more realistic on TV.

The show itself was much shorter than the waiting and preparation time, and, though I believe it was shown on TV that same night, it wasn’t in fact “live”. Three cameras filmed the stage and the audience from different angles, and there were four parts of filming with short breaks in between. Since the filming happened while Hurricane Irma was hitting Florida, the show was mostly focussed on that. Kimmel firstly had a live chat with the actor Kristen Bell, who was helping out elderly people who had been relocated from a retirement home to her hotel in Florida. News reports on the hurricane were then shown, before Jimmy moved on to interviewing the guests – Larry David introduced his upcoming TV series, while Dave Salmoni brought some extra-venomous snakes, and a few other animals.

During one of the breaks between filming, Kimmel remained on stage and had an off-the-record conversation with an audience member who had fled Florida to escape the hurricane. He seemed genuinely interested and concerned with the situation. During other breaks, another crew member chatted with the audience, keeping us entertained by asking questions and giving out some prizes. Finally, after the show, we were invited to listen to the rapper 21 Savage, who performed on the stage outside the studio. Not being huge fans, we left after two songs, but there were people outside the venue, peeping through the holes in the fence and trying to get a glimpse of the performance.

It was very interesting to see how such successful shows work, with everything being carefully planned, down to the last detail. It was also surprising to realise that the show needed the audience more than the audience needed the show. So if you’re interested in showbiz or find yourself in LA with ‘nothing to do’, I would strongly recommend visiting one of these talk shows – you’ll get a sneak peek of how things work backstage and might even see some of your favourite celebrities. After all, Hollywood is famous for its film industry, and is so much more than just stars on the pavement or the sign on the hill.