If you’ve been following my adventures, you know this weekend was essentially my Super Bowl. I may be utterly exhausted, but my heart is bursting with joy. And unlike the actual Super Bowl, everyone’s a winner.
The weekend was such a whirlwind that it’s all starting to blur together and the individual stories from each show are harder and harder to untangle, but I wanted to put together a highlight reel for my future self and anyone else who may be interested.
Let’s start with the early Boston show. The first guest was Will’s. If you’re not familiar with the format of the podcast, one of the guys invites a guest who the others don’t know about until they’re revealed in the moment. So Will did an intro and brought out none other than Boston’s own and Harvard grad Conan O’Brien.
I’m a huge Conan fan, so this was an added treat to seeing Jason, Will and Sean. I’ll share a few things that struck me from their stories and conversations as best I recall. They talked about how lucky they are to have the careers they do. Sean talked about being at an awards show years ago and looking around and realizing that the difference between those in attendance and all the actors out there who also put in the hard work is essentially luck. The fact that they all remain so grateful for being where they are just adds to my love.
Conan talked about the struggles of the early days of his stint at Late Night. Despite being under constant pressure of contract renewals that the public didn’t necessarily even know about, he had to go out and deliver every night. Because the show was 5 nights a week, Conan fortunately didn’t have time to focus on the negative. Another solid life lesson.
They talked about how much of a difference working with kind people makes. Conan sung the praises of his sidekick Andy Richter, describing him as a comforting presence sitting next to him all those years. This concept came up more than once, I think in the Q&A sessions. The guys talked about how thankful they are that they’ve been able to do this podcast with their good friends. And that they think about how they want to get through this remaining good friends. *Heart eyes*
The last thing that really stuck out to me was Conan saying that he remembers seeing people at his level when he was younger and knowing that he couldn’t do that just as sure as he knew that the sun rises in east and sets in the west. And here we are, all these years later, and Conan said he did 5 shows a week for 28 years, I believe. This was an exceptionally special and inspirational moment for me, as someone who spent the majority of my like just “knowing” so many things (including ever being in the same room as Jason Bateman) weren’t possible for me.
OK, onto the late Boston show. This guest was Jason’s — and in true SmartLess form, he was there to make us all a little bit smarter. A professor at MIT, Max Tegmark is a physicist, cosmologist and machine learning researcher.
Their discussion centered around artificial intelligence. From why we should be excited and also terrified about AI, to which movies and characters most accurately depict what can happen if AI goes wrong (HAL and Ex Machina, BTW). There’s also the huge issue of how to get AI to take things like ethics into account when making decisions.
One of Max’s projects that sounded pretty interesting is the website improvethenews.org. A news aggregator, the website uses AI to go through many news articles, figure out which ones are reporting on the same story, and then parse out the facts that all articles agree upon.
Despite this being a pretty heavy subject, I really appreciated Will especially keeping it light. He was such a highlight during this show.
Next up, night two in NYC/Brooklyn! For the early show, I was literally front row center. When I got to my seat, I met some super nice people sitting next to me. The first was a young woman who came alone because she feels about Will the same way I feel about Jason. Next to her were sisters who were so excited to be there and so sweet. Love meeting people who get my obsession — and they made the night even better.
This was another of Jason’s guests. After a brief intro, during which Sean was guessing Martin Short as the guest, Jason brought out none other than late night legend David Letterman.
I don’t remember many of the specific stories from this one, but I know there was quite a bit of chatting about car racing. Jason competed in the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race, taking top honors in 1987. His car racing days ended when he broke his first ever bone in a crash during a different race years later. Will and David bonded over Formula 1. Sean shared that race car is spelled the same forward and backward. The best.
What I especially loved about this one was how much Jason, Will and Sean all appeared to genuinely and deeply revere David. He remembered things about each of them from their talk show appearances, and knew that Jason started out on Little House on the Prairie. The guys seemed legitimately touched, and then they told some heartwarming memories they have of David.
David even poked fun at the late show the night before in Boston, which led to Will joking about people actually leaving the show because they didn’t like the guest. The audience went crazy, and Jason said something like, y’all don’t know, y’all weren’t there. Oh but I was there, Jason.
There was a lot of internet backlash from people upset and complaining about the late show Boston guest. I think following Conan, the audience had hopes of a different type of guest and ended up disappointed. I’d seen the internet fodder, including many people speculating that the guest was a fill-in for someone else who couldn’t make it to Boston due to the weather, but had no idea that people would’ve actually walked out of the show.
So during the Q&A session, I managed to get the opportunity to ask Jason about his guest choice. This conversation is even more of a blur than anything else, but I think it went something like this. I said I was at the two Boston shows and wanted to ask Jason about the second guest. And he said something like, you loved it, right? Then I asked if the online rumors were true that it was a last-minute fill-in choice. And he confirmed Max was his first choice. From there, Will and Sean jumped in as well, reiterating that the tour is meant to be the podcast in live form. And the idea of the podcast is to hear from people smarter than them, and for us all to learn new things. Essentially, and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing, brilliant people who are not celebrities have been on the podcast in the past, so this was totally on brand for the podcast.
Last up, the late show in NYC/Brooklyn. This one was especially late, starting at 10 pm instead of the 9 pm late show the night before. When the guys came out, Jason revealed this was yet another one of his guests. Given that whoever invites the guest sits in the middle on the couch with the guest, I’ll take all the Jason guests I can get. After some small talk about their eating habits, Jason introduced Congresswoman AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), born and raised in the Bronx.
AOC shared some of what it’s like to be in Congress, some of the things she’s currently working on, and how she went from being a bartender to being a Congresswoman basically over night and the stresses that came along with that.
There had been an issue with one of the lights on stage. And at one point later in the show, a guy came out in a mask to replace it. Then it was revealed that this guy was not a staff member, he was Bradley Cooper (say what??). So Bradley removed the mask and joined the group on the couch for the rest of the show.
I think it was during one of the Boston shows, Sean mentioned that Bradley was Will’s neighbor back in the day. And it was so obvious that they’re friends, it was like a party after he came out. Complete chaos, I think maybe we got one more actual question in for AOC from there. Then, Bradley stuck around for the wrap-up after AOC left the stage. After Jason made a (fake) announcement that SmartLess would now be the four of them, they did their signature byeeeeee and that was that.
Walking out from this show, I could hear some chatter amongst the crowd about not liking this guest choice either. Honestly, just more proof in life that you can never make everyone happy.
Now, let’s talk about the Q&A sessions. If you have a VIP ticket for an upcoming show and are wondering how the Q&A session will work, let me outline some of the basics for you. First, there is one Q&A session between the early and late shows for VIP ticket holders of both shows. If you’re at the first show, you just stay seated after it ends. Staff will check for your wristband that proves you belong, and then they’ll bring in the second show’s VIP group.
Pro tip: If you’re in the second group, don’t just take the first open seat you come across. At both the Boston and NYC Q&A sessions, there were seats all the way down in the first few rows that were empty. And there isn’t assigned seating for the session. If a seat is open, you can take it. Once everyone is seated, they ask for people with a question for one of the guys. They initially take 4 for each…but if things move fast enough, they’ll add to that.
And a note about phones and photos. Before every show and Q&A session, there is an announcement that no photos or videos are allowed. Even saying to turn your phone off before the show.
Because I didn’t want to get in trouble or kicked out, I followed this rule for the first show. Then after seeing that I was probably the only one following this rule, I started sneaking in some photos. I’m sure I could’ve gotten more or better photos and videos, but I also wanted to really live in the moment and pay attention. I obviously needed a few photos, though, to cherish and prove that for a brief period of time, I was essentially within arm’s length of Jason.
If you missed these shows, don’t panic. The full tour is being filmed by Discovery+ for an upcoming documentary. So you’ll have your chance at some point in the near future.
This was an absolutely magical weekend. Opportunities to see Jason in person are few and far between, making each of them so very special. I can’t even pretend to know how to go back to reality after this weekend. At least I’ll have a new episode of SmartLess to help ease my transition back into the real world tomorrow.