vffs forever

10 Things I Learned From Being in The Drew Barrymore Show Virtual Audience

Drew Barrymore, feeding off the virtual audience’s energy. Photo: The Drew Barrymore Show/YouTube

It is hard to believe that The Drew Barrymore Show is only a little over a week old. That’s how instantly canonical its segments and quirks have become. Do you remember a time before “Drew’s News”? Or Barrymore’s weirdly ’70s, yellow- and brown-accented daytime TV set? Or the signature segment “Sing to a Flower”? Such a big fan am I that I wanted to be part of Drew’s world, where stream-of-thought non sequiturs pass for monologue jokes and a host frequently shrieking at the top of her lungs is de rigueur.

Because it premiered amid the pandemic, The Drew Barrymore Show has devised a work-around for the lack of a live studio audience: A giant wall of disembodied faces towering above Drew on set, smiling and waving at the camera, known as the “VFFs,” which rhymes with BFFs but stands for “Virtual Friends and Family.” On the show’s website you can get a ticket to reserve a spot in the virtual audience of a live taping, so of course that’s what I did. Here are ten things I learned from being in the virtual audience of The Drew Barrymore Show.

1. If you want to get on the wall, make a cute sign or own a baby.

… Or a cute dog. In the confirmation email you get before the taping begins, you’re told to wear bright colors, invite your kids, roommates, or co-workers into the frame, and if you wanna, you can hold up a “handmade sign for Drew.” Per my editor’s suggestion, I took out my arts-and-crafts stuff and made a sign that said “LIVE LAUGH DREW!”

2. No shoes, no pants, no problem.

The dress code we received with our confirmation emails said to “show up to be seen.” The Drew Barrymore Show also seems to have a strongly hinted-at pants-optional policy, saying, “Even though you are logging on virtually, we suggest dressing just as you would if you were in the studio — at least from the waist up :).” Which is how I fulfilled a lifelong dream as of this morning of appearing on national television in my underwear.

3. The producer had strong camp-counselor energy.

We were told to make sure we were logged on by 8:30 a.m. ET, so part of me was hoping there’d be some warm-up comic Zooming in to get us all dialed up to match Drew’s zany energy. That doesn’t seem to be how things go on virtual morning shows. Not only that, but the producer wrangling all of us was doing so via audio only, so he really had to go above and beyond telling us to have bright smiles and big energy on camera. He told us to “smile, wave, interact with Drew,” and “played a game” with us where he asked people to raise their hand if they were beaming in from the East Coast, Midwest, or West Coast. The people on the West Coast who had gotten camera ready and logged on at 5:30 a.m. demonstrated a commitment to Drew that even I do not possess, and which frankly frightened me.

4. Don’t mind the loud beeping.

“Please excuse the loud beeping,” the producer told us. “This is live TV.” And there was much intermittent loud beeping. I recommend joining The Drew Barrymore Show virtual audience to anyone who likes The Drew Barrymore Show but feels it needs more piercing, sporadic beeps.

5. “Drew is the best boss.”

This is a direct quote from the producer, who really told us so much about Drew in the minutes leading up to the show and during the commercial breaks. “Drew loves our energy,” said the producer. She “feeds off it.”

6. The virtual audience experience is honestly kind of lonely.

Unlike a Zoom meeting, you don’t get to see the rest of the VFFs when you’re on The Drew Barrymore Show. You only see a window of your own face, in the bottom right corner of the screen, watching yourself watching Drew Barrymore. Occasionally, the producer’s voice will cut in, telling you to clap. You clap, you watch yourself clapping, but you don’t see the other audience members’ applause, and crucially, you don’t know when to stop. I found myself Kidman-clapping for what felt like a second too long, every time. I hoped that Drew could feel my energy through the screen, that she fed off it.

7. It is fun to see your face onscreen though.

After an interview with a local newscaster named Lena Pringle about how she got a haircut, Drew cut away to commercial, and I saw myself on the terrifying wall of VFFs. Or I saw my sign, anyway. My face was mostly out of the frame. I was there when she came back from commercial as well, but by the time Drew got to the segment where she came up with “Drew-phemisms” for lewd words with Gwyneth Paltrow, I had been booted off. What did I do to you, Drew? What did I do wrong?

8. Caesar salad is actually Mexican food because it was invented in Tijuana.

This fact isn’t specific to The Drew Barrymore virtual studio audience, but I did learn it while I was in the audience, so I guess on some level it is. Cristela Alonzo was one of Drew’s guests, and joined Drew for a segment called, creatively, “fun facts” (really, these producers are crushing it). In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Alonzo shared facts like the Caesar-salad thing and that Google Images was created after a spike in image-search activity for Jennifer Lopez’s green Versace Grammys dress in 2000, to which Drew replied, “I live for Google Images.”

9. The Drew Barrymore Show is divided into “acts,” confirming my theory that it is more theater/performance art than it is daytime television.

After a QVC-style segment called “DrewLaLa,” the producer beamed into our ears to tell us that we were coming up on “Act Seven,” which meant the show was almost done. I was kind of checked out by this point, but as far as I could remember, Act Seven consisted of a pretaped interview with an older couple that flirted over text and got married during COVID. This was something of a dramatic comedown after the episode’s high point, which was Gwyneth calling a vagina a “pepperoni roll.”

10. The audience gets a couple minutes of personal time with Drew after the show.

This was cute. After the show ended, the producer told us to stick around so Drew could talk directly to us, her Virtual Friends and Family. All of our mics were also turned on at once, causing Drew visible distress when everyone shouted “Thanks, Drew!” into her earpiece. She gave a very sweet spiel about how important the audience is to the show, and how she and the producers came up with the name “VFF” because “VA” was confusing for … I don’t know … Veterans Affairs reasons? Either way, if you want the novelty and frisson of feeding Drew Barrymore with your energy on live TV and listening to the sound of beeps, The Drew Barrymore Show live virtual audience is the most fun you can have with your pants off.

Things I Learned Being in The Drew Barrymore Show Audience