Whenever I see a black comedy show or “Night at the Apollo”-type show on TV, I’ve always noticed that the seats in on the main level are filled by mostly blacks, while those sitting in the balcony are white. Is this legal?
It would depend on the nature of those seat. In general places of public accommodation MAY discriminate as long as it is NOT ILLEGAL to do so. For example you cannot discrimnate by sex, or national orgin or color. However in many places you could by sexual preference. This is because in most areas sexual preference is not a protected class. Same as you could discriminate by reason of people not wearing shoes.
But suppose all those seats in the front row are not for sale. Supposed those seats are reserved for the owner and are never sold. Then it would be perfectly acceptable for the owner to allow anyone HE wants to sit there. And suppose the owner has only black friends.
Another thing is they may discriminate via location. For instance they may reserve those seats for people residing in Harlem (whatever the statistical district may be.) Since most residents of Harlem are black it would be logical for blacks to be seen. However if a white or latino lived in Harlem they would be entitled to those seats as well.
Here is the Apollo Box Office. Note that you can make reservations by phone or through Ticketmaster, pretty much eliminting their ability to screen the audience or seating by race.
My guess would be that the shows have a much higher proportion of blacks in the audience and, of those people, blacks are just a bit more likely than whites to spend the money to get the closer seats you see. (Somehow, the idea that some pale-skinned customer was ushered away from their chosen seat prior to the show strikes me as unlikely–especially since there are a lot of people who would raise a loud cry if it happened to them.)
(I suppose that there could be a conscious effort on the part of the TV producers to tell the camera operators to avoid showing whites on the main level. I am not sure what their motivation would be, but that might explain your perceptions. I would tend to go with the idea that the audience is primarily black and that the relativcely fewer whites simply choose to pay for cheaper tickets.)