With the WGA strike finally coming to a close, many of our favorite TV shows will be airing new episodes shortly. This includes the comeback of late-night television, such as Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
One of my favorite shows that I missed dearly throughout the strike was Saturday Night Live, a late-night sketch comedy show that airs on NBC every Saturday nights at 11:30 P.M. ET.
SNL’s 49th season premiers on October 14, 2023 with host Pete Davidson and musical guest Ice Spice. Many viewers will be tuning in on television to watch this episode, but did you know that you can be a part of SNL’s live audience for free? Whether you missed the deadline to win tickets through their lottery or just heard about this now, you still may have a chance to watch the show live by waiting in the standby line.
The process of getting into SNL through standby can be confusing, competitive, tiring, and sometimes stressful. As someone who has watched the show live as an audience member six times — and planning to go throughout its 49th season — it is worth it. Whether you are reading this to get into the premiere or any show taking place in the 49th season, continue reading for the ultimate guideline on how to get standby tickets for this iconic show, including tips, tricks, and advice on how to survive the actual line.
The process of getting standby tickets for the show starts two days before. An almost guaranteed way of getting into the show through standby is obtaining a reservation number.
On Thursday morning before the show, head to this link. At 10 A.M., the link will open. I recommend being on the site five minutes before and counting down the seconds until 10:00. Reservation numbers can get taken quickly, and sometimes the site can crash, depending on how high of a demand reservation numbers are.
When the link activates, you will have two options to choose from – dress rehearsal and live show. The dress rehearsal — which will be referenced as “dress” in this article — takes place from approximately 6:30 to 10:15 P.M. on Saturday. It’s their trial run before the actual live show, and you get to see more sketches compared to the live audience. The live show takes place from 9:30 P.M. on Saturday to 1:00 A.M. on Sunday. If you choose live, you will be an audience member during the live show as it is broadcasted on television.
After deciding whether you want to be a part of the dress or live audience, start filling out the form. It will ask for your full name, the number of people in your party and contact information. Keep in mind that you can reserve up to four reservation numbers.
If you were able to submit the form, you should receive a confirmation email. If you filled out your information but didn’t get a confirmation email, that unfortunately means you did not get a standby reservation number. But don’t worry! You can still join the line.
After about 45 minutes to an hour of receiving the confirmation email, you will receive another email stating your standby reservation number and how many tickets you have under your name. Make sure you save this email, as you will need it for Friday. Usually, if your standby reservation number is under 100, you have a pretty high chance of getting into the show. However, even if you have a standby reservation number or a standby ticket, you are not guaranteed admission into the show.
Between 6:00 and 7:00 P.M. on the Friday before the show, head to 30 Rockefeller Plaza on 49th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Usually, this is not hard to find because there is a line forming already. Make sure that your whole party is with you. If you have a reservation number, do not arrive after 7 P.M., otherwise, the NBC pages will make you go to the back of the line. On the other hand, if you don’t have a reservation number but still want to wait in the standby line, arrive at 7 P.M. and go to the back of the line. You can join the line at any time after 7 P.M.
When you arrive, find an NBC page — usually, they are walking around the area wearing name tags and lanyards. They will ask to see your email with the reservation numbers, a government ID and a COVID-19 vaccine card. Then, they will lead you and your party to your spot.
Once you are put in your spot, get comfy: you’ll be waiting there for six hours. I recommend bringing a lawn chair or a blanket to sit on, as well as some snacks and water. Bathroom breaks and food trips are allowed, but you cannot be gone for too long.
At midnight, the NBC pages will come out and start handing out standby cards. This process can take up to 30 minutes depending on your spot in the line. Remember, standby cards do not guarantee admission. They’ll also ask for your government ID and COVID-19 vaccine card again.
After you receive your standby card, you are free to go. Do not lose this card!
What To Do While You Are In Line
Waiting in line for six hours is a long time and can get very tiring. As someone who has done the standby line multiple times, here are some tricks and tips I can give you to make the waiting more bearable.
Something to Sit On
I highly recommend bringing a lawn chair, so you aren’t standing the whole time or sitting on the ground. This chair from Target is only $15 on their website. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring tents or air mattresses in the line. If you don’t own a lawn chair and don’t want to purchase one, a picnic blanket also works well.
Food and Water
If you don’t want to spend money on dinner, I recommend bringing snacks or packing dinner from home. There is an option to order food and get it delivered to you but it can be hard for delivery drivers to find you and your party. As said earlier, you are allowed to leave the line to use the bathroom or pick up takeout, but don’t be gone for too long. A good rule of thumb is 30 minutes max.
If the weather is not the greatest, cast members and/or executive producer Lorne Michaels, will buy pizza or soup for the line as a gift. Sometimes, nearby bakeries and restaurants give their leftover goods to the line for free as well.
Card Games or Activities
If you are waiting with a group of friends, various card games are a great way to pass the time. I have played We Are Not Really Strangers and Cards Against Humanity in line before, and it is a great bonding experience with your friends. Also, the mobile app Heads Up! is a fun game that you can play with your groups and the other people around you.
I have also brought my laptop to complete homework and readings while in line. Though the standby line is not the most ideal place to get work done, it does help pass the time. Plus, you are productive!
Layer! Layer! Layer!
Though it is only October and still pretty warm in New York City, it can get chilly in the standby line as it gets later. I recommend bringing an extra hoodie and a pair of PJ pants, as well as a couple of blankets. For the winter months, hand warmers, fuzzy socks, and gloves are a must.
Portable Phone Charger
Lastly, I recommend bringing a portable phone charger while waiting in line. This one seems obvious, but the last thing you want to happen is your phone dying while you have hours left to wait.
ID and Vaccine Card
As mentioned previously, please do not forget to bring a government ID and your vaccine card. If you have misplaced your physical vaccination card, NBC pages also accept digital or photo versions. If you do not have an ID, NBC pages may turn you away.
Network and Make Friends
This is not an object to bring, but rather an activity. If you are a social butterfly, make friends with the people next to you! After all, you are all going to be together for the next six hours, so why not make a friend or two? Plus, it makes this process more fun.
Because of the standby line, I have met some really cool people – some of them are my close friends to this day. I even had the opportunity to network with people I have met in the SNL standby line, the last place I thought I would do such a thing.
People who are walking around the area will also try to talk to you and ask what you’re waiting for. Though sometimes it can be annoying, it can be fun to talk to them and it makes a good story to tell your friends later on as well.
On your standby card, it will give you specific instructions on when and where to arrive. For both dress and live, you will go to the NBC store, which is located inside the building. There is normally a line forming on the side of the store. If you choose dress, they ask you to arrive at 6:30 P.M. For live, they ask you to arrive at around 9:45 P.M.
The NBC pages and security will guide you through the last steps. I would write this all out, but I do not want to spoil the experience for you.
With this guide, I hope you are able to be a part of the live audience for Saturday Night Live!