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The Truth About Being Part of SNL’s Live Audience Dress Rehearsal

If you don’t live in New York City, your only hope of getting a chance to see Saturday Night Live as part of the live audience is the annual lottery because you cannot purchase tickets.

During summer 2021, I joined the lottery via an email to the SNL ticketing account. Then, on January 10th, I received an email congratulating me on being selected to join the live audience for the show that Friday, the 15th, with a guest of my choice.

After freaking out, I realized that my ticket was not for the 11:30 PM live show but the 8:00 PM dress rehearsal.

Although I initially felt a little disappointed, the dress rehearsal turned out to be a blast. Below are six things to know about SNL’s dress rehearsal:

#1) The people in charge really, really want everyone to have fun

After you check-in at NBC studios at Rockefeller Plaza, you walk past huge screens displaying behind-the-scenes photos that change every few seconds. Then, after going through some security checks, you reach the lounge. A DJ played music, and they handed out free alcohol to those over 21.

Also, before the show started, Michael Che came out and interacted with the crowd. He made jokes and even asked one person for their name. Then, Kenan Thompson, Heidi Gardner, Chloe Fineman, and Ego Nwodim came out and sang for the audience.

#2) Seating is based on luck

A handwritten number or letter was on the back of everyone’s tickets, sorting us into different groups. I’m not sure if groups had to do with peoples’ ages, but the seating seemed pretty random.

My guest and I were in the third group called to head down to the studio. We were seated right in the center, with a perfect view. The people next to me talked about how they had “priority seating,” but we got to sit in the same area without it.

#3) The studio is tiny

I could not believe how small and cramped the studio was, especially the main stage. It reminded me of middle school theater. But the crew made use of every inch of space and transformed the studio into beautiful sets. While a sketch occurred on the right side of the studio, they’d be setting up props and backdrops for the next one on the other side of the studio.

#4) the Dress rehearsal runs exactly like the live show

The SNL staff uses the dress rehearsal to figure out which sketches “work” and which ones need to be cut. As a result, the dress rehearsal runs exactly like the live show. And I mean exactly. The actors wear their costumes and the musical guest performs both songs. The show is filmed under a “live” time constraint, with crew members counting down the seconds before each skit.

Furthermore, the dress rehearsal audience sees sketches that didn’t make it on air. Sometimes SNL posts “Cut For Time” sketches to their YouTube page, but other cut sketches will never be seen again. The sketch I laughed the hardest at ended up getting cut from the show that aired.

#5) The sketches are funnier in person

Getting to see the actors’ facial expressions up close and being surrounded by other fans of the show made the sketches so much funnier. I was laughing the entire two hours.

The cast also interacted with the audience more during the dress rehearsal. Michael Che said things along the lines of, “That one’s not gonna make it to the live show,” and “Oh, you guys liked that?” during Weekend Update.

#6) the show is very much live

In the two hours I spent at the studio, only three sketches were pre-recorded and played on screens. A band played live music between sketches and the cast raced through the studio to make super quick costume changes.

Many unpredictable things happened, such as props falling over, a cast member saying the wrong line, and sets bumping into the stage lights. The crew almost ran out of time while trying to perfect one of the sets. I could hear someone saying, “We’re not ready!”

Chloe Hummel

U Conn '24

Chloe is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut. She is an English major concentrating in Creative Writing and a Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor. She is also minoring in Human Rights.
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