This post explains how to get Saturday Night Live tickets, including standby tickets and tickets for dress rehearsal. Competition for a seat is fierce but don’t give up hope entirely (we know a few tricks). We have broken this post up into sections for easier reading.
SNL embodies the essence of New York City. It’s funny, smart, musical, political, goofy, sometimes offensive in the politest of ways and always unpredictable. Out-of-towners and locals try to get a seat in the audience for the weekly Saturday night airing at 11:30 pm on the NBC network. Competition for a seat is fierce but don’t give up hope entirely. It basically comes down to luck, as audience members are chosen randomly via an email lottery.
1. In the month of August, submit an email request for tickets. This is the only time of year you can request tickets. At the end of the month, tickets are allotted randomly for the entire upcoming season (October through late May). *You cannot request a date so keep this in mind when you are planning your trip to New York!
2. Send your ticket request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your full name, phone number, email address and mailing address in the email.
3. Only one request is allowed per household. Do not send multiple requests. If you are selected, you will get only TWO tickets. Perhaps it is best if you and your family members flip a coin in advance! Speaking of family, only those 16 years or older can attend the show.
4. If you are chosen from the lottery, you will receive a ticket confirmation email two tickets for a specific date for either the live broadcast at 11:30 pm or the dress rehearsal at 8 pm. Note: Only those who are selected will be contacted. If you hear nothing from the SNL folks, it’s time to learn how to get standby tickets.
5. If you are wondering what is the difference between tickets to the 11:30 live airing and the 8:30 dress rehearsal, there are pros and cons to each. The dress rehearsal will likely have a few extra sketches to see which work better than others. Also, dress rehearsals have a more casual, interactive atmosphere. The benefit to being at the live airing at 11:30 pm is that it’s got that unpredictable quality that SNL has had historically.
YOU GOT TICKETS – NOW WHAT?
Where do I go?
When you arrive to go to the show, will enter at the 49th Street of 30 Rockefeller Plaza TV Studios between 5th and 6th Avenues. We recommend that you use this link to get exact directions from anywhere in the New York City area. It is best to take mass transit. If you are new to using the subways, read our guide to navigating the New York City Subway.
When should I arrive?
For the 8 p.m. dress rehearsal, you’ll have to arrive at 5:45 p.m. to clear security. You will be done around 9:30-10 p.m. For the 11:30 p.m. live show, arrive no later than 9:30 p.m. to clear security. You will be done around 1-1:30 a.m.
What happens when I get there?
You will show your ticket confirmation email and you will receive paper tickets. You will then be asked to stand in the line across the hall until you given further instructions. (For a minute by minute breakdown of the SNL audience member experience, see this cute blog post by a self-proclaimed SNL junkie for more than 16 years)
Are there any rules or tips for attending a taping?
Standby tickets are given out to fill seats in case those who won tickets through the lottery don’t show up. This means there might be extra seats but you can never know how many seats might become available in advance. The official NBC Standby rules are listed here. But we break it down for you. Below are all the tips and inside scoops you need to know to survive the infamous SNL Standby Tickets line.
The good news: everyone does get a standby ticket. The not so good news: There is no guarantee that you will get a seat for the show. In any case, being part of the SNL standby line experience is one you will NOT forget!
Best times to try for Standby tickets
How the Standby process works
Standby tickets are distributed at 7 a.m. on the Saturday morning of that night’s show at the 48th Street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza by the NBC Studios Marquee. Generally, people line up on Friday night at 2:00 am or earlier. In some cases, people may get in line a few days before! That’s usually when the host or musical guest are incredibly popular. You should not wait until 7 am to casually stop by. You will be disappointed!
TIP: You can pay a company to have someone stand in line for you. It’s one person per ticket and it will cost you between $25-$100/person, depending on how long you want someone to wait in line for you.
You can choose if you want standby tickets for either the 8 p.m. dress rehearsal or the 11:30 p.m. live show. Dress rehearsals are easier to get standby tickets for the reasons we listed above about the difference between rehearsals vs. live airing.
Only one ticket will be issued per person and each person must be 16 years or older. It cannot be given to another person. *Your ID will be checked when you are handed standby tickets if you get one and again when you enter the studio.
Waiting in line
You must stay in line for the duration, though your line neighbors will likely understand if you need a necessary break (i.e. to go to the bathroom, a quick run to the store for food.). At about 6 am Saturday morning, the NBC pages (ushers) will start to ask you to pack up your stuff. They begin to condense the line to make it easier for people to leave once they are given their standby ticket.
Decide in advance if you want to request a ticket for dress rehearsal standby (8 pm) or live airing standby (11:30 pm). If you’re still undecided about which one, you can ask a Page how many people have signed up for either the dress rehearsal or the live airing.
As the line moves forward, have your ID out. This is the same ID you will bring back when later that evening to see if there is room for your standby ticket to get you in. Once you have your standby ticket, go somewhere and sleep! You’ve got a long day and night ahead of you!
Coming back for showtime
The process is the same whether you got standby tickets for the 8 pm dress rehearsal or the 11:30 pm live show. No later than 7:15 pm for the dress rehearsal and no later than 10:45 pm for the live show, return to the NBC Gift Shop at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. There, an NBC page will place you in line based on the number on the back of your ticket, the earlier you were in line in the morning, the more likely you will be seated.
The NBC pages usually send the first 10-20 people through security (have that ID handy). This is not an indication that there are open seats. They may then call more people through. This procedure will continue as the pages determine how many empty seats there are. At some point, the pages will no longer invite standby ticket holders up, meaning there are no more seats.
After the show, cast members exit the building at the 49th Street entrance to 30 Rock. Go wait under the NBC Studio marquee on 49th Street. Security often has barricades set up so you know where to stand. It takes about 15 minutes or so after the show ends for the cast to leave the building. They trickle out, one or two at a time. You can wave hello, and who knows you might get lucky and get a photo with them!
Usually, the show host and musical guest often leave through a secret exit and it’s unlikely you’ll see them after the show. Occasionally cast members or guest hosts will make a surprise visit to the standby line appearance at the line. Once, Lin-Manuel from the Broadway show Hamilton stopped by the Standby line to tell everyone he was ordering them pizza!
1. In 1974, Johnny Carson who was hosting The Tonight Show Mondays through Fridays at 11:30 pm asked NBC Network not to air reruns on the weekend nights. He wanted to save those reruns to air when he was on vacation. NBC had to fill up the 11:30-weekend slots and so NBC hired Lorne Michaels to develop a show. Thanks, Johnny!
2. At first, the show was called simply, “NBC’s Saturday Night” because there was already a show titled “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell” on another network. When that show ended in 1976, SNL got it’s now famous name.
3. Oldest and youngest hosts: Betty White hosted when she was 88 and Drew Barrymore when she was 7!
4. Celebrities Who’ve Hosted the Most
5. In the beginning, cast members earned only $750 per week! Most of the musical acts featured on SNL are paid virtually nothing for their performances. The free advertisement is worth its weight in gold!
6. Plenty of now-famous people were rejected by SNL, including Stephen Colbert, who now hosts the Late Show (Learn how to get tickets to this live show)
7. Andy Kaufman who was the very first host of SNL was banned from the show in 1982. After he upset the audience with his female-wrestling sketch, Kaufman made a pre-taped appearance asking the audience if he should be banned from the show. SNL ran a phone vote, and 195,544 people voted to “Dump Andy” while 169,186 people voted to “Keep Andy” He never appeared in the show again, and in 1984 he died of lung cancer at the age of 35. He will always be remembered, especially for this oddball brilliant skit from the first episode of Saturday Night Live.
Written by Courtney Shapiro