This post covers how to get free tickets to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert including what you need to know on the day of taping.
First, here is a quick summary of the information in the post below.
The show is filmed in front of a live audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Times Square.
Tickets to be part of the studio audience are free and can be requested in advance for the following month at the start of the current month.
Although the show runtime is just 40 minutes, expect to spend between 4 and 5 hours from arrival to the end of the show.
Click here to see available dates and request tickets - But do read the rest of our post for conditions and things to consider.
Katie, a local NYC tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot, explains how most live TV show tapings in NYC work.
- How to Get Tickets
- Day-of-Show Check-in
- Directions to the Studio
- Nearby Attractions
- Other Things to Do in NYC
- Free Tours by Foot
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, taped live in New York City, is a wildly successful late-night TV talk show with a viewership that hovers over 10 million people.
Colbert starts with an opening monologue, followed by interviews with an eclectic mix of guests like celebrities and popular public figures.
Occasionally there is a musical guest or band that performs.
The show runtime is 40 minutes (the actual taping is longer) and follows the classic late-night talk show format.
There’s an in-house band, The Late Show Band with bandleader Louis Cato, that performs before the show begins taping and again during commercials.
Also before taping, Paul Mecurio, the long-standing Late Show warm-up comedian performs for the audience.
The Late Show tapes at the NBC Studios at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Midtown Manhattan, NY.
Tapings occur once a day on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, two tapings occur. (The show does not tape during holidays).
The show taping goes from around 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. You will have to be at the taping studio by at least 3 p.m.
You will be out of the taping by approximately 7:15 p.m., so plan your day accordingly.
See below for ideas on what to do in the area before and after the taping.
To get tickets, you must request them online. You can request up to two tickets per person.
Both people must be at least 16 years old to attend a taping. You are allowed to request tickets no more than once every 6 months.
The release of tickets is announced on the show's Twitter and Facebook feeds about a month in advance of the taping.
Ticket requests can be made for the following month at the start of the current month. For example, requests for tickets for a taping in May can be submitted in early April.
You will see a calendar that shows which dates are available to request tickets and which dates are completely "Sold Out".
If the date you want is open, click on it, and then you will be asked if you want to "Join Waitlist". Click that button.
You will then be asked to create an account with the ticket distributor, 1iota. It's easy to do though so don't worry.
TIP: This 1iota account can be used to request tickets for many other shows as well. See our NYC TV Tapings post to see what other shows you can see live.
What Happens After You Request Tickets
Submitting a request puts you on a waitlist to have your request processed. Ticket requests are processed between 2 weeks up to 24 hours before the show date.
The video below explains the waitlist process more.
If your ticket request is approved, you'll get an email asking to confirm your attendance. Go ahead and confirm.
You will then get a ticket via email. Print it and bring it with you on the day of taping.
If you have any questions, check the Late Show's FAQ page.
Even if you have your email ticket, you are still not 100% guaranteed a seat! You MUST register at the studio on the day of the show taping.
See below for the location of the taping studio and how to get there.
Registration begins at 3 p.m. for priority tickets and 4 p.m. for general tickets.
You must have a photo ID that matches the name on the email reservation you received approving your ticket request.
All members of your party must be with you to register.
Upon registration, you will be given a paper wristband. Registration ends once all the wristbands have been handed out to ticket holders.
TIP: Be sure to arrive for registration on time, though we highly recommend that you line up at least an hour or two earlier if you want to get into the taping.
Security at the Studio
Taping begins at 5:30 pm, so at about 4 pm, the show staff will begin ushering people into the building.
You will have to show your wristband to staff to be allowed in.
Also, you must pass through security, including a metal detector, before being permitted into the theater.
After passing through security, expect to stand inside on another line for at least 15 minutes before being allowed into the studio.
Studio Etiquette and Policy
- Food or drinks are not allowed in the theater.
- You are required to stay for the duration of the taping.
- The show's dress code is "Your Mom might see you on TV" casual.
- Photography is only permitted during the seating process from a seated position.
- Any recording device must be in the 'off' position once the show begins.
- You are not allowed to use cell phones.
- Small bags and purses are allowed, but not large backpacks, luggage, or shopping bags.
If you have additional questions, check out the Late Show's FAQ page.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater at 1697 Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th Streets in Manhattan.
You can use this Google Maps link to get exact directions to the theater from your point of departure.
To get there by subway, you can take either the B, D, or E train to the "7th Avenue" station or the N, Q, or R train to the "57th/7th Avenue" station.
The taping studio is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
You will have time before or after the show to see the sights in the area. Here are a few ideas.
Stroll Around Central Park
Just six blocks north of the taping studio in Central Park.
Why not spend some time before you check in for the show to walk around in this beautiful park?
Since you don't have to check in for the taping until 3 p.m., you will have plenty of time in the morning to explore the park.
We offer several different pay-what-you-wish Central Park tours held at different times of the day. If our tour times work with your schedule, consider joining us
We also have a GPS-enabled audio tour for you to explore at your own pace.
Also, you might find our post on things to do in Central Park helpful when visiting the park.
Visit Rockefeller Center
The taping studio is just a few streets away from this famous complex of buildings.
There are both paid and free tours of Rockefeller Center. Find out more here.
If you were thinking of visiting one of NYC's skyscraper observatories, you can go to Top of The Rock for incredible views.
Top of The Rock is open 7 days a week from 8 am and 12:30 am which means you can go before or after the taping.
See Times Square
The taping studio is just a few streets north of Times Square. You should definitely take some time before or after the show taping to visit.
There are so many things to do in Times Square, from people-watching to going to attractions like Madame Tussauds.
Our post on things to do in Times Square can tell you what else you can see and do there.
Go to a Broadway Show
Make the most of your time in NYC by walking out of the Colbert studio at 7 pm and seeing a theater show at 8 pm!
If you are the spontaneous sort of tourist, you can try to get a last-minute ticket to a Broadway show, often at discounted tickets!
Read about getting tickets at the TKTS discount booth in Times Square.
Grab Food at Rupert Jee's Hello Deli
One of the most beloved personalities from the David Letterman years of the Late Show is Rupert Jee.
Jee is the owner of Hello Deli, which is located just around the corner from the marquee entrance to the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Stephen seemed to signal that he hasn't forgotten about Rupert when he staged a tirade over the lack of tomato in a BLT he had ordered for lunch.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that this isn't the last time that Colbert includes Hello Deli.
You can take a look inside Hello Deli with Google Street View.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE LATE SHOW
- The show originally debuted as Late Night with David Letterman on NBC on February 1, 1982. It moved to CBS and the Ed Sullivan Theater in August 1993.
- The Late Show with David Letterman finished up on CBS on May 20, 2015, after 33 years and 6.028 episodes, making Letterman the longest-serving late-night talk show host in American television history.
- Letterman is also a television and film producer with his company, Worldwide Pants, which has produced several prime-time comedies including Everybody Loves Raymond.
- The Late Show airs in most places in the US at 11.35 pm, and in some zones at 10.35 pm, well after a lot of people’s bedtimes.
- Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1962 to 1992 and believed that Letterman was his natural successor. Carson even sent Letterman monologue jokes throughout the remainder of his life.
- The Late Show with Stephen Colbert debuted on September 8, 2015, and also stars house band Stay Human, led by bandleader Jon Batiste.
- Stephen Colbert previously hosted the satirical news show The Colbert Report which won six Emmy Awards, on Comedy Central from October 2005 to December 2014.
- Stephen Colbert’s hosting desk does not feature his name and instead says “The Late Show With”.
- The new set retains some touches from the old “Colbert Report” set, including Captain America’s shield.
- Stephen Colbert also actively supports many charities, using his own social media to promote causes, and regularly giving away thousands of his own money.