Thanks for visiting Free Tours by Foot New York!
This post explains how to get Saturday Night Live tickets, including standby tickets and tickets for the 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. Below we explain the ticket request process in detail.
If your name is picked you will receive a confirmation email with two tickets for a specific date for either the live broadcast at 11:30 pm or the dress rehearsal at 8 pm.
Note that 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.
The dress rehearsal takes place earlier in the night at 8:00 pm and will likely have a few extra sketches to see which work better than others.
The benefit of being at the live show at 11:30 pm is that it’s got that unpredictable quality that SNL has!
On the night of the show, go to the 49th Street entrance of 30 Rockefeller Plaza TV Studios between 5th and 6th Avenues.
You can use this link to get exact directions from anywhere in the New York City area.
When should I arrive?
For the 8 pm dress rehearsal, you’ll have to arrive at 5:45 pm to clear security. You will be done around 9:30-10 pm
For the 11:30 pm live show, arrive no later than 9:30 pm to clear security. You will be done around 1-1:30 am
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 are given further instructions.
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. 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!
If the weather isn’t great – freezing, raining, etc., there will likely be fewer people on the line and your chances of getting into the show are better.
If the host or musical guest or both are particularly popular, you may be in for a long wait. Some people line up for these tickets days in advance.
Make sure that the show is not a re-run from earlier in the season. This can happen sometimes around holidays when the cast is away. So there is no show to wait on line for!
Standby tickets are distributed at 7 am 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. When a scheduled host or musical guest is popular, people may get in line a few days before!
Don’t wait until 7 am to casually stop by. You will be disappointed!
You can choose standby tickets for either the 8 pm dress rehearsal or the 11:30 pm 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.
Note that your ID will be checked when you are handed standby tickets if you get one and again when you enter the studio.
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) and hold your place for you.
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!
The process is the same whether you got standby tickets for the 8 pm dress rehearsal or the 11:30 pm live show.
You will go 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 got on line, 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 necessarily 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.
Of course, we hope you get into the show, but if you don’t, you could still meet some of the cast after the show.
For alternative evening plans, see our post on things to do in NYC at night.
This 15-minute video shows what survival skills you will need to make it through the stand-by line.
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 its 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 have host most often (as of 2018)
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 a live taping of the 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 on the show again. 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.
Take our self-guided tour of Rockefeller Center.
Go to the Top of the Rock observatory for spectacular views.
Take the Radio City Music Hall Stage Tour.
Relax in nearby Central Park. Check out our post on things to do in Central Park.
Join one of our pay-what-you-wish Midtown Manhattan walking tours.
No matter where you decide to go, this video on how to use the NYC subway system will help you if this is your first time in the city.