Getting to see SNL live has been a goal for the last 10 years. With as many times as I go to NYC it's remarkable that this was my first time actually getting to go.
SNL does an annual lottery in August which doesn't allow you to specific the dates (Google for info). I've entered in the past and was never selected. This time I decided to try standby and it was the season finale with Alec Baldwin. I knew my odds were slim to none, but I had to try.
The standby tickets are given away at 7:00AM day of the show (Saturday morning). People started queuing up on Wednesday! We arrived at 6:45AM and the line was about 200 people long (I know this because of the ticket numbers).
You get a choice of dress rehearsal or live standby tickets and are advised to pick the lowest number which gives you the best odds of getting in. In our case, the live show had the lowest numbers, and since it didn't start until 11:30PM (required to be there at 10:45PM) I figured our chances were better as many would give up being that late.
I was right. We received ticket numbers 104 & 105 and were the last group of five standbys to make it.
We were initially seated behind some lighting rigs that made it really hard to see the stages. After about five minutes a PA asked us if we wanted to move up into closer seats that were reserved for people who didn't show. Of course! I can't even say who we sat next to.... But it was another NBC universal employee.
The whole thing was surreal and an amazing experience. Best of all, it was free (less time spent in lines with anxious anticipation).
In retrospect, if you want to try standby, I have some advice...
- Get to the AM line as early as possible without ruining the day. Consider taking a nap afterward since you'll have standby tickets in hand at 7:00AM and will need to be well rested for the PM shows. I would not be a "camper." The folks who started waiting on Wednesday made it in, then again, so did we and we were 200 people behind them.
- Get to the PM line on time.
- The NBC staff are great. And by great, I mean amazing! They will do everything they can to get standbys on the show to include bringing more seating into the studio if they can fill it. No need to beg--if it's meant to be, it will happen. Listen to them! They will give advice and instructions throughout the process.
- Do not bring a camera--they will take it. We had enough sense to not even try.
- Use the restroom before getting in the PM line. You can do this in the lobby of Rock Center. There is no leaving the studio and returning. Get something to eat before hand--there is no snacking in the studio.
- Dress well. Not three-piece-suit well, but look presentable. Have a great attitude--be excited!!! This increases your chances of getting selected to move forward to better seats. The PAs need all of those seats filled and are constantly looking for people to move forward to fill empty seats. Be one of those lucky people!
- In the AM line, consider choosing the live show instead of the rehearsal if the numbers are close. Believe it or not, more people were willing to be at Rock Center at 7:00AM than were willing to show up at 10:45PM. Of course the rehearsal, from what I've read, is a lot of fun and sometimes you get to see skits that don't air.
- The numbers... There were around 35 regular ticket holders and VIPs that did not show. Only about a third of the standby ticket holders showed. So don't be discouraged if you get a high number. 104 & 105 were still low enough to make it.
- Have a back-up plan. The last thing you want, if you don't get on the show, is to go back to the hotel room and think about what could have been. Go out, see the town, and get a drink--it's still Saturday night!