Live from New York, it’s Saturday night! Or, more like Friday night when hundreds of people bring their sleeping bags, lawn chairs, thermoses and blankets to camp out in the hopes of getting stand-by tickets to the live show. Depending on the host and musical guest, it’s entirely possible to attend the show without having to sleep on the concrete.
If you’re willing to camp out and make a night of it with your friends - that’s great! Get line reservations Friday morning (follow the SNL stand-by Twitter account for location details) and bring your sleeping bags to Rockefeller Center (45 Rockefeller Plaza) at 6:00 PM Friday night and prepare to stay there until 7:00 AM Saturday morning.
But you don’t have to! Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get into Saturday Night Live stand-by tickets (without sleeping overnight). *Disclaimer: Results vary based on host and musical guest.
Check out the line the night before
If you’re visiting New York City and in the midtown Manhattan area on Friday night, it’s worth walking past Rockefeller Center to get a sense of the crowd. Is the line wrapped around two city blocks? Don’t fret. You still have a chance. Three city blocks? Your chances get slimmer. If you count around 100-10 people, you’re good to go back home or to a hotel and get some rest.
Get in line by 4:30 AM - 5:00 AM
Grab some coffee, your headphones and/or a good book and get in line early. Think of how much better sleeping in a bed felt than the cold, hard sidewalk. You’re only waiting in line for two hours (versus 12), so if you don’t get in - well, you wasted two hours (versus 12). It’s a win-win.
Stand-by tickets are passed out at 7:00 AM
Here’s where the key strategy kicks in. You have to decide between the Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal or the live show. While you’d think the live show would be much better, your chances of getting in are much greater if you pick dress rehearsal. It’s the exact same show - only you get much, much more. Not only do you get a half an hour of extra sketches and shorts, but you help decide what makes it into the live show and what doesn’t. It’s more bang for your buck all the way around.
Go back to bed
Since the ticket process ends around 7:15, you’re free to go back to bed or enjoy the rest of your day in Manhattan. Be sure to return to Rockefeller Center (NBC store) around 6:15-6:30 PM to get in the stand-by line (where you line up numerically). They typically allow for 60-70 standby tickets, so if there’s less than that many people in front of you, you’re good to go. The dress rehearsal starts at 8:00 PM and lasts about an hour and a half to two hours.
Hope for the best
Obviously, each week is different and nothing is guaranteed, but cross your fingers and hope for the best! And if you’re on the fence about the live show or dress rehearsal - go dress rehearsal: your chances are better, it’s the same show and it’s so worth it.
If for some reason you don't get in, shop around the NBC store or buy a cheap soft pretzel at a cart across the street. Either way, you'll have a story to tell.