Last Saturday, my husband and I found ourselves sitting in Studio 8h in front of the Saturday Night Live main stage in total awe that we had actually made it in. There were lots of excited cries of "WE MADE IT!! WE MADE IT!!" and "Is this really happening?!"
Before the show, we read COUNTLESS articles on how to play the line-game, and after having an incredible experience, this is our way of paying it forward!
If you don't already know the drill, there are two ways to get tickets to SNL (well, if you aren't famous or don't know a cast member).
1. Apply to the lottery in August. Considering thousands of people apply every year, this is an unlikely way to get in, but you may as well try your luck each year!
2. Wait in line for standby tickets that are given out at 7am the morning of the show.
- Every seat is technically already claimed, but not everyone shows up. The empty seats are filled by people who wait in the standby line.
- Once they start passing out tickets (7am), you can either choose standby tickets for the live show or standby tickets for the dress rehearsal.
- The benefit of choosing the dress rehearsal is that more people are let in. Since this is a post about seeing the live show, that's all I'll say about the dress rehearsal!
- They don't know how many seats are going to be available until about 20-30 minutes before the show actually starts. Therefore a standby ticket often does not equal a spot in the audience... actually, most of the time it doesn't!
If you're thinking "wait...what? That sounds awful." Don't worry, you're not alone.
The numbers game
This was by far the hardest part. Every article seemed to disagree on when to get in line, how many people were typically let in, etc. One article said 40ish, our seasoned line-mates said only 10, and yet another article said that the #102 standby spot made it in once! It's truly maddening!
Unfortunately, I have no absolute answers to give you, but I can share the "secrets" we learned.
When we got in line at 7:30pm on Friday, we were approximately numbers 36 and 37. I say approximately because you never know who's holding a spot in line for who or how many, despite the line rules that SNL spells out. At 7:00am on Saturday, we were numbers 40 and 41 in line - see what I mean?
Despite being a little pessimistic, several people ahead of us chose the dress rehearsal (I hear it normally goes about half and half), and we ended up being numbers 19 and 20! We were deliriously excited about this!
When we went to line up later that night, they moved around 50 people through the security check point about 15 minutes before we were told to arrive (get there early!). While we took this as a good sign, the security officers reminded us early and often, that "you aren't guaranteed a seat until your butt is sitting in one." They had us reluctantly singing along with this tune before our hour was up!
Despite their overall don't-get-too-excited-mantra, the security officers were very friendly and under their breath shared with me that it was a rarity that the first 40 didn't get in! They said it absolutely happens and sometimes on nights you wouldn't expect BUT it was good news to me and probably a good number to keep in mind when you are choosing between the live show or dress rehearsal. Again, NOTHING is guaranteed - ugh, they really do have me singing it too!
They move you through about 4 different line stops before the real deal. Once they put us in the elevator, it seemed like the line game was over. They didn't care our order after that - WE WERE IN!!
One of my favorite reads on the topic said that your best bet was to plan for a less-famous host, terrible weather, and get in line early. This wasn't great news for someone who was coming in from out of town! We had planned our trip months in advance. We didn't even know if there was going to be a show the weekend in question, let alone who was hosting or what the weather would be like!
If you can't control the weather or the host, here's my only advice:
1. Get in line EARLY. We staged at a bar across the street starting around 5pm, had dinner, and waited until the line looked around 50ish people. It helped to have somewhere warm to keep an eye out. We lucked out (or did we?) with pretty harsh weather for March. It was 19 degrees (before wind chill) and it had snowed a few inches throughout the morning. Scarlet Johansson was hosting and Lorde was musical guest, so we definitely didn't get a less-famous host, but I'm glad of that!
2. Make it through the night. Waiting 12 hours doesn't bother me. In this day and age there are a 100 ways to entertain yourself. Listen to an audiobook. Bring an iPad. Watch a movie. Play a game. Sleep. As long as you have something to distract yourself, the time won't be the make or break. The COLD will.
Here's how to do it.
- BRING A SLEEPING BAG. This was the biggest mistake we made when packing for our trip. If it's going to be cold, I don't care what you have to get rid of to fit it in your suit case - BRING THE SLEEPING BAG. We were just a few hours in when we were so close to giving up due to the cold. My husband ended up going back to our hotel, stuffed the bed's comforter into a suit case, and brought it back so we could sleep under it. It's the ONLY reason we made it through the night without freezing or giving up!
- Pack hand warmers. A lot of hand warmers. They will last 10 hours if you keep exposing them to air, and we used just as many as we brought. We stuffed them in our gloves, in our shoes, in our coats, where ever!
- Wear ALL the warm cloths. This seems like such a no brainer, but some of our line mates where having a really difficult time because they thought two pairs of leggings would be enough. We had on three layers everywhere, with the outer layer being ski clothing and still almost didn't make it.
- Have a barrier for between you and the ground. One of the fastest ways to lose heat is through the ground - thanks boy scout husband! In addition to the comforter that we borrowed from the hotel, we had a tarp and a blanket keeping us safe from the cold ground.
- Don't forget about the wind. The officers won't allow you to have a tent, but you will notice a few umbrellas pictured above. We didn't think of bringing something to block the wind and eventually set up part of our tarp to help.
- Leave if you have to. Oddly enough the best place to watch SNL isn't from the audience. In fact, we couldn't even see a few of the skits. It was an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING experience but don't kill yourself! If you need to leave, you need to leave!
You might be thinking that it's A LOT of stuff to bring, and you are right, it is. Most people loaded their stuff in a suit case or two!
Safety. If you are worried about sleeping on the streets of NYC, don't worry, it's really not all that exciting. For one, you are in Midtown - pretty safe! Plus, there are wonderful police officers that walk the line all night and place a barrier between you and rest of the street.
Bathroom. There is a McDonald's right around the corner and it's open 24 hours. If you don't want it for it's food, you will want it for it's bathroom and place to warm up. In fact, you might never look at Mikey D's the same way again! Personally, it's my new hero on par with Batman.
Hopefully this helps and we wish you the best of luck!! Let us know how the numbers worked out for you by leaving a line in the comments! :D