A Survival Guide to the SNL Stand By Line


Getting tickets to Saturday Night Live is tricky.

The only way to get tickets in advance is to enter their August lottery and, if you are actually lucky enough to get tickets, you will not be able to choose which show you want to see.

So, what are fans who don’t have advance tickets to do? They have to jump in the stand by line. Usually, the line up starts around 2- 3:00 AM on the morning of a taping since they are handed out on a first come, first served basis. But, on a weekend like this (the musical guest for Saturday night’s show is the mega-popular group One Direction) you need to be in line a few days in advance (seriously!).

Stand by tickets to the show’s Saturday night dress rehearsal and live taping are distributed OUTSIDE on the 49th Street side of 30 Rockefeller Center at 7:00 AM the morning of the show.

Here are some tips for getting by in line:

First, make sure you have government issued ID and you MUST be 16 years old.

There is no guarantee you will get a ticket just because you are in the stand by line. Stand by tickets are given out only when there are extra seats (i.e. a number of ticket holders can’t make it to the taping) so it varies from show to show how many fans actually score a ticket inside.

If you can only get a ticket to the dress rehearsal, don’t be disappointed. They perform the entire show with the host and musical act once before the live airing.

Bring anything you can think of to stay comfortable in the line as you will only be permitted to leave for short, necessary breaks. A folded cardboard box, small folding seats, umbrellas, sleeping bags, water, snacks, plastic garbage bags, a change of socks, hand and feet warmers, and extra jackets or sweaters are all helpful.

This week, fans started lining up late Wednesday night so if you want to try to catch One Direction, or host Paul Rudd, we’d get down to 30 Rock now.

Tickets are non-transferrable and non-exchangeable, there are no exceptions.

NBC also reserves the right to revoke anyone’s ticket at any time, in others words you better behave in line or they’ll turn you away.

To clarify, everyone in the stand by line at 7:00 AM will be given a number and then be asked to come back later, no later than 7:15pm for the dress rehearsal or 10:45pm for the live show, and they will line up again in order. After all of the ticket holders are seated they will see how many seats are left and go to the stand by line to fill those seats.

If given the choice it might be smart to chose the dress rehearsal because there is generally a better chance of getting in. And remember, you are not guaranteed anything until your butt is in a seat so even if they start escorting you to the studio, don’t get too excited.

It can be kind of a long shot to actually get a seat in the audience but if you do, it is more than worth the wait!

You can read about the stand by procedure at nbc.com/tickets. You can also read about getting tickets to other NYC talk shows in our Official Field Guide!



  1. I’ve done it successfully twice. (Once Daniel Radcliffe/Lana Del Ray, the other Mick Jagger/Arcade Fire/Foo Fighters) and unsuccessfully once (Louis C.K.). I went with 2 other people each time (for the successful ones), we all got in. Two important notes:

    – The line (each time) was at least 20 people deep between 3 and 6pm on Friday afternoon. For Radcliffe, it was about 40-50 people deep by 4pm friday. For Mick Jagger it was about 20-25 people deep. The unsuccessful time I went (Louis C.K.), I got there 10pm Friday night and did not get in.

    – Each time I got into the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal includes TWO FULL extra skits plus 20-miunte (approx.) weekend update. In between the dress and live, two skits are cut and weekend update is polished with the best jokes. So, it’s actually a more fun experience.

  2. the last two times i lined up (april 5th and sept 29th, 2013 shows) the line was on 48th st between 5th and 6th.

    and also, everyone in line gets a ticket. everyone. i remember that for this season’s premiere they started giving out the tickets in the beginning and the end of the line to get things moving faster. everyone get’s a ticket, but obviously not everyone gets in.

    and by the way, for the april 5th show (melissa mccarthy/phoenix) I arrived at 1 AM on Saturday and was about 120 people deep. I got a ticket for the live show and I was number 80(?) and I got in.

    For the Sept 29th show, since it was season premiere and Tina Fey was hosting with Arcade Fire musical guest, I started lining up on Friday at Noon and I was about 100 people deep. The girl in front of the line had been there since tuesday! My friend and I got ticket numbers 45 and 46 for the live show. We got in and from what I could tell about 10 more people got in after us. The folks that got tickets for the rehearsal said that they only let in about 15 people for the rehearsal.

    I would imagine crowds would be smaller from now to march considering how cold it is. Also don’t be scared to sleep on the ground, you will be way more comfortable haha. so yeah, those were my experiences.


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