NYC: My SNL Experience

Monday, November 5, 2012

Every August, Saturday Night Live opens up their lottery ticket system for hopefuls to submit their entry for a chance to get tickets an SNL live taping at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Studio 8H. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to with your name and contact info. You can find out more by looking at their info page, How to get tickets

I entered last year with no luck, however, I didn't give up, and this past August 2012, I entered the lottery again and was lucky enough to get picked! About 3 weeks before the show, I received an e-mail  from NBC saying they were holding 2 tickets for me for November 3rd, 2012! 

Democracy Plaza being set up at Rockefeller Center by NBC News

When I first got the tickets, I was beyond excited, and I was only more excited when I realized it would be the episode right before the presidential election. In the past, presidential candidates such as Obama in 2008 would show up at SNL to get a bit of extra exposure right before Election Day.

However, as you all may know, Hurricane Sandy hit NYC pretty hard the Monday right before the show, so all coverage of the election came to a halt and NYC's Mayor Bloomberg decided to not allow Obama in the city since his visits usually result in huge traffic jams. Given the current state of recovery in Manhattan, that's the last thing we needed so, I'm guessing both Romney and Obama had to stay away, and therefore weren't able to make it. 

People in the lottery picking up their tickets

I felt extremely lucky to have been picked in the lottery as there weren't that many people in the lottery ticket line - it looked like no more than 100 people were in the line, and since everyone brought a guest, I'm guessing about 50 people get picked. Not really sure if the hurricane affected the turnout since some people still had iffy transportation.

The lineup for the night was Louis C.K. and Musical Guest Fun.!

The email said to get to 30 Rock before 10:15, so I got there at around 9:45pm. By then, there were a good amount of people there. What was more impressive was the Stand-by line behind us...

The long and crazy Stand-by line

Other than using the lottery ticket system, you can line up for tickets the day of the show for Stand-by. These tickets are distributed at 7am on the 49th st. side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the mornings of the show and are first come first serve. What this means is hardcore people will usually line up the night before, I'm guessing around midnight or earlier, depending on how popular the SNL line-up is. I've done some research and it seems that on the most popular shows, only 30-40 people on stand-by actually gets in. 

I believe that this group actually got lucky tonight since, as I mentioned, the hurricane probably affected the turnout of those who had tickets for the night. 

At around 10:40pm, the NBC pages started letting their VIPs in, and then the people in the lottery. I was one of the last people in the lottery line, and pretty much mentally prepared myself to be fine with whatever section I ended up in.

So once you go through the metal detectors, you get to go up the elevators. It looks like if you ever took the NBC Studio Tour, you'd be going through the same area. The pages were really stern about us not taking pictures once we got out of the elevators, so instead of trying to sneak pics and make an ass out of myself, I decided to just follow the rules for once and enjoy the moment.

My rendering of what Studio 8H looked like, the lines represents where people sat. The stages are on the lower floor, and the darker teal seating is the upper balcony. 

By the time I was seated, it was about 11:00pm and I was starting to get antsy. I really wanted to get good seats. From prior research, I knew that there was a possibility that I could get shafted with the seats on upper balcony on the sides. If you were seated there, lighting and other things could obstruct your view of the stages. Luckily, there were a few people who ended up cutting me in line at the elevator, and they ended up with the last of the side seats on the right side, and as a result, I was able to sit in the middle section on the upper balcony. There were only 3 rows of seats in the middle section, so if you were seated there, there was definitely no real "bad seat" to the show. 

Once everyone from the lottery seats were seated, the stand-by people were allowed in. Behind the 3 rows of seats in the middle section, there were also bench seats that allowed more people to sit in the back. Those seats were actually really good. There were also a few lucky people from the stand-by line who were pulled to sit in the empty seats that were taped off, reserved for VIPs who never showed.

By about 11:15pm, the VIPs were seated on the lower level and Jason Sudeikis (an SNL regular but I know him as Floyd from 30 Rock) came out to give us a prep talk. Then he continued to make fun of the guy who was stuck with the worst seat in the house, on the right section, in the corner seat, closest to Stage B. It really sucked to be that guy. 

As we waited for the clock to hit 11:30, the SNL band played to keep us all entertained. The sax and guitar players were quite impressive! It was really cool to see everything behind the scenes. The staff really made all the transitions incredibly seamless and really moved like the Nascar pit stop crew. It's crazy to see how small the stage is.

Louis C.K. doing a parody on his show, "Louie"

Louis in actual show on FX

Once the show started, the 1.5 hours just flew by. It was really great to be able to see behind the scenes and see how everyone interacts with each other. At one point, the audience was laughing at Louis C.K. off screen for so long that even when the cameras started rolling, he had to tell everyone to stop laughing so he could continue. 

From Upper Left, going clockwise: Parody of the Sign Language interpreter of all of Bloomberg's hurricane speeches, Louis C.K. acting as Lincoln, The Weekend Update, and Fun. performing "Some Nights"

At the end of it all, would I wait for hours and hours at the Stand-by line for tickets to SNL? Probably not, I'm definitely not that hardcore of a fan. However, I will try my luck the next time that the lottery opens to see if I can get another chance at such a fun NYC experience!


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