Notes from SNL’s Stand-by Tickets Line, Part I: Gluttons for Punishment

The front of the line, where we were not.

The thing about waiting in the standby tickets line for Saturday Night Live is that it’s a serious pain in the ass. This is basically how it works these days:

There are something like 200 seats for each SNL show (i.e., dress rehearsal and live show). There are three kinds of tickets. They are, in order of importance:
1) VIP tickets, which are given to friends and family of the guest host and musician de la nuit, and, I assume, the regular cast.
2) the tickets that people got sent to them via the internet lottery that happens sometime in August (i.e., "real" tickets)
3) stand-by tickets

Say the host that week is Joe Heartthrob, and Joe wants to give 200 of his closest friends and family members tickets to the live show. If everyone shows up, then likely no real ticket holders, and certainly no standy-by ticket holders, will be getting into the live show, because VIP tickets trump everyone. (Note that dress rehearsal tickets and live tickets are different. If you have one, you can't use it for the other, although the same rules apply.)

On the other hand, if Joe has pissed off everybody he knows, and the musical guest has no friends or family, and the friends and family of the regular cast are sick of the show and don't care anymore, then any real ticket holder who shows up will get in, and the number of people who do not show up will be the number of standby ticket holders who get in.

The last (and only) time a friend and I did this, 31 people were let into the dress rehearsal. We were numbers 11 and 12.

Now, this is the deal with getting stand-by tickets.

The usual crowd who do standby start lining up with their chairs and tents and sleeping bags and portable TVs and what-not sometime late Friday afternoon, weather permitting. Yes, they sleep on the sidewalk all night. These are the regulars, many, I'm told, who go to every SNL show they can. A few have been doing this for decades. The more popular the guest, the earlier people start lining up. I read somewhere on the internet that one year, when Steve Martin was the host, people started lining up on Wednesday.

The earlier you line up the better, because they give the tickets out, one to a person, numbered and in the order you are in line, at 7am.

That year when Steve Martin was the host and people started lining up so early? No standby ticket holders got into either show, and, if there were any VIP tickets issued, some of the "real" ticket holders would not have gotten in either. On the other hand, there have been times in the show’s history where the number of stand-by ticket holders let into the show was something hovering around 100. Why? Snowstorms in NYC.

That all being said, this is what my friend and I did last time. We figured we had a couple of things going for us. First, the show we were aiming for was on Halloween weekend, which in New York City is basically like Mardi Gras, so there a lot of parties to go to and people might not be using the tickets that were sent to them, and/or might not be trying the stand-by thing. And then the weather turned really foul the Friday before the show.

We decided that we would go up to Rockefeller Plaza at around 4am, and see what the line was like. If the line was around the block, we'd go get breakfast and forget it. There were only 30 people ahead of us, so we got in line. And we did get in. But picture three hours of cold, wet, sleet and brutal winds. Joe Heartthrob better be worth it.

I had no plans on doing this ever again. The only reasons I even considered trying it two years ago, other than it looked like we might have a shot, was because I had lived in the city for 20+ years and had never seen the show live, and because the Joe Heartthrob du jour was Hugh Laurie, and the musician was Beck.

Now let’s fast forward, and Joe Heartthrob, I mean Mr. Laurie, is hosting again. My first thought was “Wow, that guy’s a glutton for punishment,” because he was a wreck the last time; when he walked out to do his monologue, he looked like he had just been shot out of a cannon. My second thought was, although I was interested in seeing the show, I was not ever going to wait in that line again.

Until a different crazy friend of mine (I do have a few of them) texted me and said, “I’ve never seen SNL. I think we should try and go.”

So I did do this again last night. Talk about being a glutton for punishment. . . .

Next: Part II: “Spotanuity”


Anonymous,  Sun Dec 14, 08:53:00 PM EST  

omfg why would you change the picture? We were really fond of that picture, and it really showed off your sexy style. Can not wait for part 2. Whoo!!!

-Ruvin and Chris

SMPnyc Sun Dec 14, 09:57:00 PM EST  

Not to worry. That picture is coming back. I have four pictures, one for each part of this saga. The other picture will be posted with Part II.

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