Here we have tried to compile a list of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Standby Line, its processes, and how on earth to navigate the whole situation. Feel free to e-mail us if you need further clarification, but we tried our best to answer most questions here.
Why is the system like this now?
We don’t know! Our best answer is that it is both easier and safer for everyone. Originally, the line was on a “first come, first serve” basis. However, Rockefeller Center did not agree to patrol the line after 7pm on Fridays, so NBC took over at that time every weekend. To make life easier, instead of moving the line every Friday at 7pm to where they wanted it, NBC/SNL started a system where the line begins at 7pm Fridays and NO earlier, so they keep control of the line in its entirety.
Unfortunately, this became an issue when people tried to start lining up elsewhere to get IN the line at 7pm! A few different virtual ideas were attempted until they landed on this new one of reserving an online spot. This online system is in place so that no one is able to line up before 6-7pm on Friday evening. We are not sure why the line has been reduced to only 6 hours now, but we imagine it’s for a variety of reasons, probably including things like: it’s easier on the NBC pages & cheaper for NBC, it’s safer for the guests in line, and no one has to come in to work specifically at 7am on Saturday mornings!
I don’t understand the ticket system. Can you explain?
The easiest way we can explain it is that it is essentially a placeholder system to reduce chaos. In the past, reservation systems have been done in person and through email in ways that were causing a lot of confusion, so NBC/SNL created this new system to make it as easy and FAIR as possible.
On Thursday mornings at 10 am (the week of the show) you go to the NBC ticketing website, then click the link they provide, and then secure your reservation number. PLEASE make sure you are reading every word on the website and on the emails they send you! You will receive a confirmation email that you entered and then, later, you will receive another email with your actual number in line. You will then line up in the physical line on Friday evening between 6-7pm. Don’t be late!
At 12:01 am Saturday morning the NBC pages will come and pass out standby cards. THESE ARE NOT GUARANTEED TICKETS! You’ll be allowed to go home once you receive your standby card. Have fun! Explore the city!
You will then return to 30 Rock on Saturday night AT THE TIME LISTED ON YOUR CARD, and you’ll line up in the store to, WHAT?!, standby! If there are spots in 8H, they will begin taking Standby Liners inside in small groups. Everything is kept in order from the moment you sign up for a reservation until the moment you are taken into the studio, which means: As long as you arrive on time, your number in line remains consistent.
Do I still have to line up physically if I have a reservation?
YES! You still have to wait in the PHYSICAL standby line even WITH a reservation! The reservation number you received in your e-mail is JUST to hold your spot in the line until 7pm so that when you arrive they know where to put you. This causes less chaos at line-up time and avoids crowds forming to wait to line up at the official beginning time. Let’s say you get reservation #20 for the Live Show. You will be standby spot #20 in the physical line for Live Show, as long as you arrive on time! If you fail to arrive on time, your reserved spot in line will be forfeited.
I don’t understand my reservation number VS my line number…?
This can be a little tricky! Let’s refer to the last question:
Let’s say you are reservation #20 when they email you the confirmation. You arrive to Standby Line and you’re placed in line, but you notice a lot of people ahead of you, or you notice you’re further ahead than you should be. There are two reasons for this: Although there are TWO shows, it is only ONE line.
The process is as follows: First, everyone who received reservation numbers for Dress Rehearsal are lined up, and then everyone with reservations for the Live Show will follow. It’s all one long line that actually consists of people who chose two different shows. So, you might have gotten #20 for Live, but someone else ALSO got #20 for Dress. Because they line up everyone from Dress first, the person with #20 for dress will be ahead of you. It might look like you are number 100 in line, but that is because everyone ahead of you is for dress rehearsal.
So, please don’t worry too much. You still keep your reservation number! You might be PHYSICALLY number 100 in line, but you are STILL #20 for your show.
Additionally: not everyone shows up! They hand out around 600 online reservations (300 per show) and about 150-200 people usually show up for the physical line. This can vary depending on the week. This means that a great deal of people tend to not show up at all. You will likely end up being further ahead than you think! This is good! You could have had reservation #20, but end up getting standby card #10! This is because people who were in front of you did not actually show up and you did! You ROCK!
I got “X” number – what are my chances? Is this number worth it?
This is our most frequently asked question and this is our answer to everyone:
Unfortunately we are unable to say yes or no to this. Every week the amount of people who get into the show changes and every week the amount of people who show up to line changes. The new system in place may increase the number of people who show up.
However, it is very common that a good amount of people who got reservations do not end up showing up. The only advice we can offer you is to come to the line and see where you actually are, and then make your decision. It’s worth it to try!
On average, anywhere between 30-70 people per show make it into the seats in 8H. The largest number we have seen this season (Season 48, as of January 2023) is 85. Again, this is not always typical and we cannot promise/guarantee you anything – please understand that. We can only go off our experiences from the past several years. We have seen people who have reservation #200 end up getting standby card #50, so it truly just depends on how many people decide to show up to line that week, and how many folks they are able to take into the studio. That’s why we say that your best bet is to show up at 7pm and see where you actually are, and then make your choice.
That being said, the wait is only 6hrs now vs 12hrs in the previous years, so it does make it easier, and more people seem to show up. You can always keep an eye on our Instagram and Twitter pages (@standbyline) during the night – we update the line count as frequently as we can every Friday evening.
I can’t make a reservation – it won’t let me move onto the next page or select a group size?
Unfortunately this means that the reservations are all booked up. We’ve noticed that this tends to happen really quickly. Please only make reservations for ONE show so that you aren’t taking up multiple spots that you won’t use. We also advise that you not place a reservation if you have NO intentions of showing up to the line – this takes away spots for everyone else who’s trying to apply!
I didn’t get a reservation – can I still line up?
Yes! It is not required to have a reservation to line up. If you’re unable to secure a reservation number, you can simply show up at 7pm and join the back of the line.
We cannot guarantee that everyone who doesn’t get a reservation is going to get in, but it can be worth a try!
Remember, we’ve NEVER seen every single person who secured a reservation number show up – often, almost half (if not more) do not actually arrive at 30 Rock by 7pm.
The only catch about not having reservation is that you DO have to join at the back. Dress Rehearsal reservations are lined up first, then Live Show reservations, and then everyone who does not have a reservation is lined up at the end – so this is a mix of Live and Dress, and you will not know your number until the pages come out at midnight to hand out standby cards.
You can pick from Dress OR Live show if you DO NOT have a reservation.
Can I change my reservation if I want the other show?
No, you cannot. Reservation choices are final. For example, if you sign up for Live Show you cannot show up to the line and ask to switch to Dress Rehearsal. You could, however, forfeit your Live Show reservation spot, join the very back of the line (with the people who have no reservations) and ask for a Dress Rehearsal card at midnight when the pages come around. You CANNOT forfeit your Live Show spot and join the end of the Dress Rehearsal line – you will have to join the line at the back in order to switch your show selection.
Does one show let in more than the others?
No! This is a very common myth that might have been true in the past, but it no longer is. Like we said previously, each week varies re: how many people get in per show, but typically we see a steady number of between 30-70 people every time. Again, this could be more or less at any given week. It’s possible that everyone gets in and it’s possible that no one gets in! Standby Line means we are on standby – it means nothing is guaranteed!
What happens if I am late, or if I don’t show up for my reservation by 7pm?
Unfortunately, this means that you forfeit your spot and have to go to the back of the line. Being present at the check-in time is not something that is suggested, it is required. If you miss the 7pm check in you miss your spot in line. It’s that simple! Do not think you can show up an hour late and be placed in your spot – names are taken down promptly, and once that happens you’re out of luck. You will be required to join at the back.
Speaking of check-in: What do I need at check-in time?
- A valid vaccination card
- The card should have BOTH vaccinations for either Pfizer or Moderna on it. NBC also accepts the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccination, amongst others listed on their official website. You are not required to have boosters to attend, as of February 01, 2023.
- A valid, legal ID
- This is something that has your name and date of birth on it (a driver’s license or passport, for example). We have seen someone try to use a school ID card that did not have their date of birth on it and they were denied. We believe that it also needs to have some kind of photo identification.
A lot of people ask us if photos of your ID or vaccine card are acceptable. This is not something we feel totally comfortable answering because we’re not 100% sure on the answer. We HAVE seen people use photos of them or use the official apps and they were accepted – but this does not mean it will always be the case. The pages can deny anyone entry for any reason, as listed on both your e-mail and standby card. Please do not say you were told you can use a photo. We suggest, for best practice, to bring the physical copy of both items.
How long can I leave the line for?
The wait time is only 6hrs, so we are suggesting you not leave for long periods. As a rule, we personally only leave when we grab something to eat, use the bathroom, or take a walk to warm up. Generally we try to never be gone for more than 1 hour at a time, and even that might even be pushing it. After that amount of time it starts to become a little dicey on what is fair and what is not. If someone reports you to pages for being gone for too long, that is something you might have to deal with at midnight, so please keep this in mind if you intend to leave the line.
Any tips on what I should bring? / What kind of chair can I bring?
Double check the NBC Ticketing website always! They have a clear list of what is NOT allowed.
As far as what you SHOULD bring: we always advise you to check the weather! We have a podcast episode about what to bring in case of rain and what to bring in case of snow/cold weather, so go check those out on Apple, Spotify, or here on our site.
Some quick suggestions: extra layers, extra blankets, something to sit in/on, a tarp.
Again, the line is only 6hrs now so it’s really not needed to go all-out, but we always want you to stay safe and warm!
In terms of what kind of chair you can bring, it’s anything BUT: a lounge chair. So what is that? In OUR experience this means anything like a beach chair, a recliner chair, or anything over-sized. What we suggest is a good, old-fashioned camping chair, fold out chair, or stool. If you don’t want to bring a chair, you can also bring something to sit on like a piece of cardboard, a tarp, plastic, or a cushion. That being said, you don’t have to bring anything to sit on if you don’t want! You can sit right on the ground or just stand in the line.
I am coming alone – is it safe?
We think so! In all of our years of doing this we have never had an incident. Folks in the line are usually very friendly, and it’s a very community-like vibe. Make friends with those around you, and if you have to leave your stuff, ask if they will watch it for you. We’ve never had anything stolen! THAT BEING SAID, we are not saying this WON’T happen. So it might be best to leave anything expensive or important at home, because it IS at your own risk to bring it. The line is also patrolled by NBC security guards who monitor it for the entirety of your 6 hours. The line is barricaded on both sides by actual, metal, usually-covered barricades (on the street side and the sidewalk side), and this helps protect you in the line.
Do I get to leave after I get my Standby Card? / When do I come back?
Yes! You are free! At midnight Friday night/Saturday morning when you get your standby card, you are free to leave the line and do whatever you want with your time. You do not need to return to NBC until the time that is listed on your Standby card. For Dress Rehearsal that time is no later than 6:30pm Saturday night, and for Live it is no later than 9:30pm Saturday night.
Can I get a card for someone else or can they join me?
No, unfortunately! Standby Cards are limited to ONE PER PERSON. This means that you cannot get a card for yourself AND for your friend – even if you have their ID. Standby Cards directly relate to the name on your reservation and your ID – everything has to match. You also cannot show up to line and then have your friend switch with you – the NBC/SNL Ticketing website strictly prohibits the use of line-sitters (this is someone who holds your place in line). Your friends can also not join you at a later time because names are taken down at the time of check-in.
What happens Saturday?
You are free all day Saturday until your check-in time! Dress Rehearsal check-in is at 6:30pm and the live show check-in is at 9:30pm.
When it’s time to check in you will:
- Go inside the NBC/Rockefeller building. We suggest using:
- The entrance at 49 W. 49th street under the NBC Marquee sign
- The entrance on 6th Ave under the Jimmy Fallon sign
- The entrance on 50th street under the NBC Marquee sign.
- There is also a subway line that runs directly to a stop INSIDE NBC!
You then make your way to ‘The Shop at NBC’ – THIS IS WHERE YOU LINE UP. Ask for help from one of the guards inside the building if you need directions. You will see the line of people waiting outside the store to go in – walk around the corner if you don’t see it. Wait in that line (have your standby card, ID, and vaccine card ready) and then a page will check you in and place you in line. From there, the SNL security team will assist you with everything.
It’s a long waiting process. You eventually will find out if you’re getting in or not and you might not find out until last minute. Our general rule of thumb is: You’re not guaranteed a seat until your butt is in a chair! Good luck!
Is there a dress code for the show?
No, not necessarily. There are no written rules anywhere at what you can and cannot wear.
That being said, we suggest that you treat it with respect and keep in mind that you’re attending a public show where you could be recorded on television – i.e. you want to keep your outfit appropriate. Think of it as attending a Broadway show – not a night club.
We also suggest that you be mindful of any obscenities on your clothing (words, pictures, etc) and we only suggest this because we WANT you to get into the show! However, the rules to say that you can be refused admittance at any point, for any reason. Sweatpants/sweat suits/hoodies/PJs are probably also not the best option. Jeans are fine! (We want to clarify that we are only including all of this on here because these are real questions we have received previously and we think they may be helpful.)
What kind of bag can I bring in?
NO BACKPACKS. NBC says this directly on your standby card, and you will likely be refused entry if you bring one. This is the standard procedure to keep your favorites on the cast safe. When you think backpack, think about backpack you wear to school or on an airplane – these are not allowed. People have asked us about tiny backpacks and our answer is: it is better not to risk it. We have seen them get in, but we have also seen them denied. Just bring a purse, handbag, shoulder bag, or something else small. We also do not suggest giant, over-sized bags like beach bags or duffel bags.