Why is the system like this now?

We don’t know! Our best guess is that it’s both easier and safer for everyone.

Originally, the line was on a “first come, first served” basis. Unfortunately, Rockefeller Center was no longer able to patrol the line after 7pm on Fridays, so NBC itself took over. They started moving the line to 49th St. under the NBC marquee.

As you can imagine, this was a complicated ordeal. To make it easier, they started a system where the line begins at 7pm on Fridays and NO earlier. However, this became an issue when people tried to start lining up elsewhere to get IN the line. A few different virtual ideas were attempted until they landed on the current one: Reserving an online spot.

This online system is in place so that no one is able to line up before 6-7pm on Friday nights. 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, including: it’s easier on the NBC pages, it’s safer for the guests, it’s less company employee time paid, and no one has to come in at 7am specifically for the standby line, etc.

I don’t understand the ticketing system

The easiest way we can explain it is that this is essentially a placeholder system to reduce chaos.

Previously, reservation systems were done in person and through e-mail, which ended up causing chaos and confusion. NBC guest relations decided to create this new system to make it as easy and FAIR as possible. On Thursday mornings at 10 am (the week of the show), you will need to go onto the NBC ticketing website, click the link listed, and claim your reservation spot. PLEASE make sure you read every word on the website and on the emails they send you.

After you complete those steps, you will receive an e-mail confirming that you’ve entered and then, later, you will receive another e-mail with the numbers you got in the standby line. Then, you will line up at the physical line on Friday night between 6pm and 7pm. Do not be late!

At midnight (12:01am Saturday morning, per the NBC website) the pages will come down the line to pass out standby cards. THESE ARE NOT TICKETS! They are standby cards.

You will then return on Saturday night AT THE TIME LISTED ON YOUR CARD and line up to see how many people they can take. Everything is kept in order from the moment you sign up for a reservation until the moment you are taken into the studio, as long as you arrive on time at every step.

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 is simply JUST to hold your spot in the line so that when you arrive, they know where to put you. This system causes less chaos at line-up time and avoids crowds forming a preliminary line for 6pm when the line opens up.

Let’s say you get reservation #20 for Live Show. You will be spot #20 in the Live Show physical standby line. When you arrive between 6pm and 7pm on Friday night, the pages will place you in spot #20, as listed in your e-mail confirmation.

I don’t understand my reservation number vs my line number

This can definitely be a little tricky!

Let’s go back to the last question. You land reservation #20 when they e-mail you back with numbers. You arrive to the standby line and you’re placed in line, and then you notice a lot of people ahead of you, or you notice you’re further ahead than you should be.

There are two possibilities for this: Although there are TWO shows, it is only ONE line.

The process goes like this: NBC pages will put everyone in order for Dress Rehearsal first, and then they line up everyone in order for the Live Show. It’s one long line that consists of people going to two different shows.

So, you might have gotten #20 for Live Show, but someone else ALSO got #20 for Dress Rehearsal. 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 #100 in line, but that’s because everyone ahead of you is waiting for Dress Rehearsal. Don’t worry! You keep your number. You might be PHYSICALLY #100 in line, but you are STILL #20 for your show.

This is really only an issue if you have Live Show numbers, because everyone from Dress goes first.

The second situation is: Not everyone shows up! NBC guest services e-mails out around 600 online reservations (300 per show), but typically about 150-200 people show up for the actual line. This can vary, depending on the week. But it means that, usually, a great deal of people tend to not show up. So, you might end up moving up in line – which 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. Congratulations!

I got “XYZ” 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. This is a recent system put in place, which might have more people showing up. However, it is very common, in our experience, that a good amount of people who got reservations do not end up showing up.

The only advice we can offer you is to still show up and see where your actual spot in line is and make a choice after you get checked in at 7pm.

On average, anywhere between 30-70 people get in per show. The largest number we have seen this season is 85.

Again, this is not always typical and we cannot promise/guarantee you anything – please understand that. We can only base this page off our own experiences over the past several years. We have seen people who have reservation #200 end up getting standby card #50 – it truly just depends on how many people decide to show up to line that week and how many they manage to take into the studio.

All of these are the reasons we say that your best bet is to show up at 7pm and see where you actually are before you decide.

That being said, the wait is only 6 hours – so it does make it a much easier process than in the past, so a lot more people may show up.

You can always keep an eye on our Instagram and Twitter pages (@standbyline) during the night. We try our best to update those accounts regularly with the number of people on the line throughout the evening.

I can’t make a reservation – it won’t let me move onto the next page or select a group size

Unfortunately, this typically means that the reservations are all booked up. It is very common that this happens quickly. Please only make reservations for ONE show so that you aren’t taking up spots. 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 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 missed out, you can just 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 a show where everyone who got a reservation actually showed up for the line. Often, approximately 1/3 of the line doesn’t arrive 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 in the back. The standby line is a mix of Live, Dress, and late-comers, and you will not know your number until the pages come around at midnight to hand out cards. You can pick from Dress OR Live show if you line up WITHOUT 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. The only thing you could do is 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 NBC pages get to you. You CANNOT simply just
forfeit your Live Show spot and join the end of the Dress Rehearsal line, you would have to join ALL the way at the end of the entire line in order to switch your show.

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 no longer is as far as we can tell. Like we said previously, it varies every week on how many get in for each show, but typically we see a steady number of between 30-70 people for each show, each week. 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! That’s what makes standby such a fun adventure!

What happens if I’m late and 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 entire line. Being there at the check in time is not something that is suggested, it is required. If you miss the 7pm check in, then you miss your spot in line. It’s that simple! Don’t think you can show up an hour late and be placed in your spot – names are taken down upon check-in, and once that happens you’re out of luck and will have to join at the back.

Speaking of check in – what do they need at check in time?

Here are some things you need to bring with you:

  • Your valid ID: a valid, legal ID means something that has your name and date of birth on it, like a driver’s license or passport. 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, so we believe it requires a name, date of birth, and a photo of you
  • Your vaccination card: a valid, legal vaccination card that lists BOTH vaccinations for either Pfizer or Moderna on it, or the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccination. You are not required to have boosters to attend. Any FDA/CDC/WHO-approved vaccines are acceptable, as long as you’re 14 days post-completed vaccination

A lot of people ask us if photos of your ID or vaccine history are acceptable. This is not something we feel totally comfortable answering because we are not 100% sure on the answer. We HAVE seen people use photos of them or use the 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, and that is listed on your email and standby card. Please do not say you were told you can use a photo. For best practice we suggest you bring the physical copy of both.

How long can I leave the line for?

Now that the wait time is only 6 hours vs 12 hours, we suggest you not leave for long periods. We typically only leave when we grab something to eat, use the bathroom, or take a walk to warm up. Generally we try to not be gone for more than 1 hour, and that might even be pushing it with how briefly the line lasts. After that, 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 – so please keep this in mind when you leave the line.

Any tips on what I should bring? / What kind of chair can I bring?

We suggest you double check the NBC Ticketing website! 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 check those out on Apple, Spotify, or here on our site.

Quick suggestions: extra layers, extra blankets, something to sit in/on, a tarp

Again, the line is only 6 hours now so you don’t necessarily need to go all-out, but you will want to stay safe and warm!

In terms of what kind of chair you can bring: anything BUT a lounge chair. So what is that? In OUR experience this means
anything like a lounge beach chair, a recliner chair, or anything over-sized is not allowed. We suggest 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.

I am coming alone – is it safe?

Yes! In all our years of doing this, we have never had any safety incidents. Everyone in the line is usually very friendly and it is a very community-like vibe. Make friends with those around you and if you have to leave your stuff, ask if they’ll watch it for you! We have never had anything stolen in our experience in line.

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 hired, NBC guards who monitor it for the whole 6 hours. The line is barricaded on both sides by actual, metal barricades (the street and the sidewalk) with covers on it (unless there is extreme wind) 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’re free! At midnight Saturday morning when you get your standby card, you are free to leave the line and do whatever you want in the city. You do not need to return to NBC until the time that’s listed on your standby card. For Dress it is BY 6:30pm Saturday night, and for Live it is by 9:30pm Saturday night.

Can I get a card for someone else or can they join me?

No! 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/vaccine card – 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 (or, 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 and no one can be added after that.

What happens Saturday?

Basically, you are free all day Saturday until it is your check-in time (6:30pm for Dress/9:30pm for Live).

When it’s time to check in, go inside the NBC/Rockefeller building. We suggest using the entrance at 49 West 49th Street under the Observation Deck sign, the entrance on 6th Ave under the Jimmy Fallon sign, or the entrance at 50 West 50th street under the NBC sign. Some subway lines also run directly to a stop INSIDE NBC.

Once inside, you willmake 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 to the NBC store. You will most likely find the line when you see a bunch of people waiting outside the store to go in. If you don’t see it, walk around the corner on the outside of the NBC store.

Next, you’ll wait in that line (have your standby card, ID, and vaccine record ready), and then a page will check you in and place you in line inside the store. From there, the SNL security team will assist you with everything. It’s a long waiting process.

Eventually, you will find out if you’re getting in or not, and unfortunately, you might not find out until last minute. We abide by the rule: You’re not IN until your butt is IN a seat. Good luck!

Is there a dress code for the show?

No, not necessarily. There are no written rules anywhere about what you can or 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’ll 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.) because we WANT you to get into the show! Remember that the rules DO 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 before.

What kind of bag can I bring in?

NO BACKPACKS. This rule is stated directly on your standby card and you run a huge risk of being refused entry if you bring one. This is for safety. 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: we think it’s better not to risk it. We have seen them get in, but we have also seen them denied.

Our suggestion: 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.