Here’s the thing about doing the Standby Line: when you’re gearing up to come to a show, there’s very little certainty involved – the only thing you can control is yourself. That said, we’ve done the line a combined 150+ times (this page is current as of January 22nd, 2023, Season 48), so we’ve compiled some helpful tips and tricks for you to take into account as we walk you through a typical Standby Line experience.
To put it simply: The line is on W 49th St between 5th & 6th Avenues. But, it gets a little complicated after that.
As of January, 2023, all of the following info is straight from the NBC Official website.
All guests MUST be fully vaccinated on the day they join the standby line. The FDA/WHO approved vaccines are: Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and Johnson & Johnson. Failure to provide proof of compliance with these protocols will lead to dismissal from the line.
If you have a reservation number, you must arrive between 6pm – 7pm EST.
If you do NOT have a reservation number, you cannot line up until after 7pm EST when the guests with reservation numbers have been put in order.
After that, the simple answer is: It’s up to you! You can keep an eye on our Twitter page every Friday during a show week, where we update our feed with the numbers throughout the evening.
REMINDER: You MUST be vaccinated to attend the show. You cannot even be in the standby line if you aren’t vaccinated. Bring your vax info! DO NOT come join the line if you have tested positive for COVID or if you haven’t been properly vaccinated!
The NBC pages will hand out standby tickets at exactly Midnight. Everyone in line at that time will get a ticket card (don’t forget – you have to be 16 years old or older, have a photo ID, AND bring a COVID vaccination record with you), but having a ticket card in your hand does NOT guarantee you admission to the show.
When making your reservation choice, or for those who join after 7pm, you’ll be asked to choose which show you’d like to go to. Dress Rehearsal runs from 8pm – 10pm, and the Live show airs from 11:30pm – 1am. We like to tell people that if you’re only doing the show once, do Live. The energy is better, production has worked out kinks, and if you’re only doing it once, then you should go big!
Also, if you’re coming for the musical guest, do Live for that as well. They’re likely not going to cut any live sketches with the musical guest in them, and if they cut a digital video with that person, it’ll most likely be uploaded online. Musical guests tend to go harder when they’re performing live.
In our experience, about the same number of people get into each show. Make sure to have your ID & vaccination record out and ready when the pages get to you to speed up the process for everyone.
This is a toss-up, too. Rumor has it, both the host and the musical guest get 30 seats to fill, so if those aren’t filled, the remainder go to Standby Line ticket card holders, as do any of the cast’s unused spots. There’s no definitive number, but from our experience, it’s typically somewhere between about 40 – 80 people for each show every week. Legend has it (read: we were told by NBC security) that Lorne Michaels himself holds about 30 seats EXCLUSIVELY for the Standby Line ticket holders for each show. Word on the street is that Lorne LOVES standby!
What should I bring?
First and foremost, we recommend a chair! PLEASE remember, per Twitter user @siegelka, that if you have a warm early evening in line, that does NOT mean the whole night will be warm, too! Bring layers so you can keep relatively comfortable. Be prepared for rain and/or snow if inclement weather is in the forecast – we always bring a tarp with us just in case (and we discuss more rainy line tips in episode 3 of our podcast). Consider bringing a portable charger for your phone, but if you forget yours, you can always charge your phone briefly at Starbucks on 48th Street.
DO NOT FORGET YOUR ID & VAX INFO! If you don’t have an ID or your vaccination record, you WILL NOT be given a ticket on Saturday morning!
You might also consider making and bringing a sign to hang on the back of your chair. A LOT of people are going to ask you what you’re queuing up for, but you might be able to bypass some of that by having the info written out for them. There’s a little more info about the basics of Standby Line Survival in the first episode of our podcast.
What should I NOT bring?
This is another one of those things that’s always different from week-to-week (and shift-to-shift, due to rotating security guards). Each guard kinda has their own rules, so it can be a toss-up. Some GENERAL rules of thumb are: Tents and air mattresses are not allowed. We’ve seen people get away with both, but it’s always best to prepare for them being restricted. Tarps are not allowed to be draped over the barricades, but you can cover yourself with them. We’ve seen people get away with draping, too, but make sure you have a Plan B. As of January 2023: The official NBC rules page has made some updates. They advise you CANNOT HAVE alcohol, lounge chairs, mattresses, sleeping bags, or tents. Take this for what it says!
Where can I pee?
Restrooms downstairs in the Rockefeller concourse are open from 8am – 11pm daily. After that? Man, we don’t know! Delis 48 used to be open late, and McDonald’s used to let us drop in after a purchase, but we’ve heard mixed reviews since then. Our best, and worst, advice? Try to not need to pee between 11pm & midnight. This sucks! But it is, unfortunately, what we’re dealing with right now.
Can I leave the line?
Yes! For short periods of time, you’re allowed to take off to use the restroom or grab food. That said, make sure you commit to spending the vast majority of your time in the line, otherwise you may be reported to NBC pages at midnight. We’ve seen people get thrown out of line as far along in the process as right outside the elevators before you go up to Studio 8H. Don’t risk it! If you can’t stay in line, just come at a later time.
Can my friends join me in line?
This is really only applicable to people who join the line without a reservation, but: Sure, but not four hours later. Your friends need to arrive VERY shortly after you do in order for this to fly. Additional people CANNOT join you in line at midnight and pretend they’ve been there the whole time. Your entire group will be reported!
Similarly, line-sitters are NOT allowed. As of Season 47, 2021, we’ve witnessed people being kicked out of line for having a line-sitter replace them in the line. It doesn’t work!
What do I do while I’m in line?
I don’t know, man, read a book or take a nap or something, you know? Make some new, like-minded friends! Newbies and younger fans are often very excited and want to stay up all night, but please be respectful of your line neighbors – keep the noise down as it gets late, and look out for each other! We’ve never had anything stolen or anything like that, luckily. It’s a wonderful little community.
Will I meet the host/musical guest/cast while I’m waiting?
Probably not, I’m afraid. ONCE IN A WHILE they’ll come out, drop by, or send the line pizza, but it’s super, super rare, so don’t get your hopes up. We’ve personally only witnessed the host/musical guest visit the line once in all of our many years of experience.
Once you get your Standby Line ticket card, you’re free to go until Saturday evening! Go take a shower and a nap, or explore the city a little until you have to come back.
Your standby ticket card will have your number in line and a return time listed on it. When you return, make sure you’re on time, and make sure you bring your ID & vaccination record back with you! Standby Line ticket holders will enter Rockefeller at the 6th Ave entrance under the NBC awning and head to the outside of the NBC Shop. You can ask any employee from there where to go once you’re inside the store if you aren’t sure where to go.
What can I bring in?
Make sure to read the fine print on your ticket card (click the images of the tickets to enlarge them), but it essentially says that NO backpacks or large bags are allowed inside. You WILL go through a metal detector on your way up to the studio! If you have luggage, make sure to leave it where you’re staying or in a storage locker – it will NOT be allowed inside.
How do I know if I’m getting in?
The simple answer here is that you don’t know if you’ve made it until your butt is literally in a seat in the studio. In THEORY, you can go all the way down the hallway and be at the door of the studio and still be turned away. That said, in our experience, and from what we’ve learned from some of the Standby Line Legends (they’ve been doing the line for years!), if you make it into the elevator, you’re in. We’d give it a 99.5% chance that this is accurate.
Here’s the process: Standby Line ticket holders are lined up in the NBC Shop according to the numbers on their ticket cards. This is where the waiting begins. You’ll do a LOT of waiting throughout this process!
Next, security will come out to the shop and give you a spiel about security measures and strictness (take metal out of your pockets! belts off! no photos beyond this point, but ESPECIALLY not in the studio or you WILL be removed!), and then they’ll take the first 20 (or so) into the metal detector room. This does NOT mean you’re not getting in! It’s just that they can only fit 20 people in that room.
Once through, you’ll line up two-by-two at the bottom of a stairway. Then you’ll be led to the top of the steps, but you’ll wait, again, two-by-two. After that, you’ll go inside a hallway and wait some more. This area is where you’ll be able to see the famous Peacock Lounge – where people with lottery tickets wait to go into the show.
Next, the line is led a little further down the hallway past the grand staircase to, yes, you guessed it, wait some more. This room is cool – there are digital photograph walls displaying images from previous seasons of SNL. NBC Pages will then begin to hand out wrist bands in groups of about 20, and then they’ll start sending people into the elevators about ten at a time based on the number of open seats. If you make it into the elevator, you’re most likely in! After that, you walk one more hallway, and at the end of that one, you will hand off your ticket card to a page at a podium, and then you’ll be guided into the studio and into your seat.
Whether you got in to the show or not, you’ve survived a Saturday Night Live Standby Line experience and we’d like to hear from you. Send your story to us using this contact form, or you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.