New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Live from New York: it’s your Saturday Night!

Whether you’re a longtime fan of the show or your favorite stars are hosting, here’s your best shot at making it into Studio 8H.
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Steven Dahlman
A recreation of the iconic “Saturday Night Live” set on display at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. (Photo by Steven Dahlman, via Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re tired of breaking the bank on a Saturday night out, or you found out that you missed Taylor Swift or Pedro Pascal hosting at NBC Studios the next day, try your hand at scoring a free standby reservation for the Emmy-award-winning comedy sketch series “Saturday Night Live.”

No two “SNL” episodes are alike at Studio 8H, with each week featuring a new set of segments, celebrity hosts and musical guests. No matter what draws you to the show, you’re guaranteed a unique experience — and, not to mention, bragging rights — if you make it into the live taping.

Here’s how NYU students can have the best chance at getting into an “SNL” rehearsal or taping.

Join the online reservation queue

The process begins even before going to the studio. You’ll need to visit the NBC Events Booker site on Thursday at 10 a.m. the week of your desired show. Here, you’ll request a standby reservation for you and your party, between one and four spots, for either the 8 p.m. dress rehearsal or the 11:30 p.m. live broadcast on that Saturday. 

Steinhardt sophomore Maddy van der Linden queued for the live broadcast of the season 49 premiere on Oct. 14 and received a good spot in line after booking a standby reservation on the site. Given the unpredictability of the Events Booker site, patience is key to the process, she said.

After reserving a spot in line, you’ll receive a confirmation email a couple of hours later with your standing in the virtual queue.

Get cozy on West 49th Street

Once your party’s standby request is approved, you’ll then have to weather the most intimidating part of the process: the in-person line on Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight outside of the studio. Make sure everyone in your party arrives with a photo ID and checks in on time — between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. — or else their spots will be forfeited. The reservation holder also needs to be present to gain entry.

As the weather gets colder, you’re going to need blankets and coats to keep you warm while waiting overnight in the queue, and it’s important to check the forecast for rain. Bring a collapsible chair to save you from having to pop a squat on the sidewalk for five hours. Short breaks are allowed for the restroom, grabbing food or stretching, but once you’re checked in, you’re in it for the long haul.

Tisch first-year Frenda Havenstein queued on Oct. 21 for episode two of season 49, which featured Bad Bunny, killing time by making friends. They coincidentally encountered some SNL cast members while in line.

“I made friends with people in line near me,” Havenstein said. “One of them was an NYU graduate working in the city. I also saw Kenan Thompson and Marcello Hernández and ended up being in a rotating door with Heidi Gardner, which was so fun!”

At midnight, you’ll be given a standby card, which indicates your official line number. That little blue slip is valuable and non-transferrable, so hold on to it tightly!

The final stage: persist through the official standby line

The blue slip still isn’t a guaranteed ticket into the show, however — it just indicates your spot in the standby line. Since standby tickets fill empty seats in the audience, there’s no set number for how many people are admitted each week. As a result, this final part of the process is undoubtedly the most stressful.

CAS sophomore Griffin Eckstein made it into two live episodes in 2022: Jack Harlow’s Oct. 29 show and Keke Palmer and SZA’s on Dec. 3. His advice? Be realistic about your odds. 

“I would only go if you have already accepted the possibility of not getting in,” Eckstein said. “I’ve learned that you can’t really predict what a good place in the digital queue or a good standby card number is.”

Moving through the standby line on Saturday is nerve-wracking, and you never truly know when — or if — you’ll be handed a wristband and called into an elevator to ride up to Studio 8H. If the seats fill up before you make it in, don’t fret — you can test your luck again next week.

You don’t have to be on your way to the writer’s room or be able to recite the entirety of “More Cowbell” to appreciate the excitement of making it into the SNL audience. While every step of the process is uncertain, the cheers and congratulatory remarks from the NBC Pages as you enter the studio are worth it. As someone who’s queued and gotten in twice this season, I recommend trying to get in, even if it isn’t successful at first. Take the gamble, because there’s nothing quite like reveling in the sight of the iconic stage from your seat and being enveloped in the warmth of the house band’s jazzy tunes as you wait for the cold open to begin.

Contact Dani Biondi at [email protected].

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