Live from New York…it’s my standby line guide!

About a month ago, I decided to brave the Saturday Night Live standby line on a whim.  It was the afternoon of Friday, October 8, and I was sitting in my dorm, eagerly awaiting Kim Kardashian’s hosting debut.  Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I sent my family group chat the upcoming lineup (Kim K, obviously, and musical guest Halsey), to which my dad promptly responded with a “SNL Standby Line How-To Guide.”

I was not immediately sold, I won’t lie—the SNL standby line is a weekend consuming experience.  You arrive outside NBC Studios on Friday afternoon, and wait in line until 7 am the next morning.  At 7, the NBC pages pass out standby tickets.  These tickets do not guarantee you a seat at the show.  Rather, come Saturday night, you make the trek back to NBC Studios, where your ticket grants you entry to yet another line.  The lucky ones make it past this final line, and into Studio 8H.  

In the end, my Uncle Jamie convinced me to try my luck.  I believe his exact words were “Halsey Kardashian will only be there once!”  He was a little confused, but he had the right idea—I’d never have another opportunity to watch the Kim K host the SNL.  

15 minutes later, I rushed out the door with five total items: my phone, a bed sheet, a blanket, a jacket, and a backpack full of homework.  I arrived at the line at around 7 pm, and began my weekend long SNL journey.  

Here is what I learned, along with some dos and don’ts:

  • The SNL standby line is a very well-regulated experience.  There are little metal barriers that separate the line from the rest of the sidewalk, and a couple of security guards who supervise the line throughout the night.  This made my mom, who was not too happy that I’d be sleeping alone on the streets of New York City, feel much better.  
  • I slept directly on the sidewalk between my sheet and blanket, and used my homework as a pillow.  This was a mistake.  Quite literally everyone else in the line was sleeping in a chair or a sleeping bag with some sort of padding.  Do that. 
  • That being said, do not expect to sleep.  You’ll get one to two hours maximum.
  • Prepare to get to know your line-mates! The man behind me had flown in from Oklahoma just a few hours before getting in line.  I know this because he is literally the loudest person I have ever encountered. At around 5 am he and his friend struck up a game of “We’re Not Really Strangers,” so I also know that he is deeply religious, had a tumultuous childhood, and has trouble being alone. 
  • It also pays to actually talk to the people around you.  I met a woman who had clearly made the line into a sort of lifestyle.  Over the course of the night, two of her daughters came to visit her, both of whom I had the opportunity to talk with alone. “She’s crazy,” they each told me separately, “she’s done this like 15 times.” She was definitely crazy, but also very sweet, and provided me with an in-depth explanation of the standby process over the years. She also held my place in line when I needed to go to the bathroom or get food.
  • Don’t bring your homework. I didn’t do mine.  Instead, bring a portable charger—I spent lots of the night sending very dramatic videos to my friends.  By the morning, they were convinced I had undergone a night of freezing cold winds and lack of proper nourishment.  This was not the case—I was cold for maybe an hour, tops, and got Dunkin’ for breakfast. 
  • I was around number 45 in line.  In the morning, when the NBC pages hand out tickets, each line member is given the option to choose between a standby ticket for the dress rehearsal or a standby ticket for the live show.  As such, everybody’s place in line gets halved — I ended up being number 23 in line for the live show.  I was worried about my chances, but the more experienced line members around me appeared quite confident.  As far as I can tell, if you’re within the first 80 or so people lined up on the sidewalk, you have a pretty good chance of getting into your show of choice.  
  • Once you get your standby ticket, GO HOME AND SLEEP.  I spent all of Saturday stress eating bagels, nervous that I wouldn’t get in, and was barely awake by the time 9 pm rolled around.  But I rallied, obviously—I put on my Skims top, hopped on the subway, and got my ass back in line. 
  • And I got in! Not only did I get to see Kim’s hosting debut, Kris and Khloe waved at me!  That being said, as the final line moved through security, then up multiple staircases, and ultimately into the golden elevators, I made sure not to get my hopes up.  The NBC pages make it very clear that your spot is not guaranteed until you are physically seated in Studio 8H.

SNL Standby Line via Flickr