By Suzanne Russo in New York—
You visit with them regularly, perhaps even nightly. They entertain you, keep you company on your travels, sometimes lull you to sleep. These are the magic, ubiquitous folks we call the personalities of late night, of course, and you can visit many of them in person in (where else?) New York.
It would figure that “the city that never sleeps” is home to many of the late night greats, from “Saturday Night Live” to “Late Night with David Letterman.” And where there are late night shows, there are studio audiences. The coveted (and free!) tickets to these shows are hard to come by, and usually require some advance planning. Because each show has a different set of rules, it can all amount to quite a headache.
But before you reach for the aspirin, check out our handy dandy breakdown.
Saturday Night Live
Really, “SNL” simply wouldn’t be the same without the phrase, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” Tickets to the weekend mainstay are issued by a lottery system. To be entered, send an email with your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. If selected, you’ll be granted two tickets to a randomly determined show date.
Important Note: The email must be sent in the month of August (for the 2011-2012 season) and specific date requests are not allowed. Only those selected will be notified.
Standby: Try your luck, and line-waiting, at standby tickets for either the 8 p.m. dress rehearsal or the 11:30 p.m. live show. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at 7 a.m. on the morning of each taping. Plan to line up at the 49th Street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza early (read: sleep over). Note that a standby ticket does not guarantee admission, and tickets are limited to one per person.
The Late Show with David Letterman
Letterman tickets are also distributed via a lottery, and you can either request either by using their online form or visiting the theater (1697 Broadway). In-person hours are Monday through Thursday 9:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (Note: Arriving prior to 9 a.m. will disqualify you!)
Tickets may be requested for up to one month in advance of the taping date, and those with flexible dates should note that listing multiple date requests increases the likelihood that you’ll be selected.
Standby: To be placed on the standby list, call the phone line (212-247-6497) at 11 a.m. on the morning you wish to attend. Then show up at the time you are given (the show tapes in late afternoon) and keep your fingers crossed that seats will be available.
The phone line remains open for 30-60 minutes, depending on the number of standby slots, so call as early as possible. Government-issued IDs matching the names given over the phone are required for all standby tickets.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Fun fact: Crush-worthy late night host Jon Stewart is this New Yorker’s favorite New York celebrity sighting. Unfortunately—though not surprisingly—said sighting does not make up for the fact that his show books up quickly. When available, up to four tickets and be acquired through an online request form. Simply choose from the dates offered, fill out your form and wait for a response.
If nothing is available, be persistent. The site changes quickly (we visited three times within one night and each time offerings were different) so keep checking back for available dates. You can also email email@example.com, but we prefer following up with the form. Those with flexible dates can sign up for the email list for alerts to new shows.
The show tapes Monday through Thursday at 733 11th Avenue (at 52nd Street), and doors open at 5:45 p.m.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
To watch funny-man Jimmy Fallon do his late-night thing, call (212) 664-3056 to request up to four tickets. Tickets are usually booked one month in advance.
Standby: Follow Late Night’s Twitter updates for updates on last minute ticket openings, or head to the “NBC Studios” marquee on the 49th Street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (GE Building) on the morning of the taping. Arrive no later than 9 a.m. to receive tickets (one per person), or visit the NBC Studio Tour Desk on the second floor of the NBC Experience Store in Rockefeller Plaza later in the day to see if there are any extra tickets available.
Tickets must be picked up by 4:15 p.m. for the 5:30 p.m. taping. As with all shows, visitors should note that a standby ticket does not guarantee admission.