By Adam Guy
Ever wanted to attend your favorite TV talk or variety show in person? You can in New York City – and it’s FREE to do! Some of the biggest shows are filmed here, including Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
SO…Are tickets hard to get? Where do I sign up? Which shows can I attend? What time do I have to be there? How many people can go?
Here’s all the information you need to know!
Audiences for most shows are coordinated by company called 1iota. (I’ll discuss the others later in the blog.) Sign up and complete a profile about yourself on their website. Be very thorough in completing your profile. In essence they are casting you - and yes, you might appear on camera if you attend a show!
LATE NIGHT shows offered through 1iota are:
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
The Daily Show
Late Night with Seth Meyers
DAYTIME shows offered through 1iota are:
The Kelly Clarkson Show
The Tamron Hall Show
Live with Kelly and Mark
The Drew Barrymore Show
Once you have a 1iota profile set up, you can see the calendar which lists the dates and times available for each show, typically updated 4-5 weeks out and then closed once filled. There is NOT an exact day/date when new show dates are posted. If you are planning a trip here, I’d start checking the website 7-8 weeks out every day.
If a show in the 1iota calendar matches your calendar, go ahead and “register” or “join the waitlist.” (Each show has a different way of handling this.) Be sure to put in your name EXACTLY as it appears on your government-issued ID. You will need to show it upon entry. Also, be sure to put the names of your other guests. Some shows let you sign up for two tickets and some for up to four.
You will receive an email confirming your registration.
This does NOT mean you have tickets or are guaranteed seats. You will receive another email a few days or weeks later to let you know that you have been selected to attend. THEN you MUST confirm or RSVP to secure the tickets. Tickets usually are in a scannable QR code in an e-mail.
ATTENDING THE SHOW
Congratulations! You got through the ticketing process. Now, here are some important dos and don'ts about actually attending a show.
Show up early, even earlier than the time noted, and wait in line. 1iota WILL OVERBOOK the audience. Once seats are full, they will turn everyone else away, even if you have a ticket. I have been turned away many times, even when I was on time and had a ticket.
Everyone in your party must be with you. No saving seats. This is not dinner seating.
Read the ticket rules carefully. There may be rules about what you can and cannot wear (no clothes with logos, or no costumes, etc.). There will be rules about what you can and cannot bring into the studios, including bags.
Follow them to the letter. The last thing you want is to be turned away because you have nowhere to stash your backpack.
Plan ahead. Attending shows can take 2 or 3 hours, and that’s once you get inside the studio. One-hour shows take time to prep. They shoot extra segments. Sometimes they shoot out of order. This is important to note if you have other plans scheduled for after. You may get in line at 9:00 a.m. for an 11:00 a.m. taping. You might not be out until 1:00 p.m.
Be patient and on your best behavior. There will be lots of staff there to escort you through every corridor. There will be staff in the studio monitoring the audience. There’s a lot at stake, and shows are very protective of their space, their talent, and guests. It’s also an incredible complex and expensive thing to put on a show.
You will go through security, including metal detectors and hand wands.
HAVE FUN! CHEER! CLAP! SMILE! BE PRESENT! (Maybe Nicki Minaj will be a guest at the show you attend, too!) Oh... and there’s usually a warm-up comic to keep you entertained beforehand and during show transitions. They are really fun!
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
Tickets to attend Saturday Night Live are the toughest of all to get. SNL audience members are selected randomly through email lottery. Ticket requests can be submitted in the month of August, the only time of the year when submissions are accepted. Take note: you cannot request a specific show date to see SNL, so flexibility is a must.
To submit in August, you must send an email to SNLTICKETS@NBCUNI.COM. Afterward, tickets are randomly allotted for the entire SNL season, which historically runs from October through late May. They have a bunch of rules about requesting tickets and attending. There is a STANDBY option on the day-of, too, but that’s tricky. Here is a link with all the information on SNL tickets.
OTHER SHOWS TO ATTEND IN NEW YORK CITY
Here are a few additional audience opportunities for you. Each has its own system and requirements for securing tickets and attending the show.
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – This show has its own ticket process, which requires you to register at an exact date and time two weeks before a scheduled taping. It’s a large audience, which is great. But they only tape once a week on Saturdays, and you must be register for tickets the moment the dates on the website become live.
- The Sherri Shepard Show – This show has its own system for requesting tickets, which also requires that you upload a photo.
- Beating Bobby Flay and Bobby’s Triple Threat – If you get picked to attend Beat Bobby Flay or Bobby’s Triple Threat, they will actually pay you to do so. Mind you, you must be there a full 8-hour day and on your feet a lot. It’s a small audience. Filming dates are during limited windows. But hey… Bobby Flay may be your thing! You’ll also have to set up a profile for this company’s selection process. They are called Shadow Casting & Productions.
PRIZES AND GIVEAWAYS
Occasionally, audience members will receive a prize or giveaway. Typically, small gifts like books or a blanket are handed to you on the way out of the studio.
Some of the prizes or giveaways, especially around the holidays, can be big and expensive. I once attended a show where everyone in the audience received a $900 vacuum! (You get a vacuum, and you get a vacuum, and you get a vacuum!)
On the way out of the studio, I had to complete a tax form. Such a gift is considered income. The vacuum was shipped to me. In January the following year, I received a tax statement from the company (NBC Studios, in this case) to include with my annual tax paperwork.
I LOVE the vacuum and was happy to pay the taxes for it.
There you have it. If you’d like to be a part of an audience during your trip to NYC, plan way ahead and pay attention to the details. It’s a special experience that you’ll tell all friends about. They might even see you on TV!!
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you visit a website that asks you to pay to attend or buy a membership of some kind to get access to attend any of these shows, it’s a scam!
I may not have my own TV show, but I do run a fun tour company called I Know A Guy NYC Tours. I (Adam Guy) provide private full and half day walking tours for families and small groups in amazing neighborhoods across the city. We explore, laugh, stop for treats, learn about the neighborhoods, and take loads of photos.
Many have lived to tell takes from their adventures with me. Read what they had to say in the Google reviews. Then reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-915-9901 so we can discuss which adventures will be best for your family or group.
Thanks for reading this blog! If you would like to chat about your upcoming trip and possible tour ideas, please contact me at email@example.com. I'm quite friendly!
© All photos by Adam Guy