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A Guide to Seeing SNL Live

by Alexia Simitian

Photography by Alexia Simitian

It’s midterm season, and many students are looking to get away from their chaotic schoolwork and late nights in the library. For one last opportunity prior my exams, I decided to get out of Boston for the weekend and head down to New York. I ended up having one of the best weekends of my life, because I saw a live taping of Saturday Night Live, with host Lin Manuel Miranda and musical guest Twenty-One Pilots.

The first piece of advice is to be prepared for anything, even if it means sleeping outside on the New York City sidewalk for the night. But in the end, seeing SNL live was (most importantly) free, gratifying and 100 percent worth all the hassle.

When preparing for the adventure, I highly suggest layering your clothes, which will most definitely be worth it in the early morning hours. Bring a yoga mat or towel as something to lie down on throughout the night. I saw many people with blow-up mattresses and sleeping bags as well, so know the weather, and plan accordingly.

A friend and I arrived at Rockefeller Plaza at noon on Friday, and there were already 50 to 60 people ahead of us in line. As you wait in line, strike up a conversation with the people around you. We talked to another college student seated right behind us, who happened to have gone to a neighboring high school in our hometown, and even got to know the evening security guards.

After a few of hours, you get used to using the McDonald’s bathroom around the corner, ordering food off Grubhub and the looking at confused tourists. But there is something about the atmosphere of sitting outside Rockefeller Center; there is a spark of excitement and anticipation in the crowd that keeps you on the edge of your seat all night long. Locals walk by and taxi drivers roll down their windows to wish you good luck.

The host for that week was Lin Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the Broadway show Hamilton. While we were waiting in line, he personally came outside and ran along the line, handing out boxes of pizza he bought for us.

In the early morning hours, a food truck came by that gave out free hot chocolate and cider with very cheap and warm breakfast items. Just as the sun starts to rise, you can hear The Today Show personnel setting up for their live morning broadcast. In my case, it happened to be a high school band that loudly played the Hawaii Five O theme song over and over again.

At 7 a.m. sharp, you pack up your stuff, line up with your ID out and choose between the live show and the dress rehearsal. The consensus throughout the line was that the farther back you are in the line, the better choice is the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal occurs directly before the live show and is very similar to the live show except that it is longer because they include more sketches. My friend and I chose to go to the rehearsal show. However, these tickets are only stand-by and do not guarantee you entrance into the show.

After you receive your number, you have the rest of the day to yourself. My friend and I treated ourselves to a nice diner breakfast and then went back to her dorm at Fordham University to catch up on sleep.

Later in the evening, you and everyone else in line head back to Rockefeller Plaza. From this point on, everything is extremely fast-paced. The NBC pages check you in, put you in numerical order and lead you through security. Our standby tickets were numbers 32 and 33, and although we got in easily, the audience number changes drastically from host to host. After taking a few different elevators, you are lead through a hallway filled with SNL memories and then into the famous Studio 8H.

Kenan Thompson came out immediately to warm up the crowd and to sing a song with backup dancers Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer Zamata. Then, Weekend Update co-host Michael Che welcomed the audience and explained how the night was going to work. Before we knew it, the lights had gone dark, the show was starting and we heard the most famous phrase in late night television. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!

This may seem like a very daunting process to see the taping of a T.V. show. But each and everyone walked out of that studio with a big smile on their face knowing they have witnessed something not a lot of people get to experience. It makes for a great story, a once in a lifetime experience and an extraordinary way to spend your weekend before going back into the rote of schoolwork.

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