By Amanda Fuchs
According to Variety Magazine, this past season of SNL, Season 42, accumulated the highest ratings documented since the 1994-95 season, with an increase of 1.9 million viewers between 2015 and 2016 to a total of 10.6 million. While past seasons of Saturday Night Live, during the Obama Administration, failed to make headline news, the buzz surrounding the 2016 election manifested in a year of newfound hope and interest in Studio 8H – a year that made history, to say the least. And I was there to witness it.
I had been a fan of SNL for the entire season, tuning in weekly to see what new political sketch or commercial parody America was in store for. It caught me up on current events, became a focal point of conversation at school, and created controversy on the left and right. It was not until I heard that Melissa McCarthy was hosting, however, that I decided to embark on the journey that would test my natural limits. This may sound dramatic, and before I endured the night on 48th street, I may not have said so. But 17 hours of waiting in line can change a person.
Here’s how it works: Every year, SNL holds a lottery where they give out a select number of tickets to people who send in requests. What’s the problem with this system? Hundreds of thousands of people enter for tickets every year. And your chances? “You’re more likely to get struck by lightning,” said one of the many friends I made on line. Standby, however, gives you much better odds. Come in the afternoon and wait overnight, and you’re in. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances – when Lorde performed and brought every single friend and family member she knew, no one got in. Most of the time, however, around 50 standbys will make it into the recently expanded Studio 8H, which holds around 336 people.
Somehow, I was able to cajole my mother into waiting on line with me. The second school was dismissed, I bolted out of the building and raced over to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, itching to join my mother on line. When I arrived, however, I was shocked by what I saw. From reading blog posts and reviews online, I had concluded that, by arriving at 2pm the day before, we would be around 20th or so in line. When I walked up to the line, however, that was not the case. We were 80th and 81st. “Let’s just leave now,” I remarked to my mother, looking down at the ground. “Are you sure?” she replied. “I talked to the girls in line behind us and they said that they’ve gotten into [the studio] from this far back. I think we should do it.” Maybe it was the idea that I was already there and it would be silly to turn away, or that a small chance was better than none, but I agreed. And the wait began.
At first, it wasn’t so bad. I did some homework, watched videos on my computer, and talked with others around me about why they were crazy enough to wait 17 hours, too. There was a couple from Canada visiting New York City for the first time, another mother and daughter duo who lived nearby and loved the show, and a group of 20 something-year-olds who all knew each other only because they often waited overnight for SNL tickets. I was shocked that they acted as if waiting was no big deal. Only 5 or so hours into the wait, I was already fading.
To be completely honest, a lot of the night is a blur due to sleep deprivation and adrenaline rushes. What I do remember, though, is when the rain started. It was around midnight, and it started drizzling. Okay, this is fine, I told myself, pulling my blanket over my head and leaning back in my lawn chair. Quickly, however, it went from bad to worse.
Within minutes, it was pouring rain, and I found myself frantically stuffing my possessions into my backpack – my computer, my homework, and everything else was about to be drenched in rain. Opening an umbrella, I sat in the cold, teeth chattering, trying to distract myself from how miserable I was. That was the low point of the night – or morning, technically. In a moment of weakness, my mother said “You know, we can still go home if you want.” But the end seemed too close to give up now, so I stuck it out, despite how horrible it was, and trust me, it was bad.
Painstakingly, minute after minute inched by until the clock struck 7am. The time that tickets were distributed by unhappy pages. One by one, we made our way up to the front of the line, listening intently to those who had already received tickets share their decision. See, when you receive your ticket for the show, you have to choose between dress and live. Dress, or dress rehearsal, is taped before the show at around 8:30pm, and they do 3 or so extra sketches that are a little less revised than what ultimately makes it to live. Going into the experience, I was convinced I would pick live. Hearing other people’s numbers, however, began to concern me.
When it was our turn to go up, I chose dress on an impulse decision. It was a part of the process I had not even considered. In hindsight, I’m not sure what I would have done if I could do it again. Either way, we received our tickets, and headed home to sleep.
At 6:30pm, we headed back over 30 Rockefeller Center. Crammed like sardines into the NBC Store, we all waited to hear our fate. They began to call us up in groups, 1-15, 16-25, and so on. We were 48th and 49th (when people choose, around half choose dress and half choose live so your number halves), and finally, we heard that it was our time. It was down to the wire. When they filed us into the studio, the show was about to begin. When I saw my seat, I was even more excited than I was seconds before. I was dead center in the second row of the mezzanine. At that moment, it was all worth it.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the show. Watch it, if you want. What I will say, however, is how life-changing the experience of getting SNL tickets was for me. Reading this article, you may be deterred from waiting to see the show, but if you love SNL, it is so worth it. It may sound cheesy, but nothing can compare to being in the studio as it’s all happening and seeing everything unfold right before your eyes. Looking back on it now, I understand how and why those twenty year-olds I met on line waited so often. No, I will not wait almost every weekend to see the show, but I will be returning this season to see the show again – but I’ll make sure to check the weather beforehand.