During my freshman year of college, I did something that will haunt me for the rest of my life: I slept on the street to get stand-by tickets for Saturday Night Live. It was a chilly, chaotic November night and definitely the most uncomfortable sleep I’ve ever had. I also woke to a homeless woman screaming at me.
But was it worth it to see Anne Hathaway host? You bet.
The 41st season premieres this weekend, though keep in mind that there is a hurricane coming to the northeast and Miley Cyrus is hosting and performing, so perhaps it’s better to skip this one out. For the future, though, here’s what you need to know before you camp out at 30 Rock.
You need to arrive early
Unless you’re fortunate enough to be selected for the August lottery or are close, personal friends with Lorne Michaels, the best way to score Saturday Night Live tickets is to line-up outside 30 Rock for standby tickets on the Friday before the show. Tickets are first come, first serve and get handed out at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Since you’ll be filling the seats of regular season ticket holders who weren’t able to make it that night, you can never be sure how many seats will be available. That means you need to be out there early Friday morning for a decent spot in line; get there Friday afternoon and you’re cutting it close.
Preparation is key
Since fall and winter are the main months for an SNL season, your odds of sleeping over on a warm night are very low. To ensure you’re comfortable, you’ll need a sleeping bag, pillows, blankets, gloves, and a cup of hot cocoa from Magnolia Bakery down the street.
People-watching and chatting with other folks on line gets old fast, so bring entertainment. I brought a laptop with a download of The Devil Wears Prada (you know, to get into the Anne Hathaway spirit). As I slept, I kept the laptop in my backpack and used my backpack as a pillow. It was very uncomfortable, but also reassuring to know that nobody could steal anything without waking me up first.
Oh and bring a portable charger — 30 Rock shuts down around 11pm and the outlets inside won’t be able to revive your ailing phone. (The next best option is the 24-hour McDonald's on 6th; but someone needs to be holding your spot for that to be an option.)
You're going to want to kill all the people who walk by.
I swear, I had this exact conversation with 100 different passersby:
“What is this line for?”
"Saturday Night Live tickets.”
“Oh. Who’s the host?”
“Oh. Who’s the musical guest?”
“Florence and the Machine.”
“Oh. Who’s that?...”
It's impossible to sleep well
Bring as many blankets and pillows as you want, but know that you'll be sleeping in the streets of New York. It will be cold, it will be uncomfortable, it will be crowded. Yes, 30 Rock resides in midtown east and laying your head there won't bring you face to face with quite the same freaky foot traffic you'd encounter outside, say, the Port Authority. But, as with any area of New York at night, it's met with plenty of characters.
Case in point: I had recently come out as gay, and so I was sharing a sleeping bag with a guy I had just started dating. When tourists walked by and saw us sleeping together, I felt like I was part of an attraction. (This was in 2010, mind you).
Sharing a sleeping bag was also a mistake, even with someone I was dating. It wasn't nearly big enough for the both of us, so we both spent the entire evening awkwardly squished together, unable to move at all.
Waking up in the middle of the night is very creepy. This part of New York gets eerily quiet around 3 a.m., except for the random drunk dude who might happen to pass you by and make a snide remark. I had the unfortunate pleasure of waking up to a homeless woman who saw me sleeping with another man and told me to go kill myself.
You might get crappy seats.
Even though I was lucky enough to get a ticket, I got placed in the balcony with a view so terrible that I mostly had to look at the monitors to enjoy the show. Kenan Thompson came out before the show to make fun of us.
The experience is worth it. Probably.
Sleeping outside for SNL tickets is something you should do once and then never do it again. I had the worst night’s sleep of my life and ended up with shitty tickets and a cold. And yet, the thrill of just being in that room, and knowing that I was a tiny, atom-sized part of SNL history made the whole thing worthwhile.
But ever since then I’ve watched SNL the way it’s meant to be watched: On a warm couch, passed out after Weekend Update’s over.