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The Essential Guide to New York's Live TV Show Tapings

Some SNL fans camp outside of 30 Rock to score audience seats but with our help, you can spare yourself from the cold and the crowds.

If Hollywood is the heart of the movie industry, then New York is the epicenter of live TV show tapings. Trust us: it’s much easier to get behind the scenes of a TV show than it is to sneak onto a movie set (not that we’ve tried). In fact, many of your favorite shows, from Saturday Night Live to Good Morning America, make room for a live studio audience at each and every taping. The best part? Seeing your favorite celebrities schmooze with charming TV hosts is totally free. Here are our insider tips for scoring tickets to these events, and what to expect when you get there. You never know with our advice, you might even make your own first televised appearance.

What To Expect

If you’re able to get a free ticket to the talk show, you’ll get to watch the entire show play out in real time, outtakes and sweat droplets and all. Being in a studio audience is certainly exciting. But actually securing (and getting to) your seat? A bit less exciting. To get access to a live show taping, you must first enter into a ticket lottery. If you’re one of the lucky winners, you’ll receive an email with your tickets enclosed. While you can request a particular date and time, there can be no exchanges or switches once you receive your ticket. Most shows have their own ticket websites, like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and others typically morning shows can be accessed on the 1iota website. Your tickets will also come with a specific set of instructions, from age requirement to dress code to arrival time. On the subject of arrival time: it’s important to arrive ahead of schedule. Shows frequently overbook to ensure that they don’t end up with a half-empty live studio audience, which means that latecomers may lose their seats. Upon entering the building, the audience is herded into a small space to receive instructions for when they should laugh, clap, and sigh. In addition, many of the morning shows will conduct dress code checks: they require a neat, business casual look, and recommend jewel tones, which look great on camera. Once you’ve entered the small auditorium, you’ll usually spend some time watching production mill about. Occasionally there are warm-up comedy acts and bands playing to liven up the mood. If you’re lucky, a late night TV show host will do a quick meet and greet portion with the live audience. Once the cameras finally start rolling, the taping will proceed much like it does on television, but you’ll have an inside perspective on the equipment and crew that make it happen. After the program wraps up, you’ll be escorted outside, receiving the free swag of the day on your way out.

How To See Your Favorite Shows

Scoring tickets to an obscure daytime cooking show may be a cinch. Not so, unfortunately, with Saturday Night Live. For those of you determined to see the more popular shows go down, hereÕs what you need to know. Saturday Night Live is easily New York’s most in-demand live show. Each August, the show holds a ticket lottery for the upcoming season. After submitting their contact information, audience hopefuls wait to receive an email with two tickets for a random date if they win, that is. If August whizzes by and you’ve forgotten to apply for tickets, there’s always the option of standby tickets, available for the 8pm dress rehearsal and the 11:30pm live taping. Standby tickets are distributed outside of 30 Rock beginning at 7am on days of taping. Devoted fans often even camp out the night before to be ready for the first-come, first-served tickets. The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon is also a highly popular talk show. Tickets are released a month in advance, making it easier to plan for than SNL. There’s also the option for standby tickets, which are given out at 9am every day outside of 30 Rock. That said, standby ticket holders aren’t guaranteed entrance to the taping. If all this sounds like a hassle, try scoring a ticket to one of the much more manageable daytime television shows. The View, the Rachael Ray Show, and LIVE! with Kelly Ripa similarly require a lottery ticket, but your chances of scoring one are much more realistic. While the Today Show doesn’t have a studio audience, you can gather at Rockefeller Center for the outdoor segments, where spectators are often featured waving or holding signs. Affinia is offering an extra night free when you book a three night stay in one of our locations in New York City. Book now.

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