One of my favorite moments of 2014 was snagging tickets for a Tonight Show taping and being within fifty feet of Jimmy Fallon for an hour of my life. It wasn’t easy, but totally worth it! If this is on your bucket list for 2015 (as it should be), here’s what you need to know.
1 // Reserving Tickets
If you’re interested in seeing a Tonight Show taping, you have to start by reserving tickets. Tickets sell out literally within minutes of being released, so this part takes serious diligence. Tickets are typically released during the first week of the month prior to the taping, during regular business hours (EST). So if you’re trying to snag seats for a taping in November, they’ll post during the first week of October.
They announce the date tickets will be released on the Tonight Show twitter, so my strategy was to sign up for push notifications from this account so that I wouldn’t miss it! They announced the date and time (it was 11AM on a weekday) the day prior via Twitter. On the day of their release, I sat in front of my computer and refreshed the web site every two seconds starting at 10:57AM (it’s as pathetic as it sounds). I literally refreshed the page as the clock was turning from 10:59 to 11:00 and still ended up in a queue.
I sat in the queue for about three or five minutes, until I was finally forwarded to a page where I could put in my information to reserve tickets. You can only reserve four tickets. You only need to include your personal information when reserving the tickets, but everyone in your party has to show up together with a state-issued photo ID on the date of the taping. If you reserved the tickets, you have to be part of the group or no one gets in.
Let me just say that this whole thing must have come down to a nanosecond because one of my friends was trying to get tickets for the same month (also refreshing her page at a freakishly obnoxious pace) and didn’t get them. CRAZY.
2 // Actually Getting Your Tickets
So you reserved your tickets! Woo! Don’t get too excited– you aren’t out of the woods just yet. On the day of the taping, you have to show up with all members of your party to actually get them. They overbook for each taping on purpose to make sure the audience is full, so there’s a chance you won’t actually get tickets. They start assigning tickets at 2:30 in the NBC Experience Store on the day of the taping, and there was a pretty long line of people already when we got there at 2. Moral of the story? Be punctual.
When you finally make it to the front of the line, they’ll check your reservation and ID. Then, they’ll give you a wristband and tickets and assign you either a letter or a number. This will make you flashback to middle school gym class because they are judging you in a very similar way. Getting a letter is a ticket to the front few rows and means you look under 30/35 and know how to dress yourself. Everyone else gets a number. I’m guessing we landed the letter H because we don’t dress like hipsters BUT no one was wearing mom jeans or an “I Love NY” t-shirt.
3 // Waiting for THE TAPING
We had a little more than a one-hour window between getting our tickets and preparing for the taping. We found a bar nearby (not difficult) and had a few drinks while we waited. DO NOT GO SHOPPING because they will not let you bring anything in except for a small purse and a water bottle. A little before 4, we went back to NBC to line up for the taping. They had all of the letters line up first, in order, and herded us through metal detectors and upstairs to the studio via an elevator. They’ll remind you about a zillion times to turn your phone OFF. You can have it on your person, but they will kick you out if you so much as peek at it once you enter the studio. Seriously. Turn off your phone.
We waited outside of the studio for what felt like forever but it was probably only like a half-hour. When the doors finally opened, they sent us in one group at a time (so no worries– you can sit with your people) to take a seat. Even though we were assigned the letter “H” we somehow managed to land second-row seats, center stage and it was as amazing as it sounds.
We still had about another twenty minutes until the start of the taping at that point. There were lots of TVs in the studio playing old Tonight Show clips while we waited. Then, a comedian came out to warm up the crowd and give us a quick heads up on how things run during the taping. He was mostly funny, but sometimes bordered on rude. The Roots came out right before the taping started and it was SO COOL to be that close! It was also cool being that close because I’m 95% sure I saw Lorne Michaels hanging in the wings.
4 // THE TAPING!
I’ve only seen a couple of celebs up close so let me just tell you it was SURREAL when Jimmy Fallon jogged out onto the stage and was BREATHING MY SAME AIR. He high-fived me at the end of the show and it was awesome but I’m getting ahead of myself.
They run the taping just like a live show, unless Barbara Streisand wants to redo a number and then they redo it because she is Barbara Streisand. Jimmy reads everything from actual cue cards, and is in a serious zone prepping between each piece of the taping. It was very cool watching his process. Well, as much as I could from behind a blockade of camera equipment. There are definite benefits that come with being in such close proximity to the stage, but this was not one of them. Whenever Jimmy was at his desk, our best view was through the monitors, but it wasn’t a big deal.
At the end of the taping, Jimmy runs through the audience and high-fives every lucky hand that can reach him. I lunged across my husband to make sure I was in the line of fire #sorrynotsorry
5 // After
When everything is said and done, the funny/rude comedian comes back out to keep the natives from getting too restless while they dismiss the audience from back to front. You’ll be done in time to grab a late-ish dinner. Ballpark reservations for 6:30/7 depending on where you’re heading, just to be on the safe side.
Finally, don’t forget to go home and set the DVR so that you can save the moment you might have landed audience screen-time (we did!) and plaster the screenshot on social media for the world to see your 2.5 seconds of late night fame.
Good luck, and have fun 🙂