TV Taping Tickets 101: How to See Your Favorite Talk Shows for Free

Seven years ago this week, I was here in NYC on vacation and knocking so many firsts off my bucket list — devouring the famous cronut, witnessing my first real snowfall, enjoying NYC pizza, seeing my first Broadway shows and attending my first TV talk show tapings.

It was a trip I’ll never forgot for so many reasons — one of the biggest being the taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers I saw on the first full day in the city. While I couldn’t tell you who the guests that day were, I can tell you exactly how magical the experience was and how much I loved being in a room filled with laughter. I was so completely overcome by a feeling that this was where I belonged that it actually brought tears to my eyes.

So when I had the chance to do it all again last week, this time as a NYC resident, I obviously tripped over myself to get there. And it did not disappoint, it was just as special as I remembered. This time, I can absolutely tell you who the guests were because I can still barely believe my luck myself — come on, Tom Holland??!! I must have done something really great in a past life.

Now that I’ve made an open-and-shut case for attending one of the many TV show tapings in NYC, let me share with you just how simple it is to actually make it happen.

You’ll need to sign up at 1iota, a site that offers tickets to join the live studio audience of daytime and late night talk show tapings, movie screenings, sitcom tapings and other special events like the Rockefeller tree lighting and NBA All Star weekend. I should mention that there is a 1iota app that used to be awesome, but no longer has anything listed in it. So sad.

The first thing to know is that the tickets are free — That’s right, attending these tapings and special events should not cost you anything. You will need to be quick on the draw, though, as the tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Many times, you’ll sign up through the site to join the waitlist, and you’ll then receive an email to confirm once you’ve been bumped onto the actual ticket holder list.

Just like airlines and doctors, 1iota overbooks. Because every taping needs a full house to look good on TV (and people are more likely to blow off a free event), more tickets are given out than there are actual seats in the studio audience. The fine print on your ticket even tells you that it doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the audience. So be sure to arrive early, if you don’t want to risk it. Most of these shows require you arrive for check-in significantly earlier than the taping time, and I suggest showing up even earlier than that.

Some shows, like Live with Kelly and Ryan, still haven’t brought back live studio audiences since COVID, but many others have…You will have to show your ID, vaccine card and wear a mask the entire time.

Right now, some of your options in NYC through 1iota include —

Daytime Talk shows (many of these can have more than one taping available on the same day):

  • The Drew Barrymore Show — Tapes Tuesday through Thursday, except when on hiatus
  • Rachael — Tapes Monday through Thursday, except when on hiatus
  • The View — Tapes Monday through Friday, except when on hiatus
  • Tamron Hall — Tapes Tuesday through Thursday, except when on hiatus

Late Night Talk shows:

  • Late Night with Seth Meyers — Tapes Monday through Thursday, except when on hiatus, in Studio 8G at the legendary 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
  • The Amber Ruffin Show — Tapes Fridays, except when on hiatus, also in Studio 8G at 30 Rock.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert also use the 1iota platform, but you have to go through their special links. Jimmy Fallon tapes Monday through Friday, and is probably the hardest ticket to score. Stephen Colbert tapes Monday through Thursday most weeks, except when on hiatus, at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater.

You can typically add yourself to the waitlist for up to three dates for each show. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a ticket, all hope is not lost. Most of the shows also have a standby option for last-minute availability the day of the taping. For those shows taped at NBC Studios, you can get a standby card at the Shop at NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Of note, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert does not currently offer standby tickets.

Finally, here’s a quick rundown of my Late Night with Seth Meyers experience to give you an idea of what to expect:

2 pm

Deadline to arrive for check-in. I arrived around 1:20 pm, and the ticketholder line was already wrapping around the inside hallway of the building.

2-3:30 pm

Line moves slowly through the building. There are multiple ID/vaccine card check points. We move from the bottom floor hallway upstairs to a rotunda with screens filled with Seth. After checking your digital ticket, you receive a wristband and paper ticket and then go through a security scanner. Last stop before the studio is a waiting room with more screens of Seth and his past guests.

3 pm

Staff members begin loading the audience into the studio based on the letters/numbers on the back of the paper ticket you were given. Groups are packed into elevators and brought up to Studio 8G for the show. At this point, you’re asked to power off your phone and put it away. Pictures from past SNL episodes, including one from Jason Bateman’s most recent appearance, line the hallway to the studio entrance. You’ll see the entrance to Studio 8H, home of SNL, as well.

3:30 pm

Studio audience is in place. Warm-up comedian comes out and outlines the rules for the taping and interacts with the crowd. I was pleasantly surprised to see the same warm-up comedian last week as I saw 7 years ago, Ryan Reiss. Enjoyed him so much the first time, we made a special trip to Dangerfield’s comedy club while we were here to see him perform. Seth comes out just before the taping begins to say hello, welcome us to the show, and chat for a minute.

4 pm

Taping starts. This goes pretty much how you would expect, given what you see on TV. There was a segment on the show last week that required guest Alana Haim to go into the audience to ask some trivia questions about her band. What the final show didn’t include was that there were a couple of people who answered questions incorrectly before we got to the winner. And for the one audience member who was so excited to meet Alana but didn’t correctly answer the trivia question, Seth grabbed a cue card and had Alana sign it before giving it to the young lady in the audience. Loved that so much! Before taping the final segment, Seth took some questions from the audience.

5:15 pm

Taping ends, and the audience is brought back down the elevators and out through the gift shop. You also receive a 10% off coupon for merchandise for attending the taping. So save any purchases for after the show.

And that’s a wrap! Hope you’ve been inspired to check out one of these free TV talk show tapings. It’s such a fun and unique thing to do, and you never know just who or what you’ll see!

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