At the beginning of November, I sat anxiously at my work computer waiting for the clock to hit 11:30am. I was trying to get tickets to the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and I didn’t want to miss my shot since I wanted this to be part of my Christmas present to my mom. By some stroke of luck, a few weeks later I received an email with the subject: Tonight Show Ticket Request Status Update. I logged on and saw that I was moved from the waitlist and was issued a voucher for the show. I was definitely lucky since this was the first time I tried getting tickets to the Tonight Show. And I’ve got to say, this was the best free show I’ve ever been to! Here’s everything I learned from my Tonight Show experience.
How to Get Ticket to the Tonight Show
NBC does a good job of detailing exactly what you need to know about the ticketing process here.
Basically, when you try to get tickets online, you aren’t actually signing up for the tickets themselves. You are signing up for a virtual waitlist. If you are selected, you’ll be contacted by the Tonight Show about two weeks before the show. New dates for the show go up a month ahead of time. For example, the waitlist for December tapings went live at the beginning of November. Check @FallonTix the first week of the month to see what day the waitlist will be up. If you check the site before that time, all you’ll see is a full month of sold-out shows.
Once you know the date of the ticket release, sign-up for an account at 1iota. Make sure to have this set ahead of time so it will be easier to log-in and request tickets when they are released. You also have to provide a snippet about why you want to go to the show. You may want to type that up ahead of time so you can quickly copy and paste your response. There are two ticket options: Monologue Rehearsal and the Tonight Show. If you’re looking to see the full show, make sure to click Tonight Show. You cannot attend both on the same day.
The day the ticket waitlists go live, you have to click through as fast as you can. I’ve heard of people not even being able to access the site because it’s so busy. If you get your name on a waitlist, this doesn’t guarantee tickets to the show. If you are selected, you will hear from the Tonight Show about two weeks before the show. You can then sign on, fill in the information for your guests, and print your voucher. The hardest part is over, but the voucher for tickets does not actually guarantee that you will get into the show…stressful, right?
The Tonight Show Logistics
Since we planned a trip to New York City specifically to see the Tonight Show, we knew we had to get there early to make sure we got into the show. The voucher said the process starts at 3:45pm but recommended arriving 30 minutes earlier. We arrived at the 50 West 50th Street entrance of 30 Rock at about 2:45pm. When you enter, head to the right and you’ll see an NBC page (a real life Kenneth!) standing guard in front of the NBC Studios sign. Basically you aren’t allowed to loiter here until they’re ready to line you up. While it indicates a 3:15pm arrival time on the ticket, they let us congregate around 3:00pm and actually let us up the stairs at 3:05pm. By the time we were upstairs and they checked our voucher, we were about tenth in line.
Pages then brought groups through the line to check IDs and hand out paper tickets. After this, we went through security and took a seat in the Peacock Lounge for about an hour. NBC Pages floated around answering questions. No photos are allowed once you get upstairs (they’re really serious about this) but the pages have iPads to take free souvenir photographs for you.
Ready for Showtime
The show was supposed to start at 5:00pm but they were running behind. They starting calling groups to head up to the studio by the letters or numbers written on the tickets. First were single letters, then double letters, then numbers. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how these numbers/letters were assigned but it must do with making sure groups sit together and fill the seats in an orderly fashion. I had a number on my ticket so I was in the last group to head up to the studio. It was nerve-wracking waiting in the lounge while everyone else was heading in since our tickets said that a ticket didn’t guarantee admission. Finally, around 5:00pm we were called up to Studio 6B.
We took the elevator up and were instructed where to sit. Most of the people in our line (people with numbers on their tickets) were put in the back rows. As a group of three, we were given three seats together a bit closer up on the side. The studios is pretty small at about 13 rows total so there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. We were in the 8th row and had a great view of the stage.
The opening comedian Seth Herzog came out to get everyone hyped up. The show was running behind so the Roots came out but didn’t have time to play anything. The last few people were seated in the audience about one minute before they started rolling. The last people in were from the standby line. They got in the standby line outside at 2:00am hoping for a chance to see the show. And it was the coldest day so far this year…that’s commitment!
After hours of waiting, the show started filming and Jimmy Fallon ran out with lots of energy. It was really exciting to see the opening monologue live. Before the show started they told us that the more noise you make, the more energy you’ll get back from Jimmy and the better the show will be. I definitely felt myself laughing, cheering, and clapping louder and louder as the show progressed. I felt like a Sim at a party! The show doesn’t use a laugh track or fake applause so the audience is all they’ve got.
The show itself is taped and edited, so it was interesting to see how this all worked. Reese Witherspoon came out first because she had a flight to catch. They taped her interview and then had Jimmy film her introduction after she left. It was weird pretending to clap for Reese when she wasn’t actually there! Watching the show back, they edited it so this interview wasn’t until much later in the show.
Next up was the 12 Days of Christmas Sweaters Giveaway where Jimmy picks a seat number and presents a heinous but hilarious Christmas sweater to an audience member. I was hoping it wouldn’t be me because I would be so nervous talking to him on camera. Luckily, I didn’t get picked.
After the sweater giveaway, Jimmy announced they were going to give away some more stuff. This time it was for the whole audience. I didn’t expect a giveaway so it was so exciting as he revealed what we would be going home with. Amazon gave the entire audience a $50 gift card, a one year subscription to Amazon Prime, a one year subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited, and an Amazon Echo! I wasn’t all that into the Amazon Echo from the commercials, but after setting it up, I’m obsessed. Alexa works flawlessly. Paired with Amazon Music, you can even say things like “Alexa, play that song with the lyrics ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’” and she gets it right every time!
Another highlight from the show was when Jimmy Fallon, Steve Higgins, Michael Che (from SNL), and Andrew Rannells (from Girls) played Virtual Reality Pictionary. This took a while to set up so Jimmy came out and answered questions for about twenty minutes. He did a really good job interacting with the audience between segments rather than sitting down or going backstage. It was fascinating to see what goes into the show. If Jimmy felt he could do something better, he’d yell cut and redo it. He also gave feedback to the producers when he felt something wasn’t working. From the audience you can see what’s being filmed on the monitors, but it was cool to watch the episode back and see how the final cut was edited.
We ended up getting out at 7:00pm instead of 6:15pm due to the late start and complicated sets for this episode. I didn’t mind the extra waiting because we had more time to hear from Jimmy Fallon. I highly recommend trying to get tickets to the Tonight Show if you are going to be in New York. Even if you aren’t a fan going in, I’m sure you will be one by the time the show wraps. It’s surreal that this experience is completely free. Seeing the show live gave me a greater appreciation for comedy and all the effort that goes into producing the show every weeknight. If you have a voucher for the show and are nervous about getting it, just make to sure to get there before 3:00pm and you should be fine.
Have you ever been to the taping of a TV show? Share your experience below!