How to score a seat in a studio audience

March 10, 2012

Did Jimmy Fallon’s “Late Night” tapings from Hilbert Circle Theatre during Super Bowl week in Indianapolis make you want to be a part of other studio audiences?

One of the often-ignored free pleasures of travel to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles is the chance to attend tapings of the shows you otherwise see only from your living room. But whether it’s a coveted spot at “The Daily Show” or a seat for you and your kid at a Disney Channel sitcom, you should know that each potential seat comes with its own rules.

Before we get to specific shows, though, here are some things to keep in mind:

• The further ahead you know about your trip, the better your chances of finding a desirable show to see.

• All tickets to TV tapings are free.

• Admission is never guaranteed, even with passes, so you’ll need to arrive early.

• Occasionally shows cancel because of illness or other out-of-control factors.

• Every show has an age limit. Minimum age for “Wheel or Fortune,” for instance, is 8. Score a ticket to “Two and a Half Men” and you won’t get in if you are under 18.

• Plan to leave mobile phones and other electronic devices in your car.

• Game shows often tape more than one episode in a day. “Let’s Make a Deal,” for instance, does two—and gives you a one-in-18 chance of being selected to play.

• Make sure not to wear clothing with visible logos. TV show producers don’t like to give out free advertising.

• Take granola bars or other keep-you-going snacks.

Los Angeles

studio 2 Broke Girls In the house: Tickets to most of the sitcoms get distributed early, as much as a year in advance. And be mindful of age limits: many require you to be 18 to attend. (Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. ©2011 Warner Bros. Television)

If you are visiting Los Angeles, start with a trip to seat-filling sites audiencesunlimited.com and/or TVtix.com. A quick click in early February showed tickets available at Audience Unlimited to “Dr. Phil” and “America’s Funniest Videos,” but with most of the sitcoms (“The Big Bang Theory,” “2 Broke Girls,” etc.), tickets were already distributed.

“Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy tickets are downloadable as are dress-rehearsal seats for “Real Time with Bill Maher.” If you find something that works with your schedule, a few clicks will allow you to print out your own tickets.

If you plan on traveling to Los Angeles in January or February (and who wouldn’t want to do that?), consider tickets to a TV pilot. These are single episodes created to try out series that may or not make it onto the network schedules. No, you don’t get the bragging rights of, say, a seat at “How I Met Your Mother,” but you do get a chance to see something fresh.

Sitcom pilots for the 2012 season included “American Judy” with actress Judy Greer (“The Descendants”), and “Downwardly Mobile” with a reunited Roseanne Barr and John Goodman.

If you don’t find what you like at these sites, check with the individual network’s website, each of which has its own process.

Didn’t do any pre-planning? Studio-audience wranglers can often be found recruiting on Hollywood Boulevard. If you are tempted, just make sure to ask how long the taping runs and where the taping is being held. You probably don’t want to give up your day to attend a local talk show.


The holy grail of studio audience tickets in Chicago used to be “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” But even though Oprah is out of daily daytime TV, she still dominates: In order to be in the studio audience for “The Rosie Show,” you have to sign up to be a member of Oprah.com. From there, you put in your requests and wait out the results of a lottery.

No luck there? Then you could be part of an audience of your peers for “Judge Mathis” (www.judgemathistv.warnerbros.com).

New York

If you are in New York and want to add TV shows to your tourist mix, you could join the rabble outside of “The Today Show.” But the more coveted spots are in seats at late-night shows or daytime talk shows.

The wait, here, though, can be significant. If you don’t know a year in advance when you’ll be in Manhattan, you may have to scratch “Live with Kelly” off of your to-do list. Tickets to “The Late Show with David Letterman” are filled far in advance as well, although hardcore fans can try the box-office lottery or gamble on the stand-by line at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Check each program’s website for details.

To try for tickets to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” or “The Colbert Report,” sign up on the website for each show and you’ll get e-mail notices of future ticket availability (no, this isn’t particularly helpful if you are only going to New York on specific dates).

Dreaming of “Saturday Night Live”? The show has a once-a-year lottery in August for tickets to both the show itself and the dress rehearsal (where you have a chance of seeing sketches that don’t make the cut).

Of course, there’s also “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” tickets to which you’ll actually have a chance of scoring if you put in your request more than a month ahead of time.

And if worse comes to worse, consider a trek 45 minutes out of New York to Connecticut, where “Jerry Springer” tapes on Mondays and Tuesdays. Just watch out for flying chairs.•


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