Seeing Stars: Free Tickets to Studio Tapings

(taped live at NBC Studios)
3000 W. Alameda Avenue,
Burbank, CA. / (818) 840-3537

In April of 2013, NBC announced that they were replacing host Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon, and that they would be moving The Tonight Show from Burbank to New York.

So, Southern Californians will no longer be getting tickets to these tapings.

(And Jimmy Kimmel should inherit most of the Los Angeles celebrity guest list, since his show is taped in Hollywood.)

I will leave this page up for a while, for those interested in reading about the show,  but bear in mind that it was written when Jay was still the host.

When most people come to NBC Studios, it's not to take the studio tour, but because they want to be a member of the studio audience of "The Tonight Show", starring Jay Leno.

(Following NBC's brief experiment with Conan O'Brien in the "Tonight Show" chair, Jay is back behind the desk.)

Not that long ago, of course, that was "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson". And before that, Jack Paar and Steve Allen were hosts. The Tonight Show is the longest-running network entertainment program, having originally debuted in 1954.

Not only will you see Jay live, but you also have a chance to see movie & TV stars in person, plugging their latest releases. Perhaps Bill Cosby or Jerry Seinfeld will be doing a stand-up comedy routine. Or you may even get to hear your favorite group perform a live musical number.

You also have the opportunity to watch all of the behind-the-scenes action at the studio, without commercials or editing. (Admit it, haven't you ever wondered what goes really goes on when they cut away for a commercial? Why was the audience laughing when they returned from that break? What did Robin Williams really say when the censor bleeped him?)

Although the "Tonight Show" airs locally at 11:35 PM (on KNBC, Channel 4), the show is actually taped much earlier on the same day, usually from 5 PM to 6 PM, Tuesday through Friday on most weeks. Doors open at 4 PM. (And occasionally the show tapes even earlier.)

You'll want to pick up your tickets early (the office opens at 8 AM), and be in line at least an hour or two before the doors open at 4 PM, especially during the summer months, when the lines of tourists can be long indeed. And if a popular rock star happens to be performing on the show that night, you can expect the star's teenage fans to camp out in line early to see their idol in the flesh. Bear in mind that they distribute more tickets than they have seats, and just because you have a ticket, that doesn't mean you're guaranteed a seat. Show up early, and you shouldn't have any problems, particularly in non-summer months.

The line forms outside the main studio lobby, on the north side of NBC Studios. When the doors open, walk to Studio 3, where the "Tonight Show" is taped. There are only about 400 seats in the studio, steeply sloped. They are comfortable, padded seats, similar to those found in movie theatres, but there isn't much leg room. The best seats (the ones closest to the desk and the famous guest couch) go first to VIP's, then next to those first in line. Those farther back in line end up at the top of the studio audience seating, where the view is less than perfect.

Tickets to live tapings of the "Tonight Show" are available in-person from the NBC Ticket Counter, on the actual day of taping.

You never know who you might see on the "Tonight Show." Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have appeared with Carson and Leno over the years: superstar actors, renowned comics, even Presidential candidates.

For instance, in February 2009, guests included Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz, Bill Cosby, Drew Barrymore, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Charlie Sheen, Anne Hathaway, Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Dennis Miller, Paula Abdul, Frank Langella, Anne Lennox, Serena Williams, Bill Maher, Meredith Vieira, Simon Baker and Chris Isaac.

Yet on some days, the Tonight Show's guests are only minor celebrities.

So, before you go to pick up your "Tonight Show" tickets in person, first call (818) 840-3537 and listen to the recording to find out about the taping schedule, and which celebrities will be Jay's guests. Ot just go to the show's online calendar by clicking here. Check frequently, until you learn they've booked one of your favorite celebs. (You can also try just checking the TV Guide listings for upcoming guests.) Schedules of tapings are not known until about one month in advance.

Locals can't get tickets to the Tonight Show in advance, only on the actual day of the taping.

Once you've decided when you want to attend, come to the NBC Ticket Office, on the day of the taping. The office is open from 8 AM to 4 PM weekdays (hours vary on weekends, depending upon their taping schedule - they don't tape every day). There used to be a parking lot off Bob Hope Drive (in the southwestern corner of the studio), but apparently that's no longer open to the public. You have to find a parking spot on surrounding the streets now, then follow the yellow fence (in that parking lot) around back, to the guest relations office, on the west side of the studio.

If you live more than 150 miles away, you are allowed write for tickets by mail. At least six weeks in advance, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

    The Tonight Show Tickets
    3000 W. Alameda Ave.
    Burbank, CA 91523.

Tell them which date you'd prefer, and list three alternate dates.

Studio audience members must be at least 16 years of age or older to attend a taping (this age limit is strictly enforced for The Tonight Show, ID is required). No cameras or cellular phones allowed at the tapings.

Remember: in summer, there is a long wait in line to get in; most days, the doors open at 4 PM, and taping begins at 5 PM. You must arrive no later than 3:45 PM.

(See separate page about NBC Studios for directions.)

[You can access the Tonight Show's official website at]

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