NBC initially announced Jay Leno’s final five-year contract as The Tonight Show host back in October 2004. As my daughter prepared to graduate from high school with the class of 2007, she announced, “Mom, Jay is retiring in 2009! It’ll be like graduation – He won’t be on The Tonight Show any more. I’ll bet there’s a long waiting list for tickets, but can we try?”
“Hey!” I thought, “My kid wants to be in the presence of a celebrity who doesn’t use foul language or drugs, and is known as an all-around pleasant person! This is a memory worth making! “
Before my next breath, I had a calendar in one hand and a pen in the other. My teenager and I became experts on the quest to be in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’s live audience before he retired. We usually watched the Friday night show, and sometimes recorded others on TiVo when a guest of special interest might be on. We often saw the show’s reminder to “write-in for free tickets.” So my teenager and I expertly joined together, and created a successful plan and experience as audience members of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. You can too, but time is running out!
How Can You Become An Audience Member of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno? Let Us Count the Ways:
One: Follow the guidelines at www.tonightshowinfo.com exactly as directed. Don’t forget to include the self-addressed-stamped-envelope. Make sure your request is at least six weeks away from the date you mail it. If you followed their directions correctly, and tickets are available for one of the three dates you selected, then the tickets will arrive by mail about two weeks before the date of the show. Tickets are always free. They really are free – no strings attached.
Two: If possible, make your first choice of date to see the show fall on a Friday. There really isn’t a bad day of the week to be in The Tonight Show live audience. However, teenagers are all about Friday nights. The Tonight Show films at about four o’clock in the afternoon, but it’s still Friday to your teenagers. We selected a Friday as our first choice, and were granted that request. My teenagers were thrilled!
Three: NBC Studios has a minimum age limit of 16 years old and checks identification cards in the security processing in the studio lines on the day of taping. They are very serious about the age limit. Our cards were checked in two different security stops in line.
Four: If you do not live in the Los Angeles, California area, you’ll need at least one night’s lodging. I recommend the Best Western Media Center Inn & Suites: 3910 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA. 91505, Phone 818-842-1900, www.bestwesterncalifornia.com. It is just a three to five minute drive from the inn to NBC, by taking a right from the Best Western onto Riverside Drive, then a left onto Bob Hope Blvd., where you can park all day for free between certain signs. From there it is an easy walk up to Alameda Drive, and follow the directions that come with your tickets to the walk-up check-in/ticket area around the outskirts of NBC property. Just when you think you have walked too far, then you have come upon the check-in area.
Five: Teenagers like to be front and center, so plan to be at NBC early. The taping might begin at four o’clock in the afternoon, however, your teen hopes the cameras might catch a glimpse of them. That means you will be in line between eight and ten o’clock in the morning. When the pages split the lines up, hours later, keep your fingers crossed you are in the lucky mini-line that ends up in first two or three seat rows, where the best chance of camera-time might be.
One person who had hoped to come with us, did not get to come, so we had an extra ticket. If you find yourself in the same situation, bring that spare ticket with you. Invariably, folks will show up with the dreaded stand-by tickets. Stand-by tickets do not get into see Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. Make someone’s day by giving them that extra ticket you got in the mail. Please just give it to them. You got it for free. Don’t try to scam Jay’s fans.
Six: Introduce yourself to Glozell. She is the unofficial goodwill ambassador of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. You will spot her right away. She will be in the eight o’clock line, wearing a scarf and sweater, and have a beautiful, long, dark sea of individual braids surrounding her infectious smile. She’s also the one person taking notes on every conversation around her – always in a nice way.
She has attended the Jay Leno Tonight Show tapings for well over 200 shows in a row. Don’t be surprised if she takes your picture. She posts an amazing daily blog all about The Tonight Show, sharing her insights on the guests, crew, pages, people waiting in line with her, and Jay! Glozell welcomes each person to the line, and if they have a stand-by only ticket, she tries to help them have a successful Tonight Show experience without too much frustration or getting scammed.
She gives freely of her time, and without her guidance, many folks would walk away from standing in line for six hours at Burbank’s NBC studios with nothing but disappointment and bad things to say about trying to be part of The Tonight Show experience. Nervous parents with excited teenagers particularly appreciate Glozell’s calming presence. Make a point to meet her. The day after the show, be sure to check out her blog at glozelllovesjayleno.blogspot.com.
Seven: Have fun while you wait. Bring a deck of cards, an iPod, or Zune, or even the latest J.K. Rowling book to read. The hours in line will fly by, if you and your teenagers stay occupied.
Choza Mama Cafe, across the street, is clean and has restrooms, so take turns leaving the line to use the bathroom and eat lunch there. Choza Mama’s roasted chicken is delicious and cheap! We were told on experienced authority that the gas station across the way charges coinage to use their bathroom and “You’ll catch something in there.”
Eight: Time flies when you’re having fun, and The Tonight Show taping is a blast. Jay is still very much the stand-up comedian, appearing in his favorite denim shirt and jeans a few minutes before taping begins. He invites audience questions and gets the audience in on his monologue. To beef-up the live taping, Jay quips, “Please laugh during the monologue, or the guests might get scared to come out!”
Nine: Sit back and enjoy being part of this experience in live American television iconic history. The Tonight Show was the first network television talk show. It has been around for over 52 years. Each host has brought his own unique style to the life of the show. Jay Leno’s hosting is an experience not to be missed, and without careful planning now, you’ll miss out. Make a celebrity memory with your teenager that’s worth making – Remember: The tickets are free!