November 13, 2006

Interview: Louis Klein, audience member of nearly every episode of Saturday Night Live

(The fourth in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.)

Fifteen years ago, I spent a Friday night camped out on the mezzanine level of 30 Rockefeller Center, hoping to get one of the standby tickets to Saturday Night Live that are handed out on Saturday mornings. The line forms at around 8:00 Friday night. That’s when I met Louis Klein, the SNL fan who had seen almost every episode of Saturday Night Live in person, going back to the very first episode.

Last Friday, I decided to go back to the SNL Standby Line and see if Louis was still waiting in line to get his ticket. In the years since I camped out there, the line had moved from the warmth of the indoor mezzanine to the chill of 49th street, but Louis was still there, right behind a group of teenagers who beat him to the first spot (one of the teens asked about my website, “Ironic Sans? Does it have anything to do with Horatio Sanz?”). When Louis stands in line these days, he is accompanied by his wife Jamie, whom he met on-line around six years ago. And by “on-line” I mean on the internet, not the standby line.

I spoke with Louis about his SNL Standby hobby.

When Saturday Night Live started, nobody knew it was going to be a big hit. Why did you go to the first episode of a new show that nobody really knew?

Louis Klein
Louis Klein with his wife Jamie
Prior to SNL, I was going to a lot of game shows. Like, I watched the game show called Jackpot, which was done in Studio 8H prior to SNL. It ended its run in the summer of ‘75, hosted by Geoff Edwards. I was also going to the Pyramid — any one of them, whether it was 10, 20, 25, 100 thousand, 2 cents, you know, whatever it was. I went to all of them over at TV-15 which doesn’t exist anymore. Any game shows that were done here, if any, I went to them also. So I was notorious as far as NBC was concerned. They knew who I was because I went to all the shows.

Then in April of ‘75 I found out that the show SNL was coming up, so I went to the Guest Relations department and said I hear you’re doing this show. They said, Well, they want 500 people in 8H. They want to do a show that’s going to be a run through for sound purposes. We’re going to have an audience for that, and you can float around the building and find somebody who’s going to give out standby tickets. So I come over here right after work, and I found the standby ticket and I got it and I went inside and I stood in line.

I got upstairs. I saw a full fledged comedy routine by George Carlin. I saw a full fledged comedy routine by Billy Crystal. I saw performances by Janis Ian and Billy Preston. I saw comedy by the Not Ready for Prime Time Players including Jon Belushi and Gilda Radner among others. Now that’s three and a quarter hours of pure entertainment for free. And I could come back tomorrow night. And I did. And I got in a second time. I came back the following week and I didn’t get into the second show but I wasn’t going to give up at this point. This is a great thing to do on a Saturday night. I went to the third show, I got in, and in the first 5 years I’ve seen 59 out of 106 [episodes].

At what point did you realize it was turning into something you were making a regular routine?

I never really thought of it that way at that particular time. It was just something to do on a Saturday night. I just came over. If I got in, I got in. If I didn’t, I went home.

My memory from meeting you 15 years ago was that you had seen every episode live except for a few. But I guess you’ve missed more than that.

In the first 5 years I’d seen 59 out of 106. So I missed 47 shows then. To date I’ve missed I think 83. That means in the last 27 years I’ve missed 36 shows.

How many have you seen?

This is my 528th show.

The original producer, Lorne Michaels, is still with SNL. But he left the show for a few years in the middle. So is there anyone who outnumbers you in the number of shows attended?

Don Pardo. He only missed one year. It was the ‘81 season.

How come after all this time you still have to wait in the Standby Line? Why don’t they just give you season tickets?

They do. I’ve had season tickets since 1990.

But you just enjoy the Standby?

When they gave that to me, they asked me to do Standby anyway, just in case the tickets didn’t come through. So I have the standby tickets to back it up. However I never needed them, and now I just walk in. But I still do standby because I’m helping NBC out watching this, make sure people don’t jump and things like that. It helps them out. If something goes wrong they know that I’ll take care of it. And then I give the details to them later in the evening. If they have to do something about it they’ll do something.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen go wrong while on standby?

Jumping the line, and having people join the line. That’s a no-no, because basically the people who are joining are jumping the line. Once somebody tried to get me off the line. This was for the Soundgarden and Jim Carrey episode. We were all standing inside because there was nobody out here, and then all of a sudden somebody let me know that somebody was out here and so I came out, and he was standing over by the pole over here, two guys, and I said all the standbys are inside. He said, Oh, I’m sorry. This is where the line is and I’m going to be number one and two. Well I said, No, I’m number one. He says no, we’re going to be number one. And he argued with me all night at this pole. And I was a little perturbed about it because they weren’t really nice about the whole thing. Well when they didn’t take any standbys for the dress rehearsal, these two guys nearly blew their top to NBC. They said, A standby got upstairs! So NBC checked to see if any standby tickets were upstairs, but I went up on my regular ticket. Little did they realize, I went to the party that night!

Do you get to go the after-party often?

Only the season finale, if they ask. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

When I was here 15 years ago, the line was inside. When did they move it outside?

‘93. Letterman was still here at the time, and according to what I’ve heard, somebody did damage to the building inside in the mezzanine. So Rockefeller Center said no you can’t be up here anymore, because they have to protect their tenants. And as a result all the lines were put outside. The line started at that time on this side of the building. And then NBC put it on the 50th street side because the Rainbow Room was complaining that we look like homeless people. Now we’re back on this side. We’d love to be inside the building again. They’ve got plenty of room on hand. But that’s not going to happen.

I seem to remember that 15 years ago you told me Tim Kazurinsky mentioned your name during a Weekend Update segment.

No, no. Not Weekend Update. It was in a sketch that he did. The Guru sketch. His name was Havnagootiim Vishnuuerheer [pronounced “havin’-a-good-time wish-you-were-here”]. What he was doing was he was answering Unanswered Questions of the universe. So he invited everybody in the country to write in unanswered questions that they had, and he picked one of mine, and all of a sudden I’m at dress rehearsal and he says, “Louis Klein from Ridgewood New York wants to know, does God wear Pajamas when he sleeps?”

And what was the answer?

The Guru says, “No he doesn’t. All he wears is a t-shirt. and on the t-shirt it says I created the universe and all I got out of it was this lousy t-shirt.” That was a Flip Wilson show in December ‘83.

Did they mention your name on any other episodes?

Yes, they did. And Jamie too. This was in April of 2004. Will Ferrel was the host. And he was doing the Pepper Sketch, where Will was putting pepper on Will Forte’s salad. And the character’s name was Dr. Louis something, and his wife Jamie. In honor of my 500th show.

Who was the writer that wrote you into the script?

Will Forte.

Have you seen “Studio 60” and Tina Fey’s new show “30 Rock”?

I have.

What do you think?

They’re both great.

Which do you like better?

Oh I don’t know. I love Tina. I love Tracy [Morgan], too. And I relate more to 30 Rock than I do Studio 60 because of that. But I definitely like both shows.

Do you get to know the SNL cast members?

They all know me. They all come and say Hi. I’ve met most everybody. I was invited to the 25th anniversary show, and I went to that. I had to ask for a ticket, and they said that they already have a ticket for me. I was fairly shocked.

Do you have a favorite season of SNL? Or a least favorite season?

That’s a hard question. A favorite season? You know, I don’t remember what all the hosts and musical guests are, and it’s hard. I love them all. I mean, yes, you’re going to have somebody that doesn’t do too well, especially sports figures. I mean, if you want a show that I thought the host was terrible, okay, um… uh… there was… uh… I can’t even say that. I mean, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

Thanks, Louis! As I packed up my notes and my recorder, Louis pointed out that he would be there for several more hours if I had any further questions. And if you have any questions, I’m sure you can find Louis exactly where I did, near the front of the Standby Line outside Rockefeller Center on Friday nights.

[The preceding transcript has been edited for space and clarity].


I’d just like to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog. I think Ironic Sans is an example of what all blogs should inspire to be, instead of teenagers griping about school or moms gossiping about television shows… haha.
Looking forward to more,

Interesting story! My boys and I met Louis and Jamie when we went to wait in line for SNL tickets! I had heard about Louis and Jamie before we went, but I must admit they were not the couple I expect to see. We found them to be extremely helpful and they truely loved to tell us of their past SNL adventures!

Louis Klein is an evil person who spends his whole life obsessing over a line that he takes way too seriously.

He also enjoys harrassing people and making life miserable for others.

Good for him. Every year since 1990 I have contacted them in August for tickets, and I still haven’t gotten any tickets. Good for him. He seems like a decent fella.

I think I was there the night this interview was conducted. I was in line right behind Louis and Jamie. He takes the standby line very seriously but he does it with the best intentions. I was very grateful that he was there to enforce some rules because I can imagine there are a lot of people who would jump the line if given the opportunity. This was a really great interview. Louis is a really interesting fellow and his wife is very sweet. She’s got some great pics with celebrities that she’s happy to share with you if you’re nice!

I am going to NYC with some freinds in a couple of weeks, does anybody have any recommendations of what time to get in line for SNL standby tickets? Also is it better to get standby tickets for the dress rehersal or the live performance.

Louis Klien is an evin bastard and for the first time in his tyrannical career, WE WON.

hey any suggestions for getting tickets other than standing in line were going to New York in November:> Looking for any help..

I’d love to take my son to SNL for his graduation present. He’s been a fan since he was a little boy. I don’t know when to go, though, and we’ll have to wait until his high school wrestling season is over. Does anyone have any idea when would be the best time to go? And we’d LOVE to meet Louis.

I have just been informed that I have won 2 tickets to a show. I was ecstatic until I saw the date. They’re for Dec. 1 and I won’t be visiting NYC until Dec. 26-30. Is there anyway that these two tickets can be exchanged for 2 that will be taped on dec. 29th?

Darice, I will buy these off you! My boyfriend and I are going the weekend of Dec 1st and I would love to surprise him with these WITHOUT having to deal with standby!

Let me know!


WoW! What a great story. My wife and I
had the privilege of attending a live show. It was October 11 of 2003 and we won the tickets via the August lottery. Incidentally, it was the first time I had entered. Lucky me! Justin Timberlake was the host and musical guest. I too have been a fan since I was a child. I used to stay up late to watch at 10 years old. I am now 42. Anyway, I was in awe. Sitting in that historical place. It was a great show and the best part was being ushered out of the building after the show only to see the velvet ropes and the line of limos. We new something was up so we hung around. Turns out every cast member comes out of that door and it was great to meet all of them. I only wish I had a camera. If I’m lucky enough to be in NY again and attend the show, I’d love to meet Louis and Jamie and hopefully get to hear some of their stories and see some of their pictures.
SNL is truly a show worth seeing live over and over again as I’m sure Louis and Jamie would attest. Jamie, tell me about the after-parties!

Today is October 9, 2008. See my post above from September 16th. I once again have scored tix to snl via the lottery!
The show is November 1st and we’re totally psyched! I’m planning on looking for Lou and Jamie and hooking up for a good conversation. Guys, if we don’t see u in the stand-by line Friday morning, we’ll be on-line on Saturday.
I’ll look for you and introduce myself.
Please bring pics if you can. You guys are my heros! See ya Nov. 1st.
Don & Sharon

None of you should say two words to those people. They will start finding you online and stalk you to death, act like you’re their best friend, then find ways to get you in trouble if you don’t want to hang out with them. They are evil people and truly, pathetic.

Louis is the biggest bastard I have ever met and his retarded looking wife told me herself she only married him for his SNL tickets.

Why all the hate? Obviously they love SNL. What’s wrong with that?

lol… I remember seeing a taping of SNL back in 98. Yes, saw the infamous Louis. He acted like he owned the place, but I didn’t find him a bother.

Jamie, however, was especially a little odd. Before she hooked up with Louis, I know she used to send Chris Kattan letters and gifts and stuff, which was cute typical fan behavior at first. But she got all angry and pissed when he didn’t hold up a sign saying Thank You on air or something (like she had requested him to do in one of her letters). That angry side is always a red flag. It was a lil creepy. She mentioned all of this on all the fan boards, so everyone knew about her.

Then out of nowhere she moved from buttf!%k idaho (or wherever in the not-NY she was from) and was married to Louis within months. LMAO. It was so obvious so she could get into SNL every week and get all touchy-feely with the cast. I found the whole thing to be weird and hilarious at the same time. I still think it is. I’m giggling right now as I type this.

I just looked them up because we were watching SNL tonight and I was telling my boyfriend about this crazy chick who moved to NY and married this crazy old dude so she could get into SNL… and they’re still here, still at it. I can’t believe it… and yet I can.

Whatever makes em happy I guess!.. I think these two were made for each other. The whole thing is such a ball of weird, it couldn’t happen to anyone else. I want to see an NBC movie of the week on them. It would be f’n entertaining. It’s such a bizarre story that goes beyond this cute article.

But ya.. If they’re happy and not creepishly stalking the actors outside of work, then I guess there is no harm done. It’s just such an odd tale.