New York City is well known as an expensive tourist destination, but there are actually many activities visitors can enjoy in the city without spending a penny. For one, a talk show! With their famous hosts, celebrity guests, and fancy theatres, it wouldn't be altogether surprising if tickets to these shows were as costly as a Hamilton ticket. However, it's completely free to attend—to get tickets, the only thing you need to invest is time. As long as you research the tapings you're interested in a month or two before your trip, you should be able to get seats.
Some are more popular than others and require more vigilant preparation (securing tickets for Last Week Tonight is like trying to get into a Rolling Stones concert), but if you plan carefully, you should be able to get yourself into at least a few of these shows. Just remember to check the mirror before you head to a taping—you could be on national television!
Here are 10 free talk shows to attend in New York City:
10 The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
Tickets to The Late Show usually become available about a month ahead of taping dates, but it's important to be aware that securing a ticket does not guarantee entry. The tapings are always overbooked, so guests must show up a few hours before showtime if they want to ensure entry. However, there are much worse ways to while away an afternoon than hanging out with a bunch of tourists from around the world on Broadway (and Stephen Colbert occasionally comes outside to provide refreshments). Once you're in, you'll be ushered into the theatre, and over the next couple hours, you'll get to see all the behind-the-scenes magic of late-night television while Stephen spearheads newsworthy events of the day. Plus, Colbert takes questions from the audience before the taping, and if you ask him about The Lord of the Rings, he will maintain eye contact for a good magical minute or two while delivering a TED Talk on Tolkien's legendarium (he's a big fan).
9 Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Last Week Tonight has become very hard to get tickets to, partly because it's so popular, and partly because there's only one taping per week. You'll need to be at your computer at a set date and time and be prepared to click that "Get Tickets" button like your life depends on it. But if you aren't able to secure tickets, don't lose hope. Sometimes, tickets become available on the day of the show, so be sure you're checking your email regularly.
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Witnessing the taping is a fascinating experience, and John Oliver takes questions before the show begins, so think about what you might want to ask!
8 The Daily Show With Trevor Noah
After Jon Stewart retired from The Daily Show, Trevor Noah took the reins and made the show his own. Born in South Africa, Noah is unique amongst late night hosts and offers a more global perspective than his American and British contemporaries. Tickets can be attained online a month ahead of tapings, but to guarantee a seat, guests need to show up at the venue early to wait in line.
Between segments, Noah often takes questions from and converses with the audience, and discussions may cover anything from the latest election news to dinosaurs. Sometimes, these dialogues are posted online, so if you ask a question, don't be surprised if you pop up on YouTube afterwards!
7 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon has been a star of late night television for years, addressing audiences every weeknight from New York City's iconic Rockefeller Centre. His show features comedy sketches, celebrity interviews, and popular games, with A-list stars stopping by every week to discuss their latest projects. Tickets are difficult to attain, but it is possible, and like with most other shows, ticket holders should show up early if they hope to guarantee entry. Plus, with The Tonight Show, there's the added bonus of seeing The Roots perform live, an experience for which many would pay good money.
6 Live With Kelly And Ryan
Longtime television personalities Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest paired up in 2017 to co-host the show Live with Kelly and Ryan. During tapings, the two discuss everything from their own lives to the happenings of the day, and their conversations often involve their celebrity guests. Tickets are available online, but be aware that this show is taped early in the morning, so for vacationers who are hoping to catch up on their Z's, one of the late night shows might be a better choice.
5 Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
As the first woman to host a late night satire show, Samantha Bee is one of the most distinct voices in late night comedy, using her sharp wit to cut bite-sized chunks out of the meaty issues of the day. The show tapes once a week on Wednesdays, and tickets are available online in the month prior. I requested and received my tickets on the day before a taping, so even if you're working with a last minute schedule, you may be able to get seats if luck's on your side!
4 The View
Hosted by a panel of five fierce ladies, The View is a talkshow consisting of celebrity interviews, musical performances, and discussions of the news. Conversations are organic and often, take unexpected turns. A daytime talk show, The View tapes in the morning and tickets are but a click away online. Although waking up to the jolting sound of your hotel alarm clock is not what most people want to do on vacation, it is well worth it to see The View tape, even if just to share space with the legendary Whoopi Goldberg.
3 Late Night With Seth Meyers
Combining comedy with discussions of current events, Seth Meyers has made a name for himself in late night television as a host who is unafraid to tackle serious issues head-on. His segment "A Closer Look" examines specific news stories in-depth for around 10 minutes, allowing for greater exploration of weighty topics than more traditional formats. Taped in Rockefeller Centre, attending the show will take guests into the heart of one of New York City's most historic buildings, and if you want to ask a question, Meyers hosts a Q&A before the show begins. Someone in the audience almost always asks him about the time he spent on Saturday Night Live, so you'll probably get to hear him tell a few stories about the shenanigans he and the cast got up to back in the day.
2 The Wendy Williams Show
On her daytime talk show, Wendy Williams interviews celebrities and discusses the latest news in entertainment and pop culture. Her distinct personality ensures no dull moments during tapings, and during the "Ask Wendy" segment, she offers her opinion on personal issues raised by audience members. Tickets are available online and tapings are held in the morning—but at 10 am, which is a bit more manageable for the night owls amongst us.
1 Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj
For half an hour every week, Hasan Minhaj explores topical issues in depth on his show Patriot Act, which aims to both educate and entertain audiences at the same time. As the first Indian-American comedian to host a late night show, Minhaj offers a unique perspective on world events and is helping to pave the way towards a more inclusive era in comedy. Tickets are available for both the rehearsals and live tapings, but they are difficult to attain. However, with a bit of persistence, you may be one of the lucky few who gets to see his sneaker choice of the week in person.