By Kara Hackett
Louis and Jamie Klein of Ridgewood, N.Y., are popular on Saturday nights at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the studio home of comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL).
“One time when Jamie and I walked into the building, Jimmy Fallon left a whole crowd of people and gave her hug,” Louis says, smiling at his wife of 11 years.
Louis, 64, became the first SNL “superfan” granted permanent tickets by show producer Lorne Michaels in October 1990. The former accountant in Yonkers, N.Y., has attended almost every taping since SNL’s first episode on Oct. 11, 1975. The 37th season finale on Saturday, May 19, was his 666th show.
“They remember me by name,” Louis said. Every week his tickets are on the back bench in front of the band. “If I don’t show up now, they ask me why.”
But Louis and Jamie weren’t always popular. As children and young adults, classmates ridiculed them. Louis has cerebral palsy, and Jaime was born without ears.
The couple met in 1999 when Jamie, 36, a longtime SNL fan, e-mailed Louis about a letter she wrote for SNL cast member Chris Kattan. Louis doesn’t deliver letters to cast members, but he took pity on Jamie because she said it was her fourth attempt to contact Kattan.
“I thought she was 16,” Louis said.
Hoping to console a heartbroken teen, he asked for permission to call Jamie, and on Jan. 23, 2000, the couple spoke for the first time.
“The entire call was geared toward me,” Louis said. “So I asked for a second call.”
Two days later, the couple talked on the phone for five hours.
Jamie told Louis about her birth defect, and the two bonded over how they once endured scorn because of their disabilities.
“I told her, ‘Welcome to the club,'” Louis said.
When the couple married in 2001, the show’s producers extended Louis’s permanent seating privileges to his bride.
Today, Louis and Jamie bypass the standby line fans form on 49th Street as early as Thursday, waiting for tickets distribution at 7 a.m. Saturday. But the Kleins still take the M train to Manhattan early on Friday afternoons to talk with friends.
Christopher Bligh of Staten Island, N.Y., was in line at noon Thursday, May 17. Louis convinced Bligh to attend SNL in 2007. The 2012 season finale was his 68th episode.
“When you go to the first show you realize it’s different,” Bligh said. “You want to come as many times as you can.”
One of Louis’ favorite shows featured Alec Baldwin and Christina Aguilera in November 2006. His favorite sketch is Anna Faris’s “Tell Him,” which aired in October 2011 and features Faris trying to teach women to attract men by pretending to like video games and dislike children.
“The comedy has changed,” Louis said when asked about the show’s progression over the years. “They’re more politically oriented now, but I don’t get much involved in that.”
The most recent show Louis and Jamie missed was a live filming of NBC sitcom’s 30 Rock on April 26.
“We try not to let them down, but we were at Disney,” Louis said.
Next to SNL, Disney World is one of the Klein’s favorite places. They spent 10 days at the Orlando, Fla. park on their honeymoon in 2001.
“She never wants to leave,” Louis said of Jamie.
As Louis sits in his blue scooter outside the standby line Friday, he brushes Jamie’s hair away from her forehead, revealing a headband hearing aid attached to a small box clipped to the waistband of her jeans. The box, called a Blue Rollator, picks up sound vibrations she can hear.
“She’s had some reconstructive surgery,” Louis said. “Now she hears some things better than I can.”
Louis mentions one of Jamie’s favorite SNL moments with Paul McCartney in November 2006. She giggles and pulls out an iPhone in a blue case, shyly showing her picture under the Beatle’s arm.
But Louis treats celebrities like normal people because he knows what it feels like to be different.
“I talk to them like I talk to anyone else,” Louis said. “They appreciate that.”
Kara Hackett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.