Saturday Night Live came back during the weekend to kick off its 46th season, but after months since COVID-19 ravaged New York, much has changed. To ensure that the in-studio production is adhering to state guidelines, audience members of the beloved late-night sketch series received a check for $150 to watch the show.
The New York times reported that SNL paid audience members to adhere to coronavirus guidelines noting that shows “must prohibit live audiences unless they consist only of paid employees, cast and crew.” By cutting audience members a check and essentially treating them as extras for their weekly sketch show, the NBC show safely brought back the live studio audience and continues to comply with state regulations.
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Fans obtained their tickets for the Saturday premiere, hosted by Chris Rock, through a third-party website called called 1iota. The Times reported that upon signing up for tickets audience members had to confirm that they did not have COVID-19 or experienced any symptoms indicative of the infectious disease. The website also laid out coronavirus precautions and encouraged audience members to keep their parties limited to those in their close social circle.
New York state also established that televisions shows that decide to make an audience out of its employees, can only limit the viewing capacity to 25 percent of its typical group and no more than 100 people.
“There is no evidence of noncompliance,” Jonah Bruno with the state’s health department told the Times.
While SNL did not disclose how much it was paying its audience members-turned-employees, those who did attend the live show, such as freelance writer Sean Ludwig, told the Times that he and his friends had each received a check for $150.
The season premiere, which also featured Megan Thee Stallion as the musical guest, showed a relatively smaller audience crowd than normal. Saturday Night Live’s next episode will see Bill Burr host and Morgan Wallen appear as musical guest.
Had an incredible time tonight at @nbcsnl. Here’s the kicker: we didn’t know it until after but we were PAID for our time, likely to meet New York State’s requirements for only paid staff to be in the audience pic.twitter.com/Qp3XmFBjLB
— Sean Ludwig (@seanludwig) October 4, 2020
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