Saturday Night Live: audience members paid to comply with safety guidelines

Saturday Night Live returned for its 46th season premiere last Saturday and it did so in front of a live audience, albeit, scaled back a bit from its normal attendance. All safety protocols were met by cast, crew, and audience members but those in the audience were surprised by the end of taping that they were ultimately paid for their time.

Twitter user Sean Ludwig posted images of himself and friends waiting in line to get into the Saturday Night Live season 46 premiere. All of the guests waiting in line from his images are pictured wearing masks as they wait to get into the live taping, which featured Chris Rock as host, Megan Thee Stallion as the featured musical guest, and Jim Carrey, who has signed on to play Joe Biden this season. Once allowed into the building, Ludwig and the rest of the audience had to get their temperatures checked, and then they were seated in a socially distanced manner.

Sean Ludwig went on to say that when the live taping was completed, each audience member was given a check for $150, which was a complete shock to everybody since it was not announced beforehand. Ludwig said, “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.” As of this writing, neither NBC nor SNL have commented on this workaround, so it’s unclear if this is a practice they will continue for the future season 46 tapings. You can see Ludwig’s pictures on his Twitter post below:

Ludwig is likely not wrong about his assessment in regards to why this was done. The move was made to evade New York’s reopening guidelines. As the public health crisis starts to see more flare-ups, live television shows are only allowed to have members of the working crew in their audiences. Even then, only about 25% of the normal amount of people watching, which would be around 100 for SNL, are allowed to sit in the audience. New York’s health department announced earlier this week that SNL had followed proper guidelines by paying the audience as employees. Audience members were able to register for tickets through the website 1iota, which asked prospective guests to request up to 9 tickets for people who were within their trusted social circles. Also, a good number of the tickets were given to health care workers, who were given a big shoutout during the season 46 premiere. Chris Rock mentioned the first responders in his opening monologue, stating, “They’re so good, we let people die tonight so they could see a good show.”

It’s unclear if SNL will continue this practice or if it was just done for the season premiere. A show like SNL thrives on audience response so I wouldn’t be surprised if this workaround was continued to be used so that the variety sketch series could still get the much-needed energy it requires from the live audience responding to their jokes. As of now, the show seems to be compliant with guidelines and they have not been reprimanded by the Department of Health in New York.

Do YOU think Saturday Night Live should continue this practice?

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