Saturday Night Live paid audience members like they were a part of the show’s crew over the weekend. 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.
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 are pictured wearing masks and they all seem to be very excited to see Chris Rock return to the show, along with musical guest Megan Thee Stallion 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 over, 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 or SNL have commented on this workaround, so it’s unclear if this is a practice they will continue for the future season 46 tapings.
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. The event page for SNL has since been taken down without an explanation. A spokesman for the state health department, Jonah Bruno, said, “There is no evidence of noncompliance, but if any is discovered, we will refer that to local authorities for follow-up.”
While NBC and SNL did not comment on the paid audience members, a spokeswoman for the show did confirm that they were “working closely with the Department of Health and following all of their guidelines.” It is unclear how many audience members were paid, but it has been reported that 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.” The New York Times was the first to report this story.