“Saturday Night Live” became the first TV show in New York to have a live studio audience for its season 46 debut by “casting” and then paying members of the audience.
Under the current reopening guidelines in the state of New York, TV shows “must prohibit live audiences unless they consist only of paid employees, cast, and crew,” per the New York Times in a piece published Tuesday.
In addition, if a show decides to create an audience out of its workers, that audience can be “no more than 100 individuals or 25 percent of the audience capacity, whichever is lower,” per Vulture. (RELATED: ‘Saturday Night Live’ From Home Scores Second-Highest Ratings This Season)
In order to follow state pandemic guidelines for live shows, #SNL is essentially treating a typical studio audience like its “employees” https://t.co/XBnMnt3nxC
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) October 6, 2020
On Monday, the state’s health department confirmed to the Times that the late-night sketch comedy show had followed the reopening guidelines by “casting” members of the live audience and paying them for attending. (RELATED: ‘SNL’ Star Michael Che To Pay Rent Of Grandmother’s Neighbors After She Died From COVID-19)
Ahead of the season debut, “SNL” created a page on a website called 1iota that screens audience members for programs like talk shows.
The page, which has since been taken down, listed various health requirements a person must undertake in order to see the show live.
Sean Ludwig, who attended the season premiere Saturday with seven of his friends, told the outlet that each of them received a check for $150 from Universal Television, a division of NBC’s parent company.
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
“We had no idea we would be paid before we were handed checks,” Ludwig shared. “We were all very pleasantly surprised.”
Ludwig said he and his friends had to take a rapid virus test and were asked to sign health forms stating that they did not have the coronavirus or hadn’t experienced any symptoms of the disease. Those forms also included that they hadn’t come into contact with anyone who had COVID-19 before they were allowed to attend the show.