Saturday Night Live PAID audience members $150 to attend the premiere in order to meet state requirements for only hired staff to be on the premises
- New York state guidelines only allow for ‘paid employees’ in a studio audience
- Saturday Night Live met these restrictions by paying audience members $150
- The show opened its 46th season this weekend, having not aired since March 7
Saturday Night Live paid audience members $150 to attend the season premiere in order to meet state coronavirus requirements of only allowing hired staff on the premises.
Audience members lucky enough to receive free tickets to the NBC show in New York where ‘hired’ as cast members on Saturday.
The show opened its 46th season this weekend, having not aired a new episode since March 7, but concerns were raised about how it would allow for its usual live audience.
New York state health guidelines only allow for ‘paid employees, cast, and crew’ in a studio audience.
Saturday Night Live paid audience members $150 to attend the season premiere in order to meet New York state requirements of only allowing hired staff on the premises
But the venerable show, which featured a cold open mocking last week’s presidential debate, met the restrictions by handing guests $150 checks as they left, much to their surprise.
Sean Ludwig, a freelance writer who runs a barbecue website and newsletter, attended the show with seven friends.
He Tweeted: ‘Had an incredible time tonight at Saturday Night Live.
‘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.’
He said he got the tickets via a website called 1iota, which screens audiences for talk shows and other events.
Sean Ludwig, a freelance writer who runs a barbecue website and newsletter, attended the event with seven friends
He and his friends were given a rapid virus test and asked to sign health forms indicating that they did not have Covid-19 or symptoms of the disease.
They also had to say they had not come into contact with anyone who had the virus before they were allowed to attend the show.
SNL has since taken down its 1iota page, but had asked applicants to request between seven and nine tickets for people whom they considered to be part of their ‘social bubble’.
A spokesperson for SNL said it was ‘working closely with the Department of Health and following all of their guidelines’.
The page’s coronavirus protocol stated all guests would be required to take a nasal antigen test upon arrival, with results available before the start of the show.
Guests were also required to wear a face covering at all times in the building and were asked a series of questions about potential coronavirus exposure.
SNL featured a cold open mocking the presidential debate last Tuesday. Pictured from left: Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, Jim Carrey as Joe Biden and Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris
Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher on arrival was asked to leave, along with everyone else in that person’s group.
The site made made no mention of any compensation for audience members, which led the state to issue a public warning through a spokesperson Thursday evening.
New York state guidelines released in June said: ‘Responsible Parties must prohibit live audiences unless they consist only of paid employees, cast, and crew.
‘Employees, cast and crew may make up a live audience of no more than 100 individuals, or 25 per cent the audience capacity, whichever is lower.
‘Live audiences must maintain social distance of at least six feet in all directions.’
But paying the audience members satisfied the state Department of Health that the show acted in accordance with its coronavirus rules.
Audience members lucky enough to receive free tickets to the NBC show in New York where ‘hired’ as cast members on Saturday. Pictured: Host Chris Rock in front of a section of health worker audience members
Health Department spokesman Jonah Bruno said: ‘SNL has confirmed that they followed the reopening guidance, including selecting audience members through a third-party screening and casting process and compensating them for their time as paid audience members.’
Last month, NBC confirmed SNL would return to its traditional live format, starting with the October 3 season premiere on Saturday, hosted by Chris Rock.
A section of the tickets were reserved for health workers, who sat in the front row during the show and received a shout out from the host.
In his opening monologue, Rock said: ‘They’re so good, we let people die tonight so they could see a good show.’
Usually SNL can fit around 300 people into the audience, so the show would only have been allowed to have around 75 people in the audience this weekend, costing NBC more than $10,000.
SNL is expected to air at least four more live episodes through the end of the month.