Published Oct 06, 2020Last weekend, Saturday Night Live returned to Studio 8H in-person for the first time since early March and following a long and strange run of "At Home" virtual episodes in early pandemic days. This past Saturday's Season 46 taping even had its own audience consisting of distanced, masked fans. But in order to populate the studio in compliance with New York State COVID-19 restrictions, apparently, showrunners had to payroll attendees.
The New York Times reports that Universal Television cut a cheque for $150 USD for each attendee — as though they were cast as extras — in order to "prohibit live audiences unless they consist only of paid employees, cast and crew."
Ticketholders were not made aware ahead of time that they'd be receiving payment for their attendance, though everyone was subject to rapid coronavirus tests prior to entry.
"We had no idea we would be paid before we were handed checks," an audience member named Sean Ludwig told the publication. "We were all very pleasantly surprised."
Despite the obvious loophole exploitation, it appears showrunners acted within the safety boundaries outlined by the state.
"There is no evidence of noncompliance," a spokesman for the state health department, Jonah Bruno, told NYT, "but if any is discovered, we will refer that to local authorities for follow-up."
For its 46th season premiere, SNL brought Megan Thee Stallion in to perform as the musical guest. The episode was hosted by Chris Rock and saw an appearance by Jim Carrey for a presidential debate skit opposite Alec Baldwin.