How SNL Is Handling Live Audiences In Response To COVID Restrictions

Colin Jost and Michael Che on Saturday Night Live

At this point, it would be an understatement to say that television production has changed in the wake of COVID-19. Whether it be sitcoms or talk shows, every kind of TV show has somehow been affected by the global health crisis and is taking steps to install safety precautions for cast and crew members. Saturday Night Live, which is set to return to the studio for its newest season after finishing the previous one with “at home” episodes, is one of the shows that’s dealing with this new reality. And now, we have a better understanding of how the live audiences will be handled when the show kicks off from 30 Rockefeller Plaza this year.

Season 46 of Saturday Night Live kicks off this weekend with Chris Rock as host and Megan Thee Stallion as musical guest and, ahead of the debut episode, SNL has put a few new policies in place. One of these is that ticketed guests for the sold-out show will take a mandatory COVID-19 once they arrive. According to THR, the “self-administered lower nasal antigen test” will produce results before showtime. Guests will also undergo temperature checks and will be required to wear the appropriate masks while in the building.

The new guidelines also require that any attendee with a temperature of 100.4 or higher be denied admittance to the show. Anyone attending with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 will also be denied admission.

In addition, guests will also be asked questions before they can enter. These range from "Are you exhibiting any symptoms related to COVID-19?" to "Have you been in close contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, or anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19, within the past 14 days?"

SNL’s new rules may seem a bit extreme at first glance but, given the current state of things, you can’t help but understand why the crew has put such measures in place. The show’s officials ultimately just want to ensure that audience members have both a fun and safe experience. Not only that but, with other public places taking similar stances, these methods shouldn’t differ greatly from what we’ve become accustomed to over the past several months.

However, Saturday Night Live could still be considered a bit of a trailblazer in that it’s one of the first shows to actually allow live audiences into its studio. Jimmy Fallon, who returned to film The Tonight Show in 30 Rockefeller earlier this summer, is not utilizing a live audience. The same goes for hosts like Stephen Colbert and James Corden.

There’s no telling how long the public will have to contend with the global health crisis but, in the meantime, you can expect more TV shows to take cues from the long-running sketch show.

Saturday Night Live returns this Saturday, October 3, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.