Saturday Night Live has been a staple of America’s weekend viewing since it first aired in 1975. A large part of the show’s appeal comes from its live audience, but the coronavirus pandemic will change this central aspect of the show. For now, an SNL audience will be in attendance, but not in the way it’s been for the past 45 years.
The comedy sketch series airs each Saturday night from its New York City studio. The city is currently home to some of the country’s most restrictive coronavirus regulations. Currently, the state limits most gatherings of more than 50 people, and Broadway is suffering. But there are exceptions for “media production,” and an in-person audience of 100 people is allowable.
SNL is offering free tickets online, however, with a strict set of rules attached. It’s also saving some of those tickets for healthcare workers. Live audience members are required to maintain six feet of distance from one another “in all directions” according to the state’s current guidelines, and people who are sitting together must be in the same social bubble.
Face masks must always be worn inside the building, and bandanas and goiters don’t count, according to the ticketing policy.
Season 46 of the series will see a few additional changes, including mandatory COVID-19 tests for all audience members, temperature checks, and a COVID-19-related questionnaire.
The required COVID-19 test will be taken before the show begins, according to Vulture. It is a “self-administered lower nasal antigen” test, which can produce results before the show begins filming. A positive test, a temperature above 100.4 degrees, or an incomplete party will all result in audience members being turned away.
Chris Rock is slated to host the Oct. 3 season premiere with Megan Thee Stallion as musical guest. And yes, for the first time since the pandemic began, ‘SNL’ will have an audience.