As a result of New York City guidelines around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, television productions are not allowed to host audiences unless they consist of employees; cast members or staff, in the case of Saturday Night Live. Audiences consisting of the show’s workers also had to be limited to 25 percent of its usual capacity, with no more than 100 people.
The sketch show, which returned for its 46th season premiere on Oct. 3, paid its audience members as if they were employees, according to the report. Audience members, who were sectioned within Studio 8H into small, socially distanced groups, received checks from Universal Television after the show.
One of the paid audience members was Sean Ludwig, who tweeted about getting paid for attending SNL — and not knowing about it ahead of time. “Had an incredible time tonight at @nbcsnl,” he wrote. “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.”
The New York Times reports that Ludwig was paid a check of $150 for his attendance. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to NBC for comment.
Audience members also had to have COVID-19 tests prior to attending SNL, and temperature checks upon arrival at the Rockefeller Center. Face masks were required at all times within the venue.