'Saturday Night Live' had to pay audience
“Saturday Night Live” producers had to pay their audience members because of state guidelines regarding filming amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The sketch series returned to screens on 3 October with a socially-distanced live crowd in attendance but programme bosses had been forced to "cast" the members of the public as a part of the show.
The New York Times newspaper explained that New York state guidelines surrounding the coronavirus pandemic prohibit live audiences at TV tapings, unless they are paid as members of the cast.
And an official from the local health department confirmed that “SNL” had kept within the guidelines by "casting" the audience and paying them as they would any other performer.
He said: "There is no evidence of noncompliance, but if any is discovered, we will refer that to local authorities for follow-up.”
A spokeswoman for the show said the programme has been "working closely with the Department of Health and following all of their guidelines" but declined to say how many audience members were paid.
The crowd were reportedly given cheques of $150(R2 498) at the end of filming, much as a shock to them all.
Sean Ludwig - who attended with a group of seven friends - said: "We had no idea we would be paid before we were handed cheques. We were all very pleasantly surprised.”
He explained that he and his pals obtained their tickets from a website called liota, and had been given a rapid coronavirus test, as well as asked to sign health forms indicating they had no symptoms of the disease and hadn't been in contact with anyone who had the virus before they were allowed to attend.
The show had been asking would-be audience members to register through their liota page for between seven and nine people who they considered to be part of their "social bubble".
The liota page has now been taken down, but it is unclear why.
Under the current state guidelines, any live audiences of paid employees, cast and crew, can only be 25% of their usual size and no more than 100 people.
A portion of the tickets for the premiere were also reserved for health care workers, who were recognised during Chris Rock's opening monologue.
He quipped of a group of first responders: "They’re so good, we let people die tonight so they could see a good show.”