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The Show Must Go On: ‘SNL’ To Have Studio Audience Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

SNL makes plans to restart production and prepares for a safe return of live studio audiences.

The coronavirus pandemic brought the world, film and television productions included, to a sudden halt; now, Saturday Night Live is looking forward to resuming and safely bringing back their audience.

Saturday Night Live, the long-running, popular sketch comedy show, first aired in 1975 and is now in its 46th season. Earlier this year as we all began to shelter-in-place many talk shows and other live-audience programs switched to virtual, at-home episodes. SNL was one of these shows as the cast finished the last 3 episodes of their 45th season from their homes, virtually.

After months at home, SNL is finally returning to their iconic New York City studio in Rockefeller Center. In an interview, the show's creator, Lorne Michaels, said that they've been working carefully to ensure everyone's safety. Although some live shows have gone back to taping in empty studios, audiences are essential to SNL:

We need the audience, obviously. With comedy, when you don't hear the response, it's just different. With the kind of comedy we do, which quite often is broad, timing gets thrown off without an audience.

Chris Rock and Megan Thee Stallion will appear.

All of the SNL cast members from the 45th season will be returning for the 46th, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is the first time there has been no cast turnover between seasons in 13 years. The cast includes Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner, Colin Jost, Kate McKinnon, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Ego Nwodim, Chris Redd, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, and Melissa Villaseñor. The first episode will be hosted by Chris Rock and Megan Thee Stallion will appear as a musical guest.

So what safety protocols are being put in place to follow COVID-19 guidelines and ensure a safe return?

First, all audience members will be asked a series of questions:

-Are you exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19?

-In the past 14 days have you experienced any symptoms of COVID-19?

-Have you had a positive COVID-19 test within the past 14 days?

-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?

-Have you traveled to any of the following states in the past 14 days? Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (list updated as of 9/26/20; list changes, based on NY State guidance)

Next, the following guidelines will be followed (social “bubbles” refer to groups of people who have repeatedly been in close contact with each other prior to the show):

-All people in a "bubble" for whom tickets have been requested must come to the show, or no one in that group will be seated.

-Audience members must take a self-administered lower nasal antigen test upon arrival, with results given before the show.

-Temperature checks will be required at check-in.

-Face coverings/masks will be required inside the building; no bandanas, gaiters or masks with vents will be allowed.

-Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be admitted and their party also may not be allowed in.

Additionally, all cast and crew members will take their temperatures and a COVID test before entering the building.

-Crew members must wear masks at all times.

-Cast members will remove their masks when they are on camera.

Kenan Thompson and others share excitement for show's return

Kenan Thompson is among the excited cast who shared posts anticipating the show's return. NBC and SNL's Instagram pages also shared the same photo.

In addition to the returning cast, Lauren Holt, Punkie Johnson and Andrew Dismuke will be added as featured players, and Maya Rudolph, Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey are set to make appearances for election coverage.

Tickets for the premiere's dress rehearsal and live show have sold out, but tickets for upcoming shows are coming soon with spaces reserved for health care workers.

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