‘SNL’ Paid Live Audience Members at Season Premiere as If They Were Employees

New York state guidelines still prohibit ticketed events, but the show found a clever loophole

Last Updated: October 6, 2020 @ 1:06 PM

“Saturday Night Live” audience members went home with paychecks after the comedy show’s season premiere this past weekend, according to the New York Times.

New York state guidelines still prohibit ticketed events, but the show found a clever loophole — the only way “SNL” could legally have a live audience on Saturday night was to pay its audience as if they were employees.

The state’s health department confirmed to the NYT that “SNL” had complied with rules that say the only allowed audience members at live shows are paid employees, cast and crew. Even still, audiences cannot exceed 25% of the show’s usual capacity and can be no more than 100 people.

When reached for comment, an “SNL” spokesperson said the show is “working with the Department of Health and following all guidelines.”

According to the Times, SNL filled its seats for the season premiere through a third-party website and app called 1iota, which allows the public to sign up to be audience members for talk shows and other events. The show has since taken the 1iota listing down, as ticketed events are still prohibited by the state.

A freelance writer named Sean Ludwig, interviewed by the Times, said he and seven friends who went to the premiere together were “pleasantly surprised” with a $150 check from Universal Television after the event.

It’s not immediately clear how many of the show’s audience members were paid on Saturday night, but a spokesperson for the state health department told the Times that “SNL” had shown “there is no evidence of noncompliance” with the guidelines, but that “if any is discovered, we will refer that to local authorities for follow-up.”