Saturday Night Live is returning to NBC in a couple weeks for the show’s 46th season. The series will be back in Studio 8H at 30 Rock in New York after closing out last season with three remotely produced shows where cast members wrote and performed sketches from their various quarantine residences across the country. And even though SNL veteran Chris Rock has been announced to host the season premiere on October 3, executive producer Lorne Michaels isn’t sure they can pull it off.
The New York Times caught up with Lorne Michaels, who was in the midst of preparing SNL for their triumphant return to the studio, and it’s clear they’re taking every precaution possible to make sure the live show happens safely. Michaels explained:
“Things have changed. There’s heat sensors at the revolving doors and then you go for your rapid [Covid] test. You wait 15 minutes and then you’re in the building. The Monday night meetings in my office on the 17th floor, which once had 40 people, now has a capacity of three. It’s me plus two. In the same way that we tried to figure out the at-home shows, we’ve had to rethink every part of the show.”
Saturday Night Live has such a famously streamlined and fast-paced process with the entire show being put together in just a week, so how have things changed behind the scenes? Michaels explained:
“I had a meeting with the writing staff. I had a meeting with the cast. I had a meeting with production. The room that we were in was the size of an airplane hangar and people were six feet apart and everyone wears their masks. We can’t go in with as many pieces. We don’t have as much time between dress [rehearsal] and air. We’re doing our first read-throughs on Tuesdays as opposed to Wednesdays.”
The last normally produced show featured Daniel Craig as host, because the new James Bond movie No Time to Die was originally slated to be released in April. But by the time Craig hosted, the movie had already been shifted back to later in the year. There were plenty of coronavirus sketches included in that episode, including the one below, which feels like it’s not too far from the reality of what SNL has to do in order to have a show in the studio.
One of SNL‘s own, music coordinator Hal Willner, passed away from complications related to the coronavirus. He was responsible for producing all the music you heard in the show’s sketches. So the coronavirus is still something that is very much frightening to Michaels, which is why he said:
“We don’t know that we’re going to be able to pull it off. We’re going to be as surprised as everyone else when it actually goes on. We just have to stay clean and focused until October 3. And then we do five shows in a row. Fortunately, October has a blue moon, and that tends to be lucky. We’ll come on with the full moon and we’ll leave with the blue moon. And then, if the election goes into extra innings, then we’ll keep staying on the air. Whatever’s left of us.”
That would seem to imply that if the election isn’t decided by the time the weekend rolls around after election night on November 3, there will be a live show that Saturday. That would be pretty wild, because the cast and crew of SNL are already slated to produce five shows in a row in October, one of their longest consecutive runs in awhile. But that’s a month and a half away, and hopefully we won’t have to worry about those kinds things. Hopefully.
In the meantime, enjoy Chris Rock’s monologue from the last time he hosted SNL back in November of 2014:
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