Live from New York, it’s Saturday night … with some adjustments.
“Saturday Night Live” is making its big return to the studio this week, after the coronavirus pandemic forced its traditional production to halt over the spring and summer. The last live show was hosted by Daniel Craig on March 7.
Since April, “SNL” has joined shows such as “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” in pivoting to a remote format and experimenting with video conferencing — which even included a trip to Brad Pitt’s house, when the superstar did a cold open sketch playing White House coronavirus task-force advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But now, the long-running sketch show joins a host of other late-night series making tentative comebacks to their studio formats, such as “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” — albeit with some changes, since the pandemic is not over.
Saturday’s show, which kicks off Season 46, will see “SNL” return to Studio 8H, its longtime home base in 30 Rock. It will be hosted by Chris Rock, returning for his third emcee gig since his run as a cast member from 1990 to 1993. The musical guest will be Megan Thee Stallion.
So what kind of live show can we expect on Oct. 3? Here’s our essential rundown.
Jim Carrey as Biden
“SNL” has announced that Jim Carrey, 58, will play Joe Biden. Previously, that role went to former cast member Jason Sudeikis. Woody Harrelson and John Mulaney have also taken turns as the former Vice President. Expect the rubber-faced Carrey’s portrayal to be broader and bolder.
Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin will return to play President Trump. Prior to Trump’s COVID diagnosis, the show was aiming for a sendup of Tuesday’s chaotic first Presidential debate. But in light of recent events, the show could veer away from mocking him and focus on Carrey’s Biden. And, former cast member Maya Rudolph (2000-2007) will also return for her Emmy-winning turn as Sen. Kamala Harris. In the wake of the August announcement that Sen. Harris would be Biden’s running mate, Rudolph said that “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels sent her a “cryptic text” that included a GIF of Rudolph as Harris.
Promoted cast members
All cast members from Season 45 are returning for Season 46, including favorites Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, longtime regular Kenan Thompson, headline grabber Pete Davidson and Bowen Yang, the show’s first Chinese-American cast member.
Featured player Ego Nwodim has been promoted to a regular. Additionally, there will be three new featured players: Punkie Johnson, Lauren Holt and Andrew Dismukes, who started as a writer.
“Weekend Update” duo Michael Che and Colin Jost will also return.
“The COVID stuff has really affected how I feel about [the show],” Jost told Howard Stern in July. “Being away from people who make you laugh at work in that way for this long, really makes you appreciative of not only the job, but of the routine of being at work.”
An audience of “social bubbles”
How will social distancing work in a live audience? It turns out, there’s a long list of regulations.
If you want to attend “SNL” in person, you can request tickets for two, seven, eight or nine people in your “social bubble,” which they define as a “group of people, related or unrelated, who have repeatedly entered into close contact (defined as less than 6 feet) with all others in that group, on multiple occasions prior to the night of the show.”
Health-care workers can also get free tickets to the premiere.
Mandatory masks and temp checks
Audiences attending the show in person must also submit to temperature checks, nasal antigen tests and proper face masks (no gaiters or ventilated masks). They’ll also be asked questions like, “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?”
The network has not specified how many episodes will be in its 46th season. It has announced hosts and musical guests two weeks beyond Chris Rock: Bill Burr will host the Oct. 10 show featuring musical guest Morgan Wallen, and Issa Rae will host the Oct. 17 show featuring musical guest Justin Bieber.
“Saturday Night Live” returns Oct. 3 at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.
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