By Sonia Rao
Political debates are like catnip to “Saturday Night Live,” which will return this weekend – just in time for Jim Carrey to spoof Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s performance in Tuesday night’s debate.
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Your first look at Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. #SNLPremiere
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from this season.
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Chris Rock & Megan Thee Stallion. This Saturday. #SNLPremiere
Leaving behind the remote and audience-free production models that have sustained late-night television during the pandemic, the “SNL” team is aiming to get as close to the pre-Covid-19 experience as they can.
That mark is still quite far off, of course, as they’ve been working with the governor’s office to sort out protocol
. Michaels told Vulture they’ll try to shorten dress rehearsals and simplify the show’s production design, given that cast members have to vacate a space before stagehands can enter.
In an interview with the Times, Michaels revealed that there are heat sensors and rapid coronavirus tests required to get into 30 Rock.
Meetings that once hosted 40 people have been whittled down to three.
There are new limits on how many people can be on the studio floor at a time, so camera operators will leave until they are needed once again.
Masks are mandatory until the second the red light flickers on.
“Obviously, I take my responsibility for people’s health and lives very seriously,” Michaels said. “But we did a show with anthrax in the building. We did a show after 9/11. That’s what we’ve always done.”
“SNL” is big on precedent even in unprecedented times.
Michaels indicated in the Times interview that viewers hadn’t seen the last of Kate McKinnon’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg impression despite the Supreme Court justice’s death on Sept. 18.
Presidential election sketches are to be expected, of course – “Going back to Ford/Carter, we’ve had a voice, and we will try as hard as possible to maintain that voice,” he told Vulture – but it remains to be seen whether the racial and political reckoning sparked this summer will nudge the 45-year-old comedy institution in any way.
Asked whether he feels the political sketches ever overshadow the rest of the show, Michaels said, “No. We’re a topical show.
And that’s what we’ve always been. I mean, the first time Chevy (Chase) did Gerald Ford or Dan (Aykroyd) did Jimmy Carter, it wasn’t less of a comedy show, you know? I can’t really explain how it evolved, but it clearly evolved, and it somehow still feels right.”
With comedy, Michaels told Vulture, “you need the audience.” “SNL” advertised tickets to Saturday’s premiere this week, directing social media followers to a web page detailing the show’s Covid-19 policies.
There is a pre-screening process for those who managed to snag spots for themselves and members of their “social bubble.”
Guests who make it through will take self-administered coronavirus tests upon arriving at 30 Rock, after which they will be required to wear masks the entire time they are inside the building.