On Saturday, NBC’s sketch comedy institution, Saturday Night Live, will return for it’s 46th season, welcoming Chris Rock (Everybody Hates Chris, Top Five) as host, Megan Thee Stallion as a first-time musical guest, Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris (Bridesmaids, Big Mouth) and Jim Carrey (The Truman Show, In Living Color) as Joe Biden. Over the past month, news has slowly released from the SNL camp about casting and what the show’s return to in-person programming at Studio 8H will look like, and Thursday gave fans updates on both of those fronts.
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) October 1, 2020
A first look at Carrey’s highly anticipated performance as presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden came in the form of a teaser clip on the SNL Twitter page. The video shows both Carrey and Rudolph suiting up to play Biden and Harris, respectively. Rudolph recently won the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy for her performance as Harris on the show last year. Executive producer Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock) confirmed with The New York Times that the duo will play alongside Alec Baldwin’s (30 Rock, Boss Baby) Donald Trump in upcoming political sketches, which will be front-and-center in season 46’s initial stretch of episodes.
View this post on Instagram
Politics were the major impetuous in returning to the studio, versus continuing with the remote “SNL at Home” format, according to Michaels, via The New York Times. Election seasons bring a boost to SNL’s ratings as the program provides an outlet to relieve national political tension through comedy. Audiences can expect Saturday’s cold open to be a parody of Tuesday’s Presidential debate as Michaels explained that “there are four [presidential and vice-presidential] debates in the month of October, and I was trying to figure out how to take a week off, but it didn’t work out” (The New York Times). Michaels’ insistence on covering the debates means that the show will air for an unprecedented 5-weeks in a row without a hiatus.
As the wardrobe department preps Carrey and Rudolph for their parody debate in SNL’s teaser, a crew member “can be seen in the background, wearing both a face mask and a face shield as she preps Rudolph’s hair to complete the transformation” (Variety). The question of how COVID-19 will impact production in Studio 8H has followed Michaels since the initial announcement of the return to in-person filming in September. The executive producer told The New York Times that a limited audience will return to studio and performers will wear masks up until the moment that cameras go live. Michaels’ also indicated that staff meetings would be smaller and table reads more spread out, a unique glimpse into the latter was given when SNL shared photos of the premiere’s table read on Instagram earlier this week.
View this post on Instagram
Rock is pictured wearing a mask at the table read as well as in the promotional clips released on SNL’s Twitter page on Thursday. In both promotions, Rock flaunts a black face mask that simply says “Rock” while he and Megan Thee Stallion joke about COVID precautions on set.
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) October 2, 2020
While Rock and Megan Thee Stallion make light of the precarious circumstances brought about by managing COVID-19 and a large cast, Michaels’ admitted to The New York Times “we don’t know that we’re going to be able to pull it off.” Saturday Night Live has more moving pieces to coordinate than the other late night shows, such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers, returning to studio and was shook by a COVID-related death early in the pandemic when Hal Willner, the show’s music coordinator, passed away of the virus. October 3 premiere will be a trial run of the new system, but producers promise Variety that they plan to “work closely with authorities to stay abreast of health and safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”