Saturday Night Live adheres to a couple of basic principles: the show is shot in front of a live studio audience at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and the cast works together to produce sketches for the weekly show. Since that’s impossible right now because of circumstances surrounding the pandemic, Saturday Night Live is going to try to make history by producing an entire episode remotely.
This week’s show will feature sketches from cast members and a version of “Weekend Update,” which is hosted by head co-writers Colin Jost and Michael Che. It’s unclear how much of the show will be live or if everything will be prerecorded from cast members’ homes, according to NBC News. A large portion of SNL includes digital sketches that are prerecorded ahead of time, and these air in between live sketches. So it’s not as if Saturday Night Live is going from 100 percent live to entirely prerecorded.
The episode will not have a host, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and we don’t know if a musical guest will perform. Saturday Night Live is far from the first late-night show to switch to a digital remote format since the pandemic hit the United States. Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, Trevor Noah, and Hasan Minhaj have also shifted their programs to be recorded at home. The late-night shows have also featured guest interviews (shot over videoconferencing tools like Zoom or FaceTime).
But SNL is an entirely different beast. The show’s comedy is reliant on sketches featuring multiple people and a live audience reacting in real time. It’s very much a collaborative effort. Whereas late-night hosts can include lengthier interviews with guests and continue performing monologues, Saturday Night Live’s team will have to reformat everything.
The new episode is considered a one-off for NBC right now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but that could change. It will air during its usual time slot at 11:30PM ET on NBC.