“Saturday Night Live” was not-so-live on Saturday after an in-house COVID-19 outbreak forced the show to go on without a live audience or musical guest.
The iconic late-night show instead tried to patch together some live bits with a limited cast and crew, relying heavily on sketches recorded earlier in the week as well as pre-recorded favorites from past years.
Paul Rudd hosted the show for the fifth time, but musical guest Charli XCX was scratched hours before broadcast due to the scaled-down production.
Actor Tom Hanks kicked off the unusual episode, stepping out onto the uncannily quiet set that lacked the typical cheers from the crowds or accompanying music.
“Tonight everyone at ‘Saturday Night Live’ planned to do our new Christmas show and induct a new member into the five-timer’s club, but COVID came early this year so in the interest of safety we do not have an audience and we sent home our cast, most of our crew,” he said.
aid he was “extremely disappointed” about what happened during his monologue, but he was still awarded a five-time jacket by Hanks, who joined onstage by fellow five-time host and SNL veteran Tina Fey. Longtime cast member Kenan Thompson joined in and congratulated Rudd for hosting “four and a half times.”
Instead of live skits, Rudd, Hanks, Fey and Thompson spoke directly to the at-home audience, looking into the camera in between breaks to introduce skits. The bits were a mix of sketches recorded during the week and old SNL holiday favorites like Justin Timberlake’s and Andy Samberg’s spoof song “D–k in a Box.’
Fey revived her role as Weekend Update co-anchor, filling in for Colin Jost and joining Michael Che for the segment. Instead of reading their jokes in costume and in front of the Weekend Update set, the two instead sat comfortably in chairs on the main stage.
Charli XCX said on Twitter prior to the broadcast that she was “devastated and heartbroken” to miss the show.
A pre-recorded mock music video for a song called “The Perfect Socks” did feature the singer, who was joined by Rudd and other cast members called “The Perfect Socks.” It had been recorded early around 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, Rudd said while introducing the clip.
A set insider has told the Post that “four actors” tested positive for coronavirus on Friday — and “three others” had called out because they were “fearful” about coming to the studio.
Che and Thompson appeared to be the only current cast members who were on set Saturday.