The Saturday Night Live writing team is reportedly scrambling over how to handle President Donald J. Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis. News that Trump had contracted the coronavirus broke early Friday morning. On Friday evening, he traveled to Walter Reed Hospital for treatment. According to TMZ, this has left Saturday Night Live with a tough balancing act to maintain. The show, which returns with its season premiere on Saturday, October 3rd, focused a lot of its writing on the presidential debate earlier this week, and the premiere will see Jim Carrey debut in the role of Vice President Joe Biden. Given the change in Trump's condition, the show may have to take a lighter touch to some issues.
According to the TMZ report, the writers have been considering changes to the show's cold open, which traditionally involves a presidential sketch, and host Chris Rock's opening monologue. Discussions reportedly took place late into Friday night as the writing team wants to be sensitive about the issue.
However, Saturday Night Live is reportedly not considering making any drastic change to what has been rehearsed and written this week. The topic of Trump's illness is likely to be addressed directly during the "Weekend Update" segment.
The report also states that, while Saturday Night Live is being extra careful about Trump's illness, it will still go hard into this week's controversial debate. In addition to Carrey debuting as Biden, Maya Rudolph will return to play Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris. Alec Baldwin will reprise his role as Trump.
Tonight's 46th season premiere will be something of a return to normalcy for the live show. After ending its previous season with several remotely produced episodes, SNL returns to Studio 8h and will again have a live studio audience. Audience members will be tested for COVID-19 and required to wear masks. SNL requires COVID-19 tests before admission into dress rehearsals and the live show. According to the Saturday Night Live ticket site, "This is a self-administered lower nasal antigen test with results yielded before the show." There will also be temperature tests for anyone checking in at 30 Rock.
Audience members will also have to answer questions ahead of admission. These include, "Are you exhibiting any symptoms related to COVID-19?" "Have you exhibited any symptoms to COVID-19 in the last 14 days?" and "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?"
Saturday Night Live returns for its 46th season tonight at 11:30 pm ET on NBC.