Bringing back TV audiences during COVID-19 pandemic

Lisa Garr is the CEO of SRO, an audience and casting company that finds audiences to fill seats for TV shows.

Says Garr, "You’re probably safer in a television audience these days than you are going to the market."

That, she says, is because everyone sitting next to you has been pre-tested for COVID-19.

Let’s go back to March. Lisa had 20 people working for her. They were filling audiences for shows like Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, America’s Got Talent and others. They’d hire audience members they’d pull from a database and pay them $15 an hour for their time.

But when production on TV shows stopped because of the pandemic, so did Garr’s work at SRO. She lost 17 workers and now is down to 3 but, the good news is there’s work again. It’s a little different than it was before, but it's still work!

"We actually pre-test people. We COVID test people before they sit in an audience together," says Garr.

They didn’t do that before but they are now based on health and safety protocols created by Hollywood studios and in line with the LA County Health Department’s protocols.

Garr explains, "It’s an outdoor testing facility. We have a van from Curative coming."

Curative is the same company that has been working with CORE to do testing at Dodger Stadium and elsewhere. Garr says, "They test the people. We socially distance them. And, test them with PPE out in the parking lot."

The tests are done with cheek swabs. Results are turned around in 12 hours. Guests have to be tested 48 to 72 hours before the actual show. If they test "positive," obviously they can’t be in the audience.

Garr’s main client now is Bill Maher’s show. She also recently did a Kevin Hart special.

When asking the SRO CEO how all of these safety precautions make performers like Bill Maher and Kevin Hart feel, she says, “Bill loves it. Bill absolutely loves it. Look these are traditional standup comics. They have for decades reacted to live audiences’ feedback to know if their jokes are working and get their live response. This is their history and they’re brilliant comedians.”

But the audiences are now far less than they used to be because of social distancing. Garr explains, "They want us to have at least 300 people in the Bill Maher audience and now we’re down to 30." But, at least now they can have an audience.

If you want to be in one of Lisa Garr’s TV audiences, you can find out more about how by going to And, you can hear more of our conversation with Lisa Garr on FOX 11 News In-Depth Sunday at noon on our sister station MY13.