By Caroline Crosby
I’ll begin with a confession. I watched the SNL episode that featured Elon Musk on the night it aired, May 8. However, “watched” may not be the most appropriate term for my experience.
For context, it was technically Sunday. That evening, I had participated in every IB student’s favorite recurring nightmare: furiously writing an overdue English essay until ungodly hours of the night. For reasons still unknown to me, I decided to reward myself (after its completion) by watching the entire program at 4 am rather than sleeping.
So, in a delirious, half-conscious haze, a few extreme opinions were formed. To clarify, I’ve never been a devote supporter of Elon Musk. Nor am I particularly familiar with his life’s details. Most of my thoughts on his content made little sense then, as you may have guessed.
After some thorough reflection though (and thorough re-watching), I’ve returned to share!
Surprisingly, the “lovable billionaire’s” appearance as a celebrity host on the widely popular ‘Saturday Night Live’ was a bit mundane. For someone who spends their free time manufacturing flamethrowers and sending cars to space, I’d have thought that Musk would be more adept with simple jokes and public entertainment.
To expand on that, SNL’s celebrity host changes episode to episode. They appear in “sketches” throughout the show and act as announcers for the regular act changes and assorted commercial breaks. You can think of the weekly guest as one of those charismatic hosts on ‘Jeopardy’, but make them moderately political and multiply their contractual salary by 1000.
Many of these featured, famed individuals consistently use SNL’s opening monologue to connect to fans. This usually consists of a heartwarming, comedic, or down-to-earth routine that hosts write and perform themselves.
Elon, however, broke the mold – as he has many times before (though usually with the aid of inane sums of money), and somehow achieved to be neither down-to-earth, comedic, or heartwarming.
This isn’t to say that nothing good came of his performance, though.
After all, I, a middle-class high school student, can now proudly support the space cars and hieroglyphic named children (all due respect to little X Æ A-Xii), with the knowledge that I would absolutely demolish Elon Musk in a game of ‘Apples-to-Apples’. Or any other terrible, serialized, and humor-based activity for that matter.
Getting down to the specifics, the sketch capitalized on a very exhaustive comedic narrative. Namely, that Elon is rich; you aren’t.
But fear not! He also unearthed the time, in September of 2018, when he “smoked weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast”. I admire the guts it takes to bring up something that publicly embarrassing, but…why? What did it add? The only line I found outwardly laughable was what he said about OJ Simpson. Which speaks for itself, I feel.
In any case, SNL has always been famous for its lighthearted satire of celebrities and superficial social stereotypes. However, it can prove difficult to land a punchline about the “hilariously” unfathomable economic gap between people like Elon Musk and everyone else, when you are Elon Musk. The man, the myth, the legend: could pay his way into a class or two on writing standup comedy, preferably before performing in front of a live televised audience.
To no one’s surprise, the most notable extent of his social media influence is economic.
Perhaps the raging sea of devoted fans would argue that “You could buy, demolish, and rebuild an entire country from the ground up with his pocket change alone! Elon Musk doesn’t need to be funny, he’s rich!” To these individuals, I might admit that such a controversial statement merits a degree of truth. Do wealthy people really need to be good at everything they do? In Elon’s case, I believe we have our answer.
Scathing criticism aside, I would like to clarify that any and all critique is directed only towards the content of his routine, not the delivery and performance. I’ve noticed a circulation of comments on social media that target Musk’s monotonous tone and use that to dehumanize him. Jeers like “I like the way he tries hard to host the show like a human does,” or “Him and his mom talking sounds like 2 robots trying to simulate human emotion,” under the YouTube clip of the SNL appearance (linked below) are uncalled for.
As someone with Aspergers, Elon Musk may struggle with public speaking and anxiety. Prosody has long been a source of difficulty for people with autism. Individuals on the spectrum may speak in a monotone way, or do the opposite and exaggerate their intonation. The first instance seems likely here. Attacking Musk for something beyond his control is callous, to say the least.
Though, he is an adult and an accomplished CEO who has addressed and spoken to national audiences before. Numerous times, even. It’s not impossible to handle.
Entertaining a live audience, however, in addition to writing and performing a stand-up act using a medium you’ve never experienced before, is an entirely different matter.
Really, it’s important to remember that the man is by no means a professional comedian, and a creative medium of this scale is difficult to pull off even for those with years of experience. Regardless of all questionable punchlines, I applaud him for taking a break from running a company and launching things into space, and setting out to try something new.
To watch the performance in question, please visit: