Elon Musk’s appearance on Saturday Night Live was doomed from the start.
Instead of a typical cold open where the news of the week is parodied, the show instead opted for a musical montage of all the cast members appearing with their moms and making little quips.
It was a nontraditional beginning of the show — though moms have appeared often in other parts of the show — that seemed to get all the heart out at the beginning so it could focus on what appeared to matter most: showing Musk in the best possible light.
That’s evidenced in the monologue, where he did a bit of family comedy with his own mother, model Maye Musk, and wished her a happy Mother’s Day. She delivered a proud anecdote about how he once made a video game set in space for $500 and now he’s “making those dreams a reality.”
While that’s an admirable dream, it doesn’t require the sheer amount of screentime he received in the next two hours. It wasn’t a show hosted by an entrepreneur. It was a show hosted by a celebrity.
Many are pointing to the fact Elon revealed he has Asperger’s syndrome in his monologue as a monumental moment of SNL history. Last night, he claimed he was the “first person with Asperger’s to host SNL.” Original SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd has the same diagnosis; he hosted in 2003. Call it “Dan Akyroyd erasure,” as Vulture did early this morning.
It’s admirable for anyone who’s neurodivergent to put themselves under the critical eye of thousands of American viewers. That doesn’t explain appearances in sketches like “Gen Z Hospital” where Elon doesn’t play a version of himself, but instead a doctor who spouts teen lingo:
It’s very understandable for a host to not be in every sketch. (Dave Chappelle only appeared in two sketches in his episode on November 8, 2020.) An episode like Saturday — one where the host doesn’t have acting experience — may have been the perfect one for the rest of the cast to stretch its muscles. But Musk was in every sketch in the episode and it grinded the comic energy to a halt.
There were only two outcomes: Elon making fun of himself or attempting to make fun of others. The cringeworthy Wario trial sketch benefited from a strong premise but couldn’t even be saved with Grimes as Princess Peach:
Most sketches seemed to endorse and underline Elon Musk as a world-saving space colonist, as he literally played in the “Chad on Mars” sketch:
When Weekend Update started, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking there would be a break from Musk playing fast and loose with comedic timing. But halfway in, he entered as a “financial expert” (why didn’t he just appear as himself?) and started discussing dogecoin. He wasn’t hosting just to bolster his reputation, he was there to pump up his cryptocurrency. Unfortunately, the prices of dogecoin nosedived during his monologue and still haven’t recovered as of Sunday morning:
Gen Z Hospital aside, the sketches had potential.
“Murdur Durdur,” a parody of the very specific accent used by Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown, was funny until Musk appeared as the prime suspect. Musk’s natural South African lilt compared with an attempt at a Pennsylvania accent rendered his two lines unintelligible.
Musk’s hosting gig isn’t the final nail in the SNL coffin. It’s a wonder if that nail will ever arrive, as the long-running show’s popularity invariably experiences peaks after arrive just after troughs like the one Musk waded through on Saturday night.
It’s definitely not the final nail in the Elon Musk coffin. Honestly, I would be surprised if he didn’t host again, considering the interest it generated. But hopefully, it’s a lesson in how to play to a host’s strengths. In Musk’s case, those strengths appear to be “appealing to nerds” and “explaining complicated things to the layperson.” Attempts were made at that, but the extraneous appearances wore out his welcome. Even if he did show up the objectively cool Cybertruck (just don’t call it “brutalist”):