In the end, an episode of “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Elon Musk turned out to be exactly that, no more and no less.
Musk, the billionaire chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, appeared in several “S.N.L.” sketches this weekend, playing characters that included a doctor at a hospital that caters to Generation Z patients, the producer of an Icelandic TV talk show and the video game villain Wario.
He used his opening monologue to share some personal details about himself, introducing viewers to his mother and discussing his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome — and to gratuitously plug a cryptocurrency.
Sure, a couple of sketches felt a little eager to polish Musk’s public image, like a filmed segment that cast him as the mission commander of an effort to save a Martian colony running dangerously low on oxygen. (Meanwhile, it was up to Pete Davidson, playing his hapless doofus character, Chad, to save the day on the red planet.)
Even so, Musk’s presence didn’t stop “S.N.L.” from taking a few satirical potshots at him.
Colin Jost, the “Weekend Update” anchor, noted during that portion of the show that debris from a Chinese rocket had crashed into the Indian Ocean only a short while earlier.
“And for once,” Jost said, “we know it’s not Elon’s fault. A lot of people have been wondering, Why is he hosting our show? And now we know it’s because he needed an alibi.”
Musk took what opportunities he could to humanize himself to the “S.N.L.” audience. As he said in his monologue: “To anyone I’ve offended, I just wanted to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
The lead-up to this weekend’s broadcast was like few, if any, in “S.N.L.” history. Not long after it was announced that Musk would be hosting, some of the show’s cast members went on social media to register their dissent.
Bowen Yang posted a frowny-face emoji on his Instagram story. Aidy Bryant used her account to publish a tweet from Senator Bernie Sanders, in which he wrote that “the 50 wealthiest people in America in this country own more wealth than some 165 MILLION Americans” — a phenomenon Sanders described as “a moral obscenity.”
Other cast members voiced their support for Musk and said they were excited to have him on the show. Michael Che said in a radio interview with the Breakfast Club that the debate over Musk was “a good thing.”
“I think it means people still care about the show in some way, at least,” Che added.
Musk himself was busy generating plenty of headlines in recent weeks: Tesla posted record quarterly earnings in April. A team of four astronauts completed a nighttime splashdown at the start of the month, returning to Earth in a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft after a mission that sent them to the International Space Station. On Wednesday, a prototype of a SpaceX rocket successfully landed during a test flight in Texas, after other such crafts had exploded in previous tests.
Not all of the headlines have been positive. SpaceX has also come into conflict with residents of Boca Chica, Tex., who say they have been pressured to sell their properties as the company expands its operations there. And Tesla’s Autopilot technology has recently come under scrutiny, including an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into nearly two dozen car accidents involving Teslas.
Musk took a self-deprecating tone in his “S.N.L.” monologue, telling the audience: “Sometimes, after I say something, I have to say, ‘I mean that,’ so people really know that I mean it. That’s because I don’t always have a lot of intonational variation in how I speak. Which I’m told makes for great comedy.”
He also described himself as “the first person with Asperger’s to host ‘S.N.L.’ — or at least the first to admit it.” (Dan Aykroyd, the “S.N.L.” alum and former host, has also said that he was given a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome in the 1980s.)
“Don’t worry,” Musk added. “I’m pretty good at running human in emulation mode.”
Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, joined her son onstage after an opening sketch led by the week’s musical guest, Miley Cyrus, that featured members of the “S.N.L.” cast alongside their mothers.
Wondering what her Mother’s Day gift might be, Maye Musk said, “I just hope it’s not Dogecoin,” referring to the cryptocurrency that Elon Musk has frequently touted.
“It is,” her son told her. (Despite Elon Musk’s mentioning Dogecoin here and in a “Weekend Update” segment, the price of the cryptocurrency declined during the “S.N.L.” broadcast.)
Cocktail chatter of the week
Let’s take it as an optimistic sign that “S.N.L.” is now producing sketches about what post-pandemic life might look like.
That category includes this filmed segment about a party where guests find themselves navigating all the awkward conversations that come up when you run into people you haven’t seen in months. While Kate McKinnon tells Beck Bennett she went through some ups and downs, she thinks to herself: “Ups and downs? You stabbed your husband with a screwdriver.” (Bennett, meanwhile, is thinking that the pandemic “affected me zero” as he licks his hand and plunges it into a bowl of party snacks.)
Musk availed himself reasonably well, playing a character who tries to make small talk with Heidi Gardner about which Covid-19 vaccines they received.
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the “Weekend Update” desk, the anchors Jost and Che, also mocked news developments in the lives of prominent politicians like former President Trump, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and President Biden.
Jost started in on Trump:
A prominent white nationalist has begun posting manifestoes online. Oh, I’m sorry, that was the sub-headline. The headline was, “Donald Trump Launches New Blog.” That’s right, disgraced former fast-food spokesman Donald Trump has launched a website called From the Desk of Donald J. Trump. Though a more accurate name would be, From the Brain Fog of Long-Haul Covid. I don’t understand why the Republican Party is still betting their entire future on Trump. He turns 75 next month. It’s like getting your family an old dog and saying, “Hey kids, invest all your emotions in this.”
Che later teased the current leadership, saying, “Kamala Harris will become the first vice president to be featured as a wax figure at Madame Tussauds wax museum, while Joe Biden is the first wax figure to become president.”
Jost soon turned the subject to Cuomo, adding: “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Broadway could reopen on September 14. Except for the new musical about Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, ‘Nursinghoma!’”
Fake TV promo of the week
If you can’t get enough of Kate Winslet’s efforts at a regional Pennsylvania accent the HBO limited series “Mare of Easttown” (or if you just appreciate her describing the local Wawa convenience-store chain as “a mythical place”), has “S.N.L.” got the show for you.
Their answer, offered in this filmed fake commercial, stars McKinnon as a similarly rugged cop investigating the killing of a young woman that provides the series with its title, “Murder Durdur.” (As she forcefully declares to a perplexed fellow investigator at the crime scene: “Did I sturdur? The durdur’s been murdered!”)
Look out for the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty; a pretzel vape; and Musk as the crime’s obvious culprit.
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