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I am not an eccentric billionaire critic.
God, I wish I were.
That would be the easiest job on earth.
“They’re all bad.”
That’d be like being a TV critic exclusively for shows starring Eddie Cibrian.
Sorry. Low blow. But if you watched as many episodes of Country Comfort as I did, you’d understand.
This is my way of saying that I don’t think Elon Musk should have been hosting Saturday Night Live. I think it’s a pretty big and unchecked platform to give a guy who, when given an unchecked platform, is prone to vaccine skepticism, light-hearted union-busting, alleged jokes about people who list their preferred pronouns, idiotic observations about a growing pandemic or randomly calling strangers pedophiles. But for all that I don’t like Elon Musk or the bizarre cult around him, I’m not an eccentric billionaire critic and what’s done is done: Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live, and the resulting episode is what I’m here to talk about and that episode was…
Well, it was not good, but it wasn’t appreciably worse than four or five other episodes this season. And it wasn’t the worst example of my least favorite genre of Saturday Night Live episode — the “Lorne Michaels’ Ego” or “Grading on a Curve” category.
It’s the Lorne Michaels’ Ego category because every once in a while the SNL mastermind likes to bring in a guest who isn’t an actor or musician with something to promote, but just a big name promoting their big name and promoting Michaels’ ability to get a big name on this big show. Then, in turn, because those people aren’t trained professionals, maybe we make fun of them for being wooden and amateurish, but nearly as often we grade on a curve — using euphemisms like “surprisingly funny” or “well-utilized” or “good sport,” which I guess are ways of saying “Didn’t accidentally fall off the stage, swear on live TV or expose his or her genitals.”
Musk was not “surprisingly funny.” He wasn’t “well-utilized,” but since he didn’t seem like a bad sport, I’ll say that he seemed like a good sport, but really all I mean is that he wasn’t Donald Trump. Several of Musk’s limbs were capable of movement, he sometimes gave the impression of knowing how a punchline is supposed to sound and because he was born in South Africa, he will never be eligible to be President of the United States, so we’ve got that going for us.
Musk still used the Saturday Night Live platform in basically the same way Trump did — namely as a light-hearted image cleanse, a cheerful deflection from all of the things people say about him because, to hear him say it, they just don’t understand him.
To condense: Yes, he’s awkward, but he has Asperger’s. In fact, he’s the first Saturday Night Live host with Asperger’s! Or so he announced. This is factually inaccurate. Cast legend Dan Aykroyd hosted in 2003 and has been very public about his Asperger’s diagnosis. Plus if you look over the hundreds of hosts the show has had, you can do the armchair diagnostics yourself. So yes, Musk used his Asperger’s as a poorly fact-checked punchline, but that tracks, since Musk admitted that sometimes he tweets or says things that get him in trouble and … they’re jokes, people! Or something. And, after all, it’s not like Musk has killed anybody that we know of, hence multiple jokes about former SNL host O.J. Simpson. Plus, he has a mother who loves him.
So if you don’t like things Elon Musk has said or done, chill out about it because he’s got Asperger’s, or he was joking, and if you don’t buy either of those, at least he’s not O.J.
I expected this to be one of those episodes in which the host was buried deep in a handful of sketches, absent from a couple of others and maybe showcased in one very selectively edited filmed piece. Having Miley Cyrus as musical guest felt like it would guarantee Musk’s easy backgrounding, since she’s got a high comfort level with all aspects of SNL.
And, to be fair, my favorite part of the episode was the cold open, in which Cyrus sang a Dolly Parton song accompanying truly sweet vignettes of cast members and their moms, while Musk was absent. And my second favorite part of the episode was the Mare of Easttown parody that let the cast strut their finest Delco accents and included Musk only as a guy so weird everybody instantly assumes he’s the killer.
For the rest of the episode, though, Musk was used extensively, and I think I can say with candor that no sketch was better or worse for his presence. In a Gen Z medical soap opera sketch, he played a doctor who said things like, “I can only imagine the feels you’re going through right now.” In an Icelandic Public Television sketch, he basically played Mike Myers’ Dieter character from “Sprockets.” He played a financial advisor who loves cryptocurrency, an Old West cowboy who loves cryptocurrency, an eccentric billionaire who loves cryptocurrency and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. He also played Wario.
Along the way, he was fittingly upstaged by Kate McKinnon’s Frances McDormand impression, Pete Davidson’s head exploding and Cecily Strong’s amusement with Super Mario Brothers sound effects. He didn’t look wholly at ease, and he often projected toward the cue cards with deer-in-headlines confusion, but, like, so did Timothee Chalamet when he hosted last fall.
Chalamet’s hosting stint won’t lead to an SEC investigation, which has been raised as a possibility stemming from past enthusiastic Musk tweets about Dogecoin, so it follows that Musk’s ultra-giddy Weekend Update appearance might stir similar buzz. Will anything come of it? Probably not. Even the Thai cave rescuer Musk called “pedo guy” couldn’t win a defamation suit against him.
Anyway, the Internet spent several weeks rending garments because Lorne Michaels recruited a third-tier James Bond villain to host Saturday Night Live. I agree that even a show that coddles billionaires on a weekly basis, whether they’re hosting or just running entertainment companies with new movies to release, didn’t need to give this spotlight to this billionaire. But Musk’s actual episode was pretty standard C-level stuff that’ll probably get a tiny controversy bump in the ratings and won’t change anybody’s opinion, positively or negatively, about its host.
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