I watched Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live and it was just….fine?
The much-discussed episode wasn’t a disaster, nor was it a great and memorable evening of comedy. It’s just something that happened. Something that will likely be more or less forgotten by Memorial Day.
Look, we can argue all day about whether SNL should’ve even given Musk the platform, considering his past controversies. If I were Lorne Michaels, I probably wouldn’t have.
I also understand, and at least partially agree with, the argument that allowing Musk to make fun of himself and toss off apologies for things like his poor take on wearing a mask during the pandemic allows him to be “humanized” and whitewashes some of his more terrible actions.
That said, to be fair to Musk, the actual episode itself was unremarkable. And evaluating his ability to host a comedy show for one evening is separate from arguing whether he should’ve been offered the gig in the first place.
I had plans on Saturday with people I hadn’t seen in a year — seriously folks, get vaccinated — so I DVR’d the episode. I did check in on the Twitter reaction Saturday night and Sunday morning and it was a bit brutal, especially from the automotive press. And while I’ve been as harsh on Musk as anyone, I wanted to be fair. I suspect some of my peers went hard after Musk because he’s said and done some pretty awful things (the AVClub has a nice rundown in its review of the episode), and because they didn’t want him hosting the show (which, again, is separate from his actual performance).
Since there was no stopping the show, I figured I might as well give up part of my Sunday to watch. Maybe it would be a slow-moving trainwreck of television. It turned out to be, well, I am not sure exactly what, but it wasn’t a waste of my time.
Nor was it terribly newsworthy, save for dogecoin cryptocurrency taking a dip after Musk joked about it on the show.
From a car perspective, perhaps the biggest “news” to come out of the episode was a bit of what could be subtle trolling by Lucid, which advertised the Lucid Air during the first commercial break, and references to Gen Z Millennials crashing Hellcats during the first sketch. He also joked in his monologue that he actually drove a Prius.
Other than that, it was sort of what one might expect. Ever the showman, Musk has done TV before, though not live sketch comedy, as far as I know. So he seemed nervous at points, but he was willing to poke fun at himself and Tesla (though Tesla did manage some product placement). He was better in the filmed sketches, presumably because he had multiple takes to get it right, and he seemed to avoid working with the cast members who’d criticized his booking on social media in the weeks leading up to the show.
Elon Musk did SNL. At worst, a few people who didn’t know much about him came away with a more positive view of him, without knowing about his past. At best, those of us who are harsh on Elon were able to laugh with him a little while still remembering all the bad things he’s said and done.
I walked away with the same opinion of Musk I’ve long held — he’s a smart man who has a cult-like following, a showman’s sensibility despite some awkwardness, and who has done and said things that very much deserve to be called out.
Sometimes you remember an SNL episode because the host was funny throughout, or terrible, or swore live on air. And sometimes you get an episode that caused controversy for two weeks before it aired yet ended up being mostly forgettable. And with the exception of two filmed sketches that were centered around main cast members more than Musk, this episode will soon be stuffed down the memory hole.
Or should I say stuffed down the Hyperloop tunnel?