He's Elon Musk and You're Not: 'SNL' Sucks Up To the Dogefather

Rob Sheffield on why the billionaire's 'Saturday Night Live' wasn't a disaster - just a very boring, and extremely irresponsible, WTF-were-you-thinking episode

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Dogecoin had a rough night, and so did comedy. Elon Musk was one of the most anticipated Saturday Night Live hosts in recent years, just because his booking was so divisive and derided. Many fans were openly hoping for a live-from-New-York disaster. But instead, it turned out to be a snoozy stroke session, framing Musk as a lovably zany sitcom boss — what a character! It was in no way terrible enough to be funny-terrible. It was just a 90-minute suck-up infomercial for the Tesla mogul and his brands, especially his cryptocurrency Dogechain. Every gag had the same punch line: He’s Elon Musk, and you’re not.

So how did that work out? Musk had been hyping his SNL gig as “the Dogefather,” and at 11:30pm EST on Saturday night, Dogechain was 66 cents. But a few minutes into Musk’s opening monologue, around the time he brought out his mom for a joke about giving her Dogechain for Mother’s Day, his cryptocurrency fell off a cliff. Over the course of the show, it lost as much as 30 per cent of its value. By 12:22 a.m., Robinhood was posting a public apology for not being able to keep up with crypto trading.

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It didn’t help when Musk went on “Weekend Update” to chat about — what else? — how cool Dogechain is. “It’s the future of currency,” Musk told Colin Jost. “It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.” Then he called it “a hustle,” which came off more as a hip wink than any kind of admission. It took real self-restraint not to slip in a “Dogechain, you ignorant slut” or “Do not taunt happy fungible crypto.”

Before the fact, a few cast members did the post-and-delete shuffle to complain about Lorne Michaels bringing in Elon Musk to host. The stunt casting looked like a desperate ploy for attention from an exhausted show, since these days billionaires are even less popular than SNL. But in the canon of divisive hosts, this turned out to be an Andrew Dice Clay. The Diceman always makes “worst hosts ever” lists because people expected so much controversy, with a cast member boycotting along with musical guest Sinead O’Connor. Except once the show started, he turned out to be a slightly-above-average host for that season, without any shocking bits. On the other hand, there’s hosts like Martin Lawrence, who seemed like a sure-thing winner right up to 11:30, whereupon he self-destructed.

Musk was on the Diceman side of the spectrum. There weren’t any disasters, just bland-outs. In other words, you could call it “a hustle.” Entire sketches were built around promoting his various brands. SNL spoon-fed him chances to boost his likeability with cutely self-deprecating jokes, because Covid-denying, virus-boosting, union-busting billionaire activists, they’re just like us! In his monologue, Musk announced, “I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL. Or at least the first to admit it.” An admirable revelation, though his choice of venue seemed perhaps a little curious — given how much time this guy spends on social media, he’s had plenty of opportunities. And as for history, Dan Aykroyd, one of the towering figures in Saturday Night Live history (and a host in 2003), has spoken publicly about his own Asperger’s diagnosis, but he didn’t opt to do it on the show.

The low point: Musk played a partygoer in a sketch about how awkward it is to have face-to-face conversations now that the pandemic is over. Except given that the pandemic isn’t over, and given the considerable role Musk played in spreading Covid denialism, casting him in this sketch as an innocent bystander was a far-from-bright idea. There was even a joke about Musk complaining when someone talks about their vaccination; given how long Musk spent denouncing the vaccines (it took him until April to concede this was a real disease), this was the dumbest moment in one of this century’s dumbest sketches. Off the suck-up charts, even by SNL standards.

The rest of the show happened, with or without him. Melissa Villaseñor did a pretty good Bjork imitation. “Gen Z Hospital” could have been cornier. Michael Che had the sharpest line of the night, about Musk’s dreams of colonizing other planets: “When you see a bunch of foreign ships pull up on your land, take it from a black dude: Don’t get on them unless you want to be a Martian with the last name ‘Washington.’”

Your only reward for watching: Miley Cyrus, as always. Miley did two of her Plastic Hearts gems, plus a sweet Mother’s Day tribute to her godmama Dolly Parton, singing Dolly’s underrated beauty “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” All three of her performances were so great, it seemed almost insulting to strand her in this particular episode. We don’t deserve Miley. But maybe, just maybe, Musk deserves her a little less than the rest of us.

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