Saturday Night Live Recap: Elon Musk makes controversial hosting debut

Here we go, on these unchartered waters. Welcome, my dear Coneheads, to a Very Special SNL in Review. Tonight, Elon Musk, one of the richest businessmen on the planet — a tech entrepreneur, an enfant terrible — hosts Saturday Night Live. And how you feel about that may say more about you than the show itself.

“Burnt my fingertips, man,” as Bo Diddley says to Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. And indeed, the sheer volume of hot takes and passionate defenses since Musk was announced has been mostly exhausting. And, sadly, the attention that’s been garnered almost certainly justifies all the controversy and hoopla. Clicks don’t lie. But still, while there is some degree of precedence for tonight’s episode, give or take an Andrew Dice Clay or Steve Forbes, the level of bad faith discourse — the glibness, the trolling – has been discouraging.

That’s why I keep returning to Donald Trump’s last hosting gig, a watershed moment that the show seemingly sought to live down over the past four years. It was their “out, damned spot,” driving the subsequent four years of vicious — and tiresome, if morally well-intentioned — celebrity cold opens. Or was it? Was it just about the clicks this whole time? Just one guy’s opinion.

I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member, Jeff Richards, who just released a devastatingly funny deep fake teaser for his upcoming podcast interview with Cheri Oteri. Here’s his take on the Tesla chief’s appearance: “Listen, this is a supercharged moment, and I get why people are so emphatic about him hosting on both sides of the track. To me, SNL should push buttons and, for what it’s worth, I wanna see him peel out. Zoom zoom.”

He adds: “He makes super cool cars. Let him, host. Duh… If you have a problem with him just let one of the Tesla cars hosts.” I think that settles it! Buckle up.

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Then the parade of moms begins. Kate McKinnon and her mom perform Mary Catherine Gallagher, which is a nice touch. That sort of thing.

Some were hoping that tonight’s episode will have an outsized Miley presence. She has become a darling of the show over the years. She is a former three-time host, and tonight marks her sixth appearance as the musical guest, not counting SNL40.

The parent shots are amateurish and awkward but fine for what they are. Just to emphasize what a huge deal this is – tonight is the first time the show has ever been live-streamed internationally.

Musk says he is the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL (which he is wrong about). He begins to share his version for the future. “Musk is killing it. I mean comedy,” says Richards. “If I wasn’t a writer I’d be pissed.”

Musk’s mom appears on stage — little stilted, as these things go. (Obviously, um, his dad would never appear alongside him, regardless of Mothers’ Day or not…) Was this successful at making Musk endearing?

I keep thinking about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s speech in Almost Famous. About the swill merchants and the “industry of cool” supplanting music’s soul. And that cuts both ways here, right? On the one hand, having Hollywood’s latest It boy or girl waltz out, peddling their product, reduces SNL to mere PR. And it’s just such a boring trope. Having someone non-traditional stand on 8H’s stage is a net positive, somehow. And yet, the disdain for the audience can’t be ignored either. Reasonable people can debate whether a six is a nine, but the sheer indifference and dismissal of this decision and others – as if the show is beyond critique — is off-putting.

A soap opera spoof — lots of bros and bestie talk. Multicolored teens fret over their friend with their goofball, eye-crossing lingo. Think the Californians sketch on acid. Like, Musk is the doctor (“I stan you.”) and it’s not even the strangest thing here.

I mean, having performers almost all in their mid-30s (or whatever) as the “gang” is weird and cringe. That’s been an ongoing issue, Kyle Mooney does it all the time. “That urn is iconic,” deadpans McKinnon.

Written by Michael Che and Gary Richardson, who collaborated on Che’s new HBO show. Please check it out and like it (if only to stay on Che’s good side and not get flamed on his social.)

It’s every conversation with people you have not seen since the pandemic began. McKinnon meets Beck Bennett at the party, and they have no idea who the other person is. “Is she my cousin?” asks Chris Redd, staring at Ego Nwodim, who he is trying to flirt with. He attempts to kiss her.

“Is this a conversation?” This mostly captures the banality of these conversations. “Do I have brain damage?” questions, Bennett. He is perfect for a premise like this.

It’s Icelandic television, with Mikey Day channeling “Sprockets.” Then Chloe Fineman appears as Olli, another strange and specific performance. “Pretty cool!”

McKinnon appears as the first guest, Frances McDormand. Meh. A little funny, since Fineman has a very good McDormand that she just did on Instagram, post-Oscars. Olli calls Nomadland boring — ha!

Pete Davidson pops up as Steve Buscemi, who co-starred with him in King of Staten Island last year. Is this why he has that ‘stache? We wrap up with Melissa Villaseñor, fresh off hosting the Independent Spirit Awards, displaying her Bjork.

Two cousin incest jokes in back-to-back sketches. Hm ok.

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