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 really 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 clearly 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. Zroom zroom."
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 host." I think that settles it! Buckle up.
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 to 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 waiter I'd really 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. Clearly 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.
Gen Z Hospital
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 really iconic," deadpans McKinnon.
Written by Michael Che and Gary Richardson, who collaborated together 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.)
Post Quarantine Conversation
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 kissing her.
"Is this really 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 Ooli, 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. Ooli 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.
New Detective Show
We have our Mare of Easttown spoof. "With a very specific accent… very specific Whites, Pennsylvania Whites." This is pitch perfect, from the beer to the commentary on Kate Winslet's ponytail. Complete with a Gritty cameo. And this follows their specific Ammonite take from a few weeks back too! Kate, they're watching.
A lot of great lines in this one. "This is where Joe Biden is from. Wow."
Miley Cyrus — "Without You"
This remix from Australian artist the Kid Laroi was teased earlier this week when it was revealed online he was at 30 Rock with Cyrus and Musk. And given the pop punk-inspired ballad is approaching almost half a billion streams on Spotify alone, it is a logical lead song choice tonight.
Very charming and pleasant. I can see why this is an earworm.
Colin Jost answers the question about why Musk is hosting the show: He needed an alibi, after news that a rocket has crashed in the ocean. Then he moves into some steady Trump jokes.
Other topics include reopening Broadway, Larry Bird, Biden's viral photo with the Carters and Florida's new restrictive voting law.
Nwodim plays Pauline, a weary mother in her darkest hour. She has just returned from Disney World. She is haggard, defeated. Very relatable vibe. "Sleeping Beauty: why is that hussy so tired?" This is bleak and hilarious.
Musk comes out as Lloyd Ostertag, who explains cryptocurrency. It's an infomercial for Dogecoin — but he can't really explain it. "What is it man?!" Che asks. "Oh, it's a hustle," he concludes. Pretty brilliant exchange.
And finally, ugh, the return of Baby Yoda. He is screaming — disturbing. He is out to discuss his "cool fans" and the recent May the Fourth holiday. He is swoll, getting into MMA. Next month, he is planning to combat Baby Groot. This is Kyle Mooney's fourth appearance as Grogu. No mas — though I did enjoy him talking about his posse with Lightning McQueen. Anyways.
Luigi (Mooney) is testifying at the trial for his brother's murder. This is a silly spoof of classic Nintendo, with Musk portraying Wario. He seems to enjoy doing the dance. In a shock, he is called to the stand. And look! It is Grimes as Princess Peach. The audience does not seem to recognize her. Wario blames the case against him on anti-Italian sentiment. Things get strange. Pete Davidson reappears as Governor Cuomo (after a blown cue.) I am surprised they keep spotlighting this impression — but I kind of like it! Sneaks up on you.
Chad on Mars
Oxygen is dropping fast on Mars. But a hero emerges: Chad. Elon Musk is asking him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Miley Cyrus declares her love to him, and that she is pregnant — obviously Chad is indifferent.
This is our first Chad appearance since Adele hosted in October. I assume they had killed the character off, honestly. But here we are, on Mars. I think this is the apathetic character's eleventh appearance overall (including the Adam Sandler cut-for-time) —hey, not bad for someone whose catchphrase is "Okay." You can do a lot worse with more, just ask Duane from Full House.
Musk has a mid Seth MacFarlane energy, doesn't he?
Miley Cyrus — "Plastic Hearts"
I really loved Plastic Hearts. Not sure whether I should feel shame, but I unabashedly love Cyrus' sultry, shimmering delivery. She's such a throwback crooner. Personally, I preferred her "Bad Karma," "Night Crawling," and "Edge of Midnight" off her last record, but she really belts it. I think she's got a great ear, honestly — and it's been wondrous seeing her evolve since her Disney Channel days.
"Pull me in, but don't you get too close," she belts. I have said it before - but this year's musical performances have been stellar.
Kyle Mooney has been shot in a salon. The Pearl RIver Gang has come to town. Elon Musk is a "genius" cowboy, who loves electric horses - he would like to dig a tunnel under the earth to capture the villains. He also suggests creating his own currency. Another infomercial. He even jokes about his COVID-19 comments.
"He sounds pretty rich, I mean smart," says Cecily Strong, playing an old western prostitute. Then suddenly, inexplicably, WTF, (?) she begins to sing. God bless Cecily and her knack for song. Always.
-Well, it is over. "After watching this episode I'm considering not buying a Tesla," shares Richards. I guess we barely saw Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang tonight — but no one went full Nora Dunn, right?
-How would you rate this? Vote here, or weigh in below. Musk seemed harmless, but I can't say it was especially good or funny. -Thank you to Jeff Richards for his thoughts tonight. Check out his podcast ASAP. Who doesn't love Cheri Oteri? I asked Jeff about his time on the show, and his experience dealing with a host who was decidedly not a professional entertainer or comedian. He says: "The first time I got dressed up like a woman was the Derek [Jeter] episode. They didn't ask me to. I just did. That's how much I love and still love baseball." (Side note: congratulations to John Means.)
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