After a comparatively quiet post-election season that noticed Saturday Night Live loosen up and refocus on the funnier, weirder whims of its gifted and outsized forged, the present grabbed extra headlines over the previous month by reserving billionaire troublemaker and rocket fanatic Elon Musk to host.
This wasn’t an unprecedented transfer; relying on one’s opinion of Musk, it lands someplace between the affable-if-suspect dorkiness of reserving wealthy man Steve Forbes, who hosted after the top of his presidential marketing campaign in 1996, and the beyond-suspect awfulness of reserving wealthy man Donald Trump, who has hosted twice, as soon as throughout his personal presidential marketing campaign. Loads of followers of the present (in addition to loads of individuals who by no means truly watch the present) cringed on the prospect of SNL glorifying one other wealthy dude doing a conceit tour into sketch comedy, particularly when Musk did his half to spread misinformation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Musk followers, alternatively, did their regular factor: ready to love something he does for any purpose whereas DMing anybody who criticizes him. I can solely think about the messages acquired by forged and crew members Aidy Bryant, Bowen Yang, and Andrew Dismukes, who all expressed discomfort with the reserving by way of since-deleted social media posts.
All three of them have been briefly provide within the precise episode—although just like the episode itself, these absences have been a bit anticlimactic. There have been no formal sit-outs; the present opened with a Mom’s Day bit the place a performance from musical visitor Miley Cyrus was interspersed with forged members doing ten-second jokes with their mothers, the most recent variation on a practice courting again thirty-plus years. However when Bryant disappeared for the rest of the present, and each Yang and Dismukes appeared sparingly, it felt each notable and like form of a shrug. The present was mild this week—not mild in tone, precisely, and even mild in laughs (although it was that!), however type of a half-there time-killer with about 4 stay sketches complete.
Generally it’s type of enjoyable when exterior circumstances—additional visitor stars, unconventional music performances, or a humorist doing an extended monologue—tinker with the present’s regular timing. This week, although, it felt like an prolonged dodge, a approach of preserving Musk in each sketch (the hoped-for host-free sketches have turn out to be comparatively uncommon in post-2000 SNL) whereas shifting the present alongside. It didn’t actually work, because the episode took some time to get going. By design, the opening mother bit lasted lengthy sufficient to present virtually everybody in a big forged their second. Much less explicable was Musk’s monologue; the form of section that’s normally a fast get-in-get-out for hosts who aren’t skilled entertainers (and even some who’re) dragged on, with Musk de-facto introducing himself to anybody who doesn’t know a lot about Tesla, SpaceX, or his dopey Twitter feed, and bringing out his personal mother for some lukewarm cracks.
He additionally made a factual error in figuring out himself as the primary host with Asperger Syndrome (even together with his added joke about merely being the primary one to confess it); Dan Aykroyd has talked about receiving an Asperger analysis earlier on this profession, and he has hosted the present, along with being a founding unique forged member. Clearly it’s not on Musk to know the present’s historical past properly sufficient to fact-check his traces, however that second nonetheless underlined what was off-putting in regards to the present’s makes an attempt to lean into Musk’s complete deal: attempting to be self-effacing whereas largely coming throughout self-gratifying.
Aside from the monologue, this got here by means of most clearly in a Weekend Replace piece, the place Musk non-played a non-character touting Musk’s most popular meme-based cryptocurrency Dogecoin whereas anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che repeatedly refused to just accept his flimsy explanations of what Dogecoin truly is. OK, mildly humorous, however it nonetheless felt like spon-con, particularly when viewers members whooped on the crypto’s mere point out and Musk smiled smugly over his personal in-joke. This smugness made its approach into one stay sketch, the place Musk performed a member of an old-timey western gang, providing suspiciously Elon Musk-like concepts about electrical horses, touring by way of underground tunnels, and extra goddamned cryptocurrency. (Admittedly, Beck Bennett’s line about how their present system of cash—digging up gold from the bottom, attempting to not get killed, then exchanging it for paper—works “completely” was fairly humorous.) It was largely faux-self-deprecation, not fairly as appalling as that fantasy presidency sketch from Trump’s 2015 internet hosting gig—however not far off, both. Providing one cutesy mea culpa about doubting pandemic masks on the 88-minute mark of a 90-minute comedy present isn’t precisely the charmer Musk appeared to suppose it was.
The true shock, although, was how regular-bad the remainder of the present was other than Musk’s stilted contributions—simply the weakest crop of sketches to seem this season, even with the host on the margins. The normally dependable Chloe Fineman launched what ominously resembled an try at a brand new recurring character along with her Icelandic talk-show host Ooli, spouting off jokes that felt largely like a middle-schooler had simply watched Eurovision on Netflix. Earlier, a complete bunch of gifted forged members placed on overcooked accents to make enjoyable of youthful slang for one thing referred to as “Gen-Z Hospital,” and whereas I’m all for making enjoyable of the lower-case memeification of language, the sketch felt distinctly like vamping, a post-Replace sketch moved as much as first place. Most disappointing, what ought to have been an ideal silly-sketch layup started with Kyle Mooney taking part in Luigi from the Tremendous Mario Bros. video games earlier than swiftly cratering.
It’s exhausting to search out an SNL episode with nothing of worth, and there have been glimmers on this one: Ego Nwodim did produce a reasonably impeccable little bit of character comedy on the Replace desk, taking part in a fed-up mother getting back from a visit to Disneyland. The filmed items about Mare of Easttown and awkward post-COVID conversations have been effective, if unsurprising. Miley Cyrus did an important horn-backed model of her track “Plastic Hearts”. However the zing of earlier 2021 episodes—Dan Levy, Daniel Kaluuya, Regina King—was nonexistent.
Lorne Michaels has stated repeatedly that the present’s job is to make the host look good. The Elon Musk episode, then, stands as an interesting instance of the present naturally rebelling in opposition to that directive. I’m not suggesting that the writers and forged tanked the episode on goal. I’m extra questioning if some hosts might be theoretically sport but nonetheless essentially incompatible with what the present does greatest. If there’s a method to make Elon Musk look good by way of sketch comedy that doesn’t require Tesla-brand glasses, Saturday Evening Dwell didn’t discover it this week, and whereas the episode was usually painful (or simply boring) to look at, there’s a sure aid that it offered little or no alternative to wonder if having fun with the present was serving to to make an “eccentric,” doubtlessly dangerous billionaire burnish his picture. As an alternative, one other main custom stayed in place: SNL’s periodic means to undermine its personal controversies with anticlimax.