I Didn't Watch Elon Musk On 'SNL' And I'm Just Fine With The Decision

Post by: Rick Ellis 09 May, 2021

I don't hate Elon Musk. But that doesn't mean I want to watch him host Saturday Night Live.

In the two weeks since it was announced that billionaire Elon Musk was hosting SNL tonight, there have been a thousand hot takes written about the decision. The consensus seems to be that it's a bad idea, although the reasons range from the fact that he's given no previous indication he's personable or funny to the more laughable argument that his presence somehow ruins SNL's "counter culture" vibe.

To be clear, Saturday Night Live hasn't had a true counter-culture vibe since the audience was listening to Blues Brothers albums on their 8-track players. Since producer Lorne Michaels came back to run the show in 1985, SNL has proven to be an efficient pipeline for comedic actors and performers looking for success in Hollywood. And on the positive side, Michaels does have a good eye for talent, which has often been the only reason to watch the show.

But it's been a very long time since Saturday Night Live really mattered. It's a show built around this very specific blend of Ivy League humor filtered through summers in the Hamptons. Despite all of the efforts in recent years to diversify the cast and the show's point-of-view, most weeks the show is as radical and surprising as a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread. With the crusts cut off. Lorne Michaels has curated the show to be the comedic equivalent of Meet The Press: a safe, often predictable fountain of conventional wisdom. 

Yes, viewers still watch the show. But it's mostly because it's the only live sketch comedy TV show around and watching it feels familiar and comforting. It's the same nostalgia that kept The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson on the air a decade after it should have left the building. I mean, Johnny Carson is an idol of mine, but in the last ten years of his show, Carson was so unmotivated that it felt as if he were paying someone else to phone it in. And that's how it often feels when I watch Saturday Night Live. It's this dance of weariness and mediocrity, a show filled with talented people cranking out comedic knock-offs for the tourists. 

For all of the comedic opportunities of the Trump Administration, the humor on Saturday Night Live was tame and obvious. And conservatives do have a point when they accuse the show of taking it easy on targets such as President Biden. I'm not arguing the show should start hacking at politicians until they scream. But it would nice to include a line or two that at least made the powerful even slightly uncomfortable.

The Elon Musk booking isn't surprising and I'm sure it will accomplish precisely what Lorne Michaels and crew hope it will. People will tune into the show, much ink will be spilled on social media and everyone at NBC will be happy. 

But Musk's presence is a prime example of why Saturday Night Live is a often a soulless husk of programming. He's there only so people will turn in. He doesn't contribute anything special to the episode aside from his fame. In the end, he's the bearded lady of this sad TV circus.

He's just there to get the suckers through the front door.

Last modified on Sunday, 09 May 2021 00:43