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Elon Musk promises to be 'good-ish' as SNL: How to watch, what to know

The Tesla and SpaceX billionaire brags that's there's "no telling" what he'll do on the NBC show. Plus, Grimes teases an appearance.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
6 min read

Live, from New York, it's ... no joke. Elon Musk will host Saturday Night Live tonight. And according to a tease from his partner Grimes, the Canadian musician might make an appearance as well. 

CEO Elon Musk

Elon Musk will host SNL on May 8.

James Martin/CNET

"Tune into SNL tonight to watch me try acting!" Grimes posted to Instagram Saturday

Earlier, Musk played off the controversy his hosting gig has sparked to suggest the episode is a must-watch.

"I'm a wild card, so there's no telling what I might do," Musk says in a promotional video released Thursday by NBC. Later in the video, Musk and musical guest Miley Cyrus promise to be "good-ish" since the show airs the day before Mother's Day.

The billionaire businessman behind  Tesla  and SpaceX might seem like a strange choice for the hosting slot, which usually features actors, comedians and other Hollywood celebrities. But if sheer fame is a qualifier, Musk fits right in -- he has more than 50 million Twitter followers, frequently makes headlines, and is constantly right up there on the list of richest people in the world.

While some SNL cast members aren't thrilled about Musk hosting (see below for details), Pete Davidson appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers on Wednesday and seemed to be a fan.

"I don't know why people are freaking out," Davidson said. "They're like, 'Oh I can't believe that Elon Musk is hosting!' And I'm like, the guy that makes the earth better kinda and makes cool things and sends people to Mars?"

Davidson and some other cast members had dinner this week with Musk and SNL boss Lorne Michaels. Before the meal, Davidson joked to Meyers that he planned to ask Musk for a Tesla. After the dinner, Davidson told a New York radio station that Musk was "really nice," and that the cast members he hangs out with are "all excited and really don't understand the controversy."

Here's a rundown of what to know about Musk's May 8 SNL appearance on NBC. 

Musk gets ready for the gig 

Musk seems pretty pleased to be hosting the long-running show. He's been tweeting reminders, including one in which he dubs himself the Dogefather. The tweet references the meme-themed cryptocurrency Dogecoin, which Musk has tweeted and talked about before.

For a short tweet, Musk's words may have had a real-world effect. Barrons reported a Dogecoin rally after Musk's tweet. 

Musk has also been musing on Twitter about some skits for himself. He proposed a "Woke James Bond" idea, plus a play on Iron Man called "Irony Man - defeats villains using the power of irony." And he tweeted about a sketch in which "Baby Shark & Shark Tank merge to form Baby Shark Tank."

Fan reaction

Naturally, there's been plenty. 

Grimes, who shares a son with Musk, defended him on TikTok this week when commenters attacked Musk over issues involving the environment and women's rights, while admitting he's definitely "been very immature at points on Twitter."

In 2018, Musk became involved in plans to rescue a Thai boys' soccer team trapped in a cave, flying in a team of engineers and proposing using a mini-submarine to save them. But when British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth criticized Musk's idea, Musk called Unsworth a "pedo guy" in a tweet. In 2019, a jury concluded Musk's words did not defame Unsworth. 

"I wonder how much Musk paid NBC and Lorene Michaels for the gig," one Twitter user wrote, referring to SNL creator Lorne Michaels. "Bet it's enough to finance SNL's entire 2021-'22 season."

"Elon Musk hosting SNL is huge for guys still making 'that's what she said' jokes who think they'd be great at hosting SNL," wrote comedian and author Josh Gondelman.

Cast reaction

Because some consider Musk a controversial figure, SNL reportedly told cast members they will not be forced to act alongside him. None have publicly declined -- and as noted, Pete Davidson seemed enthused -- but several cast members have commented on his coming to their show.

The SNL host has to work with its cast of seasoned comedians and writers, but rarely do those folks say anything about their host in advance. Not so for Musk. 

SNL cast member Bowen Yang reacted to a Musk tweet.

On the day the news was announced, Musk confirmed his appearance and tweeted, "Let's find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is," with a purple smiling devil-face emoji.

Yang reacted in an Instagram story with a frowning face, and then said, "What the f--- does that even mean?"

Cast member Andrew Dismukes also commented on Musk's hosting in an Instagram story, referring to SNL alum Cheri Oteri, and writing "ONLY CEO I WANT TO DO A SKETCH WITH IS Cher-E Oteri."

Michael Che discussed Musk's appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, joking that he hoped someone would tell Musk it was tradition for hosts to "give, like, a couple million dollars to the cast members."

Cast member Aidy Bryant posted a quote from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that says, in part, "the 50 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than some 165 MILLION Americans. That is a moral obscenity." Musk is regularly listed as either the world's richest person, or among the very richest.

Tesla competitor reaction

Even companies are reacting to Musk's appearance. Electric car startup company Lucid Motors is capitalizing on Musk's Tesla connection by planning to run an ad during SNL.

The company's Lucid Air sedan might beat Tesla's Model S Plaid Plus to market and be the first electric car on sale with a range of over 500 miles, so it's pretty smart to advertise to an audience that's probably pretty aware of Tesla already.

Musk's past pop culture appearances 

Musk is certainly no stranger to the spotlight (or to cracking a joke). He's had cameos in Iron Man 2The Simpsons and Rick and Morty -- as Elon Tusk. And then there are the viral moments: taking a toke on Joe Rogan's podcast, that could-almost-have-been-a-comedy-routine Cybertruck demo. And the tweets -- including the one where Musk's head was Photoshopped onto the Rock's body. Musk also named his actually-a-thing tunnel-digging business The Boring Company.

And he's not the only non-actor to host the NBC sketch comedy. Athletes such as Nancy Kerrigan and Lance Armstrong have hosted the show, as have politicians such as Rudy Giuliani and Al Gore. Even then-presidential candidate Donald Trump hosted in 2015.

Still, it's fair to say many were shocked when SNL announced Musk would host the May 8 show, with Miley Cyrus returning for her sixth SNL stint as musical guest. It's hard to imagine Musk cracking scripted jokes, and maybe even harder to imagine how he'll be portrayed in sketches.

How to watch if you're a cord-cutter

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays on NBC at 11:30 pm ET/8:30 pm PT, ending at 1 a.m/11 p.m.. If you don't care to watch live, SNL posts sketches on its Twitter and YouTube accounts as the show goes on. Can't stay up that late? We'll be rehashing Musk's appearance here on CNET by the time you wake up on Sunday. And there will no doubt be plenty of reaction on social media. 

If you do want to watch the show live and you're a cord-cutter, you can watch it with a live-TV streaming service

Sling TV's $35-a-month Blue plan includes NBC, but only in a few select markets. If you don't live in one of those markets you won't be able to watch NBC or Saturday Night Live on Sling TV. The Blue plan also includes popular cable news channels such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. 

Read our Sling TV review.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes the four major networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox -- along with popular cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes the four major networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox -- along with popular cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Click the "View channels in your area" link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

FuboTV costs $65 a month and includes the four major networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox -- along with popular cable news channels including Fox News and MSNBC but not CNN. Click here to see which local channels you get.

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T Now's basic $70-a-month Plus package includes the four major networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox -- along with popular cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.

Read our AT&T TV Now review.

CNET's Edward Moyer contributed to this report.

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