Stirring buzz and backlash, Elon Musk promises to behave when he hosts 'SNL'

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Live from New York, it's almost Saturday night.

And you know what that means — Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is about to make his controversial "Saturday Night Live" debut.

In recent weeks, NBC's decision to tap the divisive billionaire to host an episode of the long-running sketch-comedy series has floored the internet and spurred countless headlines leading up to his buzzy "SNL" appearance.

Despite his critics' best efforts, Musk will be the first person to host the 46-year-old variety program who is not an athlete or entertainer since former President Donald Trump in 2015.

"And I'm a wild card, so there's no telling what I might do," Musk said in a video promo (titled "Elon Musk Promises to Behave on SNL"), flanked by musical guest Miley Cyrus and cast member Cecily Strong.

Here's a timeline of controversy pooling around the tech mogul's latest gig, including commentary from "SNL" cast members Bowen Yang, Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson and Chris Redd.

NBC announces Musk as host

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On April 24, NBC announced that Musk would be hosting "SNL" with Cyrus as musical guest.

The casting choice marked a departure from the show's typical emcee fare, usually made up of big-name actors and the occasional chart-topping musician who often doubles as the night's performer.

Musk will be the first non-entertainer to host an episode of the series since Houston Texans lineman J.J. Watt made his "SNL" debut more than a year ago alongside musical guest Luke Combs.

Backlash ensues

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The stunt casting move was met with immediate resistance from skeptics who accused the business executive of hoarding his wealth and abusing his employees, while citing contentious statements he has made about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Musk dismissed concern over the public health crisis that has taken the lives of more than 500,000 Americans as "dumb" and called nationwide lockdowns aimed at containing the deadly virus "fascist."

He also threatened to move Tesla headquarters out of California after a standoff with Alameda County officials who acted to delay the reopening of his electric car factory against his wishes due to COVID-19 concerns. It appears, however, that the automobile plant will be sticking around for now.

"idk how much communication you have with [executive producer Lorne Michaels] or the higher ups, but someone needs to tell them that absolutely no one wants this," wrote one person. "i can not think of a single person who wants this. and i don't mean miley."

"I hope there’s a skit about dismissing a worldwide pandemic multiple times and criticizing public health measure to try and mitigate deaths just so he can restart car production," tweeted another.

As usual, Musk has ignored the backlash, instead using social media to tout his companies' technological advancements and to tease Saturday's broadcast. NBC also has opted to stay silent amid mounting criticism.

Yang and Bryant post — and then delete

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Among the many who reacted to the Musk announcement were "SNL" cast members Yang and Bryant, who appeared to disapprove of the network's choice in since-deleted posts.

On his Instagram story, Yang questioned a cryptic April 24 tweet from Musk that read, "Let’s find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is," followed by a smiling-devil emoji.

"what the f— does this even mean," the Season 45 breakout wrote before deleting the post.

Around the same time, many believe Bryant joined the discourse by sharing a pointed tweet from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders before removing it from her Instagram story.

"The 50 wealthiest people in America today own more wealth than the bottom half of our people," read the Sanders tweet. "Let me repeat that, because it is almost too absurd to believe: the 50 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than some 165 MILLION Americans. That is a moral obscenity.

According to Forbes, Musk is the second-wealthiest person in the United States behind Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Grimes defends her man

A man and woman in black-and-white formalwear
Elon Musk, left, and Grimes arrive at the 2018 Met Gala. (Angela Weiss / AFP/Getty Images)

Clearly, the "SNL" news has reignited criticism of Musk on social media, including TikTok, where people have been flooding Grimes' page with complaints about her partner.

The experimental pop musician, who has been romantically linked to Musk since the 2018 Met Gala, had her first child with the SpaceX founder. The baby, famously named X Æ A-Xii, will celebrate his first birthday later this month.

On April 25, Grimes defended her billionaire boyfriend after a TikTok user accused him of destroying "THE PLANET AND HUMANITY," under a video she posted of herself "sword dancing" to the Weeknd's "Save Your Tears" remix featuring Ariana Grande.

"How is he doing these things?" Grimes wrote back. "His whole career is about making travel/house power etc sustainable and green. It's worth a deep dive."

Musk has got jokes

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Undeterred by the outrage, Musk later tried his hand at comedy writing by "throwing out some skit ideas for SNL" on Twitter last week. (Cast member Redd reposted that tweet with his own commentary: "First I'd call Em sketches," he wrote with a crying-laughing emoji.)

First up was "Baby Shark Tank," presumably a hybrid bit merging the hit business competition series "Shark Tank" and the infectious children's anthem "Baby Shark" (doo doo doo doo doo doo).

Option No. 2? "Irony Man," about someone — likely based on Robert Downey Jr.'s Marvel superhero, "Iron Man" — who "defeats villains using the power of irony."

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Other potential characters included "Woke James Bond" and "The Dogefather," a play on the Tesla founder's recent affinity for the cryptocurrency modeled after a popular meme of a Shiba Inu dog. (The virtual monetary unit, originally created as a joke, has seen significant growth lately because of its association with Musk.)

Twitter users had other ideas, such as "a skit where a selfish billionaire has a tantrum," while 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson encouraged Musk to "announce that you’re giving away half your fortune to help eradicate deep poverty, fight climate change and promote world peace."

Che and Davidson weigh in

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While appearing on "Late Night" this week, Davidson told host and "SNL" alum Seth Meyers he didn't see any reason for people to be "freaking out" about Musk taking the reins.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe that Elon Musk is hosting!'” Davidson said. “I’m like, ‘The guy that makes the earth better kinda and makes cool things and sends people to Mars?'”

The actor added that he was "really excited" to meet the tech exec and ask for "a Tesla or some s—," declaring that he would "100%” go to space and get stoned with Musk if invited.

"Weekend Update" host Che dismissed the backlash as well while appearing on Meyers' show, "The Breakfast Club" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

“He’s the richest man in the world. How could you not be excited for that?" he mused on "Late Night," later telling DeGeneres it's "kind of dope" to see that "people still care about who’s being booked" after 46 years.

“I think white people just don’t like their billionaires for some reason," he told "Breakfast Club" host Charlamagne tha God. "It’s weird ’cause we love our billionaires. If Oprah or Tyler Perry was coming, we’d be all excited about it. ...

"I think it’s a little embarrassing when they realize how much wealth they actually have. ... He's a polarizing guy ... but that’s what makes the show exciting.”

Musk praises 'SNL' cast

Social-media grumblings aside, Musk recently told Page Six that the "SNL" writers and cast "have been awesome so far," after grabbing dinner with the show's producers as well as players Davidson, Redd, Colin Jost, Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim and Chloe Fineman.

The Musk-Cyrus edition of "SNL" premieres Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Pacific on NBC.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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