Though Saturday Night Live has been struggling in the ratings since the Presidential election, the show still scores big when it invites nonconformists to the main stage. The latest case-in-point: Elon Musk.
The self-proclaimed moderate is known for sharing Babylon Bee satire, opposing Covid shutdowns, and cryptically encouraging his Twitter followers to “take the red pill” — common slang for becoming a conservative. So it was hardly surprising when some cast members weren’t exactly thrilled to hear NBC had invited the bombastic billionaire to host the show on May 8. Viewers, however, had a different reaction.
With Musk in the spotlight, the show achieved the third-highest ratings of the season, up 33% from the three previous episodes. Look closely at the other two highly rated hosts, and you’ll notice a pattern.
Dave Chappelle, who earned the biggest audience of SNL’s 46th season, has been an outspoken critic of cancel culture, complaining that no one is “woke enough” for the new left and predicting they’re “going to get everybody eventually” if their efforts to silence and punish speech aren’t thwarted. “You’re not gonna nag people into behaving,” the comedian told Joe Rogan on his May 7 podcast where he defended Musk’s appearance, adding, “In fact, if you continue with this tone, even if you’re right, you’ll be very hard to hear.”
SNL’s second biggest ratings winner this year, SNL alum Chris Rock, isn’t quite as brash as Musk or Chappelle, but he, too, has signaled that he has serious problems with a movement that tries to destroy careers over jokes that were perfectly acceptable a few years ago.
Rock defended fellow comedian Jimmy Fallon when would-be cancellers came after “The Tonight Show” host for donning blackface in skits two decades earlier. “Hey, man, I’m friends with Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy. And he didn’t mean anything,” Rock told the New York Times. “A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t.”
Rock has also indicated his awareness that he could be next on the chopping block if he says the wrong thing. Asked if the woke are going too far in censoring blackface episodes of older comedies, Rock responded, “If I say they are, then I’m the worst guy in the world. There’s literally one answer that ends my whole career.”
Back in 2015, before cancel culture reached its zenith, Rock was sounding the alarm in even bolder tones, telling New York Magazine that he doesn’t play college campuses anymore because students are “unlearning liberty.”
Rock described college kids recording his material in early development stages in the hopes of finding something problematic. “You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive,” he complained, saying it’s a problem for the comedy business, in particular, because, “If you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.”
And yet, those willing to think those thoughts and then go even further by expressing them out loud often win the allegiance of the public, who express their gratitude with their eyeballs. That’s something SNL Creator Lorne Michaels seems to realize, even if some of his young, woke cast members don’t.
“I think Lorne recognizes if he just keeps playing to liberals on the coasts, his audience will wither. So he’s trying something,” an anonymous late-night television veteran and friend of Michaels told the Washington Post last week of NBC’s decision to invite Musk.
If the network wants its flagship comedy show to stay relevant, it better keep trying it.
Megan Basham (@megbasham) is the entertainment reporter for The Daily Wire. She’s a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic who was previously an entertainment editor and podcast co-host for World Magazine.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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