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This Saturday night (May 8, 2021), viewers can tune in to see Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live, which may sound like an irreverent choice for hosting duties on the sketch comedy show at first. That is likely because some may not realize how often the wealthy South African-born tech innovator and aspiring Martian settler has shown off his sense of humor (even including times he was the butt of the joke) on various occasions on the big and small screen. So, in honor of his SNL debut, we present all of Elon Musk’s previous acting performances, starting with the time he shared the screen with his comic book doppelgänger.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
At roughly half an hour into Iron Man 2, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) attend a party where they bump into Elon Musk, who congratulates Pepper on her promotion to Stark Industries CEO. Tony then compliments the SpaceX founder on a line real-life rocket engines he developed and nicknamed Merlin before Musk mentions plans he has for an electric jet, which the Avenger promises he can "make work." On top of being one of the funniest superhero movie cameos ever, in my opinion, this casual, seconds-long conversation between two tech billionaires about their business plans is probably the one moment from the 2010 Marvel movie sequel that is most firmly grounded in plausibility.
Machete Kills (2013)
Elon Musk’s presence is also the one thing that just barely grounds director Robert Rodriguez’s over-the-top exploitation movie sequel Machete Kills in some semblance of reality. In the final sequence, meant to set up the still unmade third installment Machete Kills… In Space, President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen) asks Danny Trejo’s badass former Federale to follow the evil Luther Voz (Mel Gibson) into space. The vessel he is given for this mission: aFalcon 9 rocket by SpaceX, whose founder is there to wish Machete good luck in getting "the bastard" right before his departure.
The Simpsons (2015)
Of course, the more believable scenario is that Elon Musk would board the rocket too and fly it himself, which is how he ends up in Springfield in an episode of The Simpsons from Season 26 called "The Musk Who Fell To Earth." Musk, voicing himself, literally lands his spacecraft in the titular family’s backyard and becomes inspired by Homer’s incoherent rambling to develop a slew of ideas to improve their community. Unfortunately, these eco-friendly innovations end up costing Mr. Burns a lot money and Musk his welcoming in the town.
South Park (2016)
The following year, Elon Musk would once again voice his own animated counterpart in three episodes of South Park Season 20 - a rarity for a series that is famous for how brutally it pokes fun at celebrities. With things not going so well on for the rest of the world following the election of Mr. Garrison in the presidential race, Cartman (co-creator Trey Parker), Butters (co-creator Matt Stone), and their classmate Heidi Turner (Jessica Makinson) come up with a plan to escape the Earth for a new life on Mars. This leads them onto a tour of the SpaceX facility that is conducted by the founder himself.
The Big Bang Theory (2015)
While a SpaceX tour with the Elon Musk as your guide is a pretty cool thing to imagine, how about the opportunity to wash dishes with the man? Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) gets that chance on The Big Bang Theory’s Season 9 Thanksgiving episode when his wife, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), drags him to a soup kitchen for some volunteer work, which he agrees to reluctantly, at first. Yet, after Musk pops up at the dishwashing station offering Howard a potential future at SpaceX and some half-eaten pumpkin pie, it becomes the greatest decision he ever made.
Young Sheldon (2017)
However, we learned that washing dishes at the same soup kitchen is not the only connection that Elon Musk had to The Big Bang Theory cast of characters in 2017. In the first season of the single-camera prequel spin-off Young Sheldon, Jim Parsons’ onscreen childhood counterpart (Iain Armitage) develops an idea to use rocket boosters as landing gear which is immediately dismissed by a NASA scientist, but would attract the attention of another innovator. A flash-forward to 2016 reveals that Musk stole the plans for the Falcon 9’s rocket booster landing right from 10-year-old Sheldon Cooper’s notebook.
Why Him? (2016)
The tech industry meets the drug industry (well, not exactly) in Why Him? when Elon Musk crosses paths with Breaking Bad cast lead Bryan Cranston in the rom-com. Cranston’s Ned Fleming is already having a hard time getting along with his daughter, Stephanie’s (Zoey Deutch), tech millionaire boyfriend, Laird Mayhew (James Franco), when fellow tech industrialist Musk seems to give him another reason to be apprehensive. At a party hosted by Laird, Musk asks Ned how he knows him and when he mentions he is dating his daughter, Musk replies, "Uh oh," before briskly grabbing his drink and walking away.
Men In Black: International (2019)
So, I am technically cheating with this one, but I think it is worth mentioning simply by how appropriately this "cameo" reflects Elon Musk’s personality and aspirations. In Men in Black: International, the newly appointed Agent M (Tessa Thompson, reuniting with Thor: Ragnarok’s Chris Hemsworth) glances at the Alien Surveillance System, which features a rotation of celebrities who are revealed to be extra-terrestrials in disguise. Among them are singer and actress Ariana Grande, singer and actor Donald Glover, and Musk, which makes his obsession with Mars much clearer.
Rick And Morty (2020)
So far, there has only been one onscreen appearance by Elon Musk in which he does not play himself, technically speaking. Instead, he stars as Elon Tusk, a version of the tech billionaire who exists on an alternate reality in which every person is born with walrus-like tusks and most things, including his company Tuskla, have something to do with the protrusive dental appendage. Of all the hilarious surprises that would come about during the first half of Rick and Morty Season 4, this cross-dimensional vocal cameo was one of the more memorable.
I wonder if we will see more of Elon Tusk on Rick and Morty Season 5 if Elon Musk has any extra time to spare. Given how he was able to take a week off to stretch his comedic skills a bit further on Saturday Night Live, it would not rule out the possibility.