In an era where celebrities feel an obligation to speak their minds instead of providing entertainment, the comedians of Saturday Night Live are in an uproar about plans for Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk to host NBC’s long-running late-night comedy show on May 8.
The vitriol generated by the plan stems from Musk’s habit of creating controversy when he tweets or speaks, recently Musk verified his upcoming appearance by tweeting, “let’s find out just how live ‘Saturday Night Live’ really is.”
If cast members are upset, executive producer Lorne Michaels is most likely taking it in stride. The volume of contempt being generated from the denizens of studio 8H in Rockefeller Center is only helping a show that reached a milestone this season, ranking as the No.1 comedy series in total viewers, according to Nielsen, a first for the show.
A rising tide for Tesla
This can only help Musk, whose company on Monday showed Q1 revenue of $10.4 billion and adjusted earnings of 93 cents a share, topping analysts’ expectations.
The company’s net income of $438 million set a quarterly record for the company, and Tesla expects deliveries to rise more than 50% this year. Of course, not all of that cash came from selling cars; $101 million came from sales of the $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin that Tesla purchased in February, while an additional $518 million came from sales of regulatory credits to other automakers to meet federal emissions requirements.
No wonder he’s giddy.
it wouldn’t be his first foray into the entertainment world. He’s appeared as a voice actor in animated cartoons, including “The Simpsons”, “South Park”, and “Rick and Morty.” TV series credits include “The Big Bang Theory”and “Young Sheldon.” And of course, who could forget his appearance in “Iron Man 2?”
Iacocca took a turn in front of a camera
Of course, the first time many Americans see automotive CEOs, they’re testifying before Congress, usually concerning automotive defects. That changed in the 1980s, when Chrysler was still fighting its way back from the brink of bankruptcy and federal loan guarantees under the guidance of CEO Lee Iacocca.
Chrysler’s ad agency, Kenyon & Eckhardt, thought the best way to convince the public that there was a new regime in charge was to put Iacocca in front of the camera. While the ads featured several taglines throughout the years, it was “if you can find a better car — buy it” that endured, transforming him from a corporate CEO into a folk hero.
Iacocca’s stint was so highly regarded, he was brought back by Daimler-Chrysler in 2005, to star in an ad teamed with rapper Snoop Dog, who delivered his own rendition of the tagline — “If the ride is more fly, then you must buy.”
Iacocca even played a parks department official in a 1986 episode of “Miami Vice.”
Other automotive CEOs have faced the cameras
But Iacocca’s old boss, Henry Ford II, grandson of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford, beat him to the punch, appearing in a TV ad in 1978 celebrating the automaker’s 75th anniversary. Later, in 2002, Ford CEO Jacques Nasser went before the cameras after 6.5 million Firestone tires, many installed on Ford Explorers, were recalled due to safety concerns. Later that year, Bill Ford Jr. appeared in a series of four spots publicizing the company’s heritage.
In 2006, hoping to spark some old Iacocca-like magic, Daimler-Chrysler did a series of ads featuring the company’s Chairman, Dieter Zetsche, whose name was shortened to Dr. Z in an effort to sell the company’s German-American partnership. But Zetsche was no Iacocca, and the ads did little to help the struggling automaker’s slide towards bankruptcy.
Given the track record of automotive CEOs indulging their inner thespian, those in studio 8H griping about Musk’s SNL gig should keep their powder dry. It will all blow over in a couple days.