There inevitably comes a moment in all terminally online people’s lives when we learn the hard way that Twitter isn’t real life. Since I’m not a famous right-wing billionaire, for me, it happened a few years ago when I attempted to joke about “a shrimp frying this rice” at dinner, and the line landed with a thud. But for Elon Musk, that pivotal moment probably happened on Sunday night when he joined transphobic comic Dave Chappelle at the end of his San Francisco set—to throngs of aggressive booing from the crowd of roughly 18,000.
Shortly after Chappelle introduced Musk as “the richest man in the world,” the Chase Center erupted in boos, which only intensified as Musk meandered around on stage, and he and Chappelle—both clearly shocked by the reaction from Musk’s Silicon Valley home turf—attempted to banter about it.
“Cheers and boos, I see. Elon...” Chappelle said.
“Hey Dave,” Musk responded.
Chappelle, at that point, appeared to be in damage control mode and made the curious choice of insulting his own fans: “It sounds like some of the people you fired are in the audience,” he said. “All these people who are booing, and I’m just pointing out the obvious, you have terrible seats.” Some very astute marketing!
Videos from audience members who managed to sneak phones into the venue show Chappelle segue into some jokes about Musk’s obsession with Mars. “[Musk’s] whole business model is fuck Earth, I’m leaving anyway,” the comedian says. Yeah, we kind of figured the world’s foremost, union-busting, wealth hoarder who blew $44 billion to transform a social media platform into his personal right-wing echo chamber never really had our best interests in mind. But as his pal, you’re not supposed to say that part out loud, Dave. We’re supposed to believe tech billionaires are philanthropic altruists here to save mankind!
Despite Chappelle’s best attempts at comedy, each time Musk began to speak, the booing picked back up, and Musk appeared truly at a loss. One attendee recounts the Chief Twit “absolutely [turning] into a corncob” in the face of the crowd reaction (“80% of the stadium boos,” he wrote); another called him “a deer in headlights.” It turns out that for all his stolen Fox News grandpa memes, Musk is helplessly un-funny when the lights are bright and he can’t just hide behind some fellow weird, terminally online nerd who thinks defending billionaires will make him one someday. Now, Musk is aggressively unfunny online, too, but there, he can at least pretend to ignore all the well-earned hate. What are you supposed to do when it’s right in front of you, screaming in your face??
Make jokes, write it off, sure—if the man had even an ounce of comedic timing, he might’ve riffed off his controversial $8 Twitter Blue plan and told audience members to pay him. Something like that. He went a different route.
“Dave, what should I say?” Musk, visibly embarrassed by the quite literally endless booing, said, opting to hide behind his weirdo fans till the bitter end. “Don’t say nothing. It’ll only spoil the moment,” Chappelle replied, before telling his own fans to “shut the fuck up with your boos.”
At some point, more video from audience members shows Chris Rock—lately, most famous for getting punched for mocking a Black woman’s hair—on-stage. Someone encourages Musk to say the catchphrase, “I’m rich, bitch,” from Chappelle’s 2000s comedy show, and when Musk does, once again, the arena explodes in boos, diffused only by a sound crew member honking some type of horn to protect Musk from the humiliation of it all.
Some ardent Elon Musk haters (respect!) have since taken to Twitter to admit that the videos circulating are so sad, they almost feel sorry for the man until remembering he’s accused of sexually harassing a flight attendant and spent a chunk of this weekend mocking trans people. But personally, I have little sympathy—it’s a lesson this man clearly needed to learn, although he still probably won’t.
The lesson is that in real life, Musk is not popular. Years ago, he had broad bipartisan appeal and way more trust and collective goodwill than he ever deserved, before going off the deep end parroting QAnon theories, writing off anyone who criticizes him as a pedophile, and publicly embracing right-wingers who are not-so-subtly trying to get trans kids killed. Yet, Musk has always demonstrated an inability to comprehend the true ratio of who does and doesn’t like him, as we’ve seen with the outcome of his ultimatum to remaining Twitter users—that they either go “hardcore” and work their asses off for him, or leave. To the surprise of no one but Musk, most left.
In his mind, his critics are a narrow sliver of “woke mind virus” victims; in reality, they’re the majority of people, or really, anyone with a semi-functioning brain. Early Monday, Musk addressed the controversy as only someone as far up their own asshole as he is could, by pathetically tweeting: “Technically, it was 90% cheers & 10% boos (except during quiet periods), but, still, that’s a lot of boos, which is a first for me in real life (frequent on Twitter). It’s almost as if I’ve offended SF’s unhinged leftists … but nahhh.”
For starters, everyone at Chappelle’s show was at the very least conservative enough to tolerate Chappelle’s well-known transphobia. And, as someone who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, let me just say about Musk’s characterization of the city: That’s not the truth, Ellen! Kids in the Silicon Valley are practically raised on the “Elon is a genius,” techie-libertarian Kool Aid from day one. I’d wager everyone at Chappelle’s show has a Ring camera and would call the cops or post an alert to Citizen at the first sight of someone “suspicious” in their wildly gentrified neighborhood. If you’re a tech billionaire who still manages to be booed into oblivion by this crowd, you’re just an asshole. That, or perhaps Chappelle was right about all of the employees Musk fired being in attendance.