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An Elon Musk comedy show: Funny, or just true?

I went to an Edinburgh Fringe show about Elon Musk. It's hard to satirize a man who is so absurd already.
An Elon Musk comedy show: Funny, or just true?
Screenshot: Edinburgh Fringe
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Among the thousands of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the world’s largest comedy festivals, a particular performance caught my eye: “00:01 to Elaunch: the Immersive Muskperience”.

It had a two-day run. And it was free. Billed as an absurdist variety show, it looked like a Musk-see.

The Fringe, which is back with a vengeance after a Covid hiatus, is a month-long free-for-all of enterprising artists of various comedic abilities. On this year’s roster is a rhyming retelling of Die Hard, a “cab”-aret performance for five in a taxi, and a ballet version of Hamlet with Sir Ian McKellen. 

Amid this cacophony, Muskperience performers Joe and Olga reckoned their chosen theme gave them an edge. And they passed a significant Fringe hurdle: They had an audience.

About 40 people showed up to the venue, a music-themed bar, where the “Technokings” (a reference to a 2021 Tesla SEC filing, in which Musk bestowed upon himself that title), took us on a silly, zero-budget whirlwind through Musk’s life.

Reliving Musk’s major life moments, from his PayPal ouster to dealing with the Tesla shorts

The show kicked-off in a Martian future. We were asked to place skinny headbands visor-like across our foreheads. These “neuralink devices” allowed us to flash back in time, Wayne’s World-style, to live through the major moments in Musk’s life.

Early on, we were on a yacht with Peter Thiel (he was booed immediately) as the Paypal co-owners argued over whether or not the platform should be built on Unix or Microsoft. This bit went on too long. But then, in real life it did, too. The argument prompted Musk’s ousting as PayPal CEO.

Later, 13 volunteers were pulled up on stage to represent the Thai boys trapped in a cave in 2018. While Musk, back turned, worked out the complicated math to build a rescue device, each of the children was silently ushered off stage through a hula hoop. Musk pouted: “But I wanted to rescue the kids!”

There was also a mimed routine of someone sleeping at the wheel in a Tesla, a dance to the song “Short Shorts” with a reference to shorting Tesla stock, and a reading of audience-submitted Elon tweets from the future. From Joe: “I wonder how many bots are in this audience?”

A rich subject for first-time Fringe performers

Was it funny? Many gags landed, many did not. A couple at my table said, “Maybe we should have smoked something before this show?” A group near the front loved every minute of it, but a man by the bar never stopped frowning—though he also never took off his neuralink headband.

Joe ended the show by pointing out nearly everything covered was true, saying: “There’s nothing more satirical than the truth.”

But satire, which thrives on irony and exaggeration, is a tall order when the subject is already so absurd: a “420"-loving, Twitter maximalist, self-branded “technoking” who is also the richest man in the world and wants to die on Mars. It already sounds like satire. And there’s no exaggeration yet.

After the show I talked with Olga and Joe. The Technokings were first-time Fringe performers. They’re not in the comedy industry at all; both work at big finance firms—they chose not to reveal which—in London.

“John Dillinger robbed banks because that’s where the money is,” said Joe. “We do Elon Musk because that’s where the comedy is.”