SpaceX & Tesla Boss Elon Musk Would Make One Helluva Improviser

By Sandy Marshall | Apr 3, 2018

Last Friday, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket boosted a batch of communication satellites into orbit. This launch served as a pretty cool second act to February’s viral blast-off of CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to the Milky Way’s upper deck.

At a time when cosmic milestones give Earthlings a much-needed dose of awe and inspiration, Musk is revolutionizing technology from amped-up batteries to faster transit. Given his tendency to blend business with a wry sense of humor (he’s even rumored to be developing a comedy endeavor), you might be wondering:

What if Elon Musk took up improv?

We’re already all on board with his POV

With the Falcon 9 event, Musk took advantage of the opportunity for meta humor, acknowledging that the “car in space” stunt was pretty over the top in the first place. I mean, come on. He placed a Hot Wheels Tesla (with a tiny figurine at the helm) on the dash of a full-sized Tesla (with a full-sized mannequin in the driver’s seat). “I like the absurdity of that,” Musk said. Bonus points for the Hitchhiker’s-inspired sign reading “DON’T PANIC.”

This guy would make offers in scenes that are out of this world.

In space, no one can hear you stall

Musk doesn’t wait around. He’s the fearless guy in your group who’s up for anything and isn’t afraid to crack a few eggs to make an interstellar omelet. Much like an improv scene, space exploration is “full of uncertainty.” As he puts it, “It’s a relief when it actually works.”

Comedy has a business side, too

Musk is skilled at framing big accomplishments for the masses. As launches become commonplace, SpaceX created a “signature move” of landing first-stage rockets on the ground, harkening to early sci-fi depictions of Martian descents. More importantly, he knows how to build audiences on virtually any platform (sorry, Facebook). As a PayPal co-founder, he’ll offer solid ideas around ticket policies and customer acquisition.

He’s also a billionaire, which no improviser has ever been able to claim. Post-show drinks are on him.

Who knows how the show will end?

Improvisation can lead to a variety of outcomes…and Musk is fully prepared for any contingency. As he said in the Falcon Heavy debrief, “I had this image of a giant explosion on a pad with a wheel bouncing down the road and a logo landing sideways with a thud. Fortunately, that’s not what happened.” Then again, he shares improv’s view on failure—namely, that it doesn’t exist. “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

“Yes, and” to that, Mr. Musk.

Sandy Marshall (@MarshallSandy) is a Second City Training Center faculty member and consultant for Second City Works, as well as a NASA Social alum. 

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