Three audience members who were at comedian Dave Chappelle’s show where tech titan Elon Musk was booed off stage say Musk’s characterization of the night wasn’t accurate, and explained why they felt compelled to heckle the world’s richest man.
The Twitter and Tesla CEO joined Chappelle onstage Sunday night at the Chase Center in San Francisco, where Chris Rock was also headlining.
“It was more boos than I’d ever heard,” one attendee, Jason, said in a direct message. “Sustained jeering.”
Two audience members told NBC News they booed Musk because of the widespread firings and layoffs at Twitter. A third person said he booed Musk because of his political agenda. Ahead of the midterms, Musk urged followers to vote for Republicans. The three people shared screenshots of their tickets to the show with NBC News and spoke on the condition that only their first names be used to protect their privacy and avoid backlash from Musk’s fans.
Both cheers and boos can be heard in videos taken of the event, which were viewed millions of times on social media on Monday. Later on Twitter, Musk attributed the mixed reception to his recent embrace of conservative politics.
“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),” Musk wrote in a tweet.
The tech titan added “It’s almost as if I’ve offended SF’s unhinged leftists … but nahhh.”
All three audience members who spoke to NBC News said Musk’s tweet was inaccurate and that the booing drowned out the cheering.
The incident and the explanations audience members gave NBC News represent a shifting tide for Musk, who has taken on a new level of notoriety since taking over Twitter while vocally supporting conservative causes.
Musk barely spoke onstage, but he did quote from an early 2000s Chappelle skit, saying “I’m rich, bitch!” Musk could also be heard saying “Times like this, I think we’re in a simulation. Like, how can this be real?”
Jason said he and his wife were initially left speechless after Musk came onstage, but he said he started booing after seeing Musk’s “smirk.” Jason referenced Musk letting go about half of Twitter’s employees starting in November when asked why he booed him.
Twitter is based in San Francisco, and Musk also reversed the company’s long-standing remote work policy, requiring employees to come into the office.
“It’s like [Chappelle] brought in the steel mill tycoon who fired the town’s workforce, then thought people in the same town wouldn’t be too upset about it,” Jason said in a direct message.
Another person at the show, Hailey, said she booed Musk in part because of the Twitter layoffs and Musk’s new company policies that “overwork and underpay people,” contributing to mass resignations.
On Nov. 16, Musk sent a company-wide email to remaining employees that asked them to commit to “working long hours at high intensity” or exit the company. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection opened an investigation into Twitter’s offices after photos taken inside the building appeared to show beds being set up, despite the building being zoned for commercial, not residential, space.
Hailey also called Musk an “imposter” who didn’t start Tesla, but “passes it off as his own work.” She wasn’t the only audience member who felt that way about Musk — another attendee, Jack, called him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Musk has said one of his primary goals in running Twitter is fostering free speech, restoring the accounts of former President Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. Jack, who said he also booed Musk, said Musk’s idea of “free speech” is “meant to shift views further right.”
“He has agendas that are not good for democracy,” Jack said in a direct message. He “wasn’t really surprised” to hear people boo Musk.
“People in the Bay Area are pretty thoughtful and capable of nuance,” he wrote.
Within 48 hours of his Twitter takeover, Musk tweeted and deleted an unfounded, anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi’s attack. The day before his appearance at Chappelle’s show, Musk also called for Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, to be prosecuted. He has repeatedly mocked preferred pronouns used by transgender people.
Chappelle has also faced backlash for his comments about transgender people. Jason, who said he used to be a fan of Chappelle’s before the comedian reached mainstream popularity, said Musk’s appearance showed Chappelle’s “lack of self-awareness.”
“He seems like he’s been rich too long now,” he wrote.