In Tesla’s second quarter 2021 earnings call, a fan asked him if he could do interviews for some YouTube channels, naming two channels known more for a financial focus than for their technology coverage. In response, he was very diplomatic, but didn’t like what they were asking for. In some ways, it was reminiscent of the time William Shatner went on SNL and pretended to tell Trekkies to get a life.
During the call, Elon Musk was asked the following question: “Can Elon do an interview with one of our YouTube Channels once or twice a year? I would nominate ‘Dave Lee on Investing’ and Rob Mauer’s ‘Tesla Daily’ as first possible candidates.”
It seemed pretty obvious that Elon wasn’t sure what to say at first, and stuttered a lot. My guess is that he was trying to find a way to be polite about the question while also speaking his mind. Most people would probably reply with something like “Haha, no,” but he runs a big company and has to at least try to be nice. Also, he does appreciate these people and what they do. He has been very supportive of this kind of coverage on Twitter.
He did agree initially to do one interview, but was quick to say, “Just bear in mind that when I’m doing interviews I can’t do actual other work.” And as he was saying this, you could hear the other people on the call giggling into their phones.
“There’s only so much time in the day,” he said, before agreeing to do one interview for a YouTube channel one time, but not annually.
Once he was done answering that, he went on to give the fanboys bad news: not only will he not be doing regular YouTube interviews for Tesla stonk channels, but he’s also pulling back from doing quarterly earnings calls.
“I will no longer be default doing earnings calls,” he said. “I most likely won’t be on earnings calls unless there’s something really important that I need to say.”
Let’s Unpack This A Bit
Obviously, finances are important to not only the investors, but the company itself. We live in a material world, and money is the common medium of exchange in our civilization, so obviously that’s something a company cannot ignore.
That having been said, Elon Musk isn’t a money guy. He’s the kind of person who seeks out challenges and tries to solve them. He likes engineering puzzles, and likes to build things (or, at least, figure out how to build them and guide others through the process). If he could, he’d just have someone else handle all of that stuff and focus on the things he really is passionate about, like renewable energy and space colonization.
As a brand, Tesla is weird, though. There are plenty of people who are fascinated by the technology and the driving experience, but there are a highly unusual number of fans who are into stocks. They’re Tesla investors, and they’re passionate about investing, and don’t understand that most people aren’t so obsessed with money. Most people see money as a necessary evil that they cope with in their lives to achieve their dreams, and not the dream itself.
So, when these people come along and ask him to go on a stock-focused YouTube channel or podcast for an interview, he’s just not that into it, and wants to make it clear that there’s “real work” to be done.
Not only that, but this prompted him to reveal that he doesn’t even want to be on the financial calls anyway. Once again, he’s a busy guy who wants to spend his time solving technological and engineering challenges instead of spending time dealing with stocks, money, and quarterly numbers. It doesn’t bring him much joy, so he’s not doing it anymore without a really good reason.
Later in the call, he said, “I think the U.S. has an overallocation of talent in finance and law.” And that shows what he thinks of those things. Finance needs to get done, but there are too many smart people going into that field instead of other places where they’re needed.
Going “Evil Captain Kirk”
This whole exchange on the earnings call reminds me of an old SNL episode. In one well-known skit, William Shatner plays himself attending a Star Trek convention. When asked too many obscure questions that prove the fans are a little too obsessed, he initially stutters and isn’t sure how to nicely answer such bizarre questions. Finally, he tells them how he really feels.
“Before I answer any more questions, there’s something I wanted to say. Having received all of your letters over the years and I’ve spoken to many of you and some of you have traveled hundreds of miles to be here, I just want to say: Get a life, people! For crying out loud, it’s just a TV show! Look at you, look at the way you’re dressed. You’ve turned a little job that I did as a lark for a few years into a colossal waste of time.”
He goes on to tell them about all the things they’re missing out on, like having their own apartments or a sex life. Finally, the organizer points at some papers, and it appears that he may not get paid for his speech at the convention, so he has to go on the stage and pretend he was doing an impression of the “evil Captain Kirk from episode 37.”
The question from the call earlier seemed to have that same vibe. Elon Musk has real work to do, and knows that there are real things to enjoy in life. The people obsessed with stocks might not live in their parents’ basement, but Elon seems to think there are more important things to focus on — like, say, accelerating the transition to renewable energy or making life multiplanetary.
No, Really, Get A Life!
Elon Musk didn’t take it back and pretend that he was playing the “evil Elon” from episode 37, and I agree with him that there are more important things to focus on.
First off, keep in mind that no matter how much we talk about Tesla’s stock, we are unlikely to make that stock go up or down. That goes for the Stonk Stans as much as it goes for TSLAQ. Even on a publication that Elon Musk reads, I can’t affect the stock price (not that I would try). My friends at bigger media outlets don’t have that power either.
If your goal is to inform and entertain people, great. If your goal is to influence the price, then you should probably get a life and find more important aspects of Tesla to cover.