Tonight, on Saturday Night Live, the real Mark Zuckerberg popped up in the show’s iconic opening monologue alongside Jesse Eisenberg, who played the Facebook founder in the oscar-nominated movie The Social Network.
It’s ironic that Eisenberg, who played a big role in trashing Zuckerberg’s reputation, is now part of an effort that makes Zuckerberg more likable. That’s pretty important, considering that Facebook might one day depend on that kind of outside support support if and when the company offers its shares to the public.
As the star of the movie, Eisenberg played a very dark and sinister Zuckerberg in the arguably fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook. During the Saturday Night Live routine, he was interrupted by comedian Andy Samberg, who trotted out in a Zuckerberg-style hoodie. Samberg said that he felt bad because Eisenberg got nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and added, as Zuckerberg, “What did I get?” Eisenberg responded, “Well, wasn’t Facebook just valued at $50 billion?” Samberg booms, “All hail the Zuck.”
The actors have done a decent job mimicking Zuckerberg’s clothing and some of his mannerisms. But it was much more entertaining to see the real Zuck, as a kind of caricature of himself, show them how they should really do the scene. The camera cut to Zuckerberg himself saying that he wanted to go out there because “those guys are nerds” and that he’s fun because he invented “poking.” As the pair talked about how they play Zuckerberg, the real Zuckerberg joined the duo on stage.
Samberg declared the situation “awk-berg” and exited the stage. Eisenberg said he liked Zuckerberg’s interview on 60 Minutes. Eisenberg asked him if he had seen the movie and Zuckerberg said yes. He said it was “interesting,” and Eisenberg said, “I’ll take that.” They then introduced the next gig and high-fived each other.
It wasn’t much of a comedy routine. In fact, Zuckerberg has been funnier on 60 Minutes, when he said that the filmmakers got the T-shirts right that Eisenberg’s character wears. “I think I own every one of those T-shirts,” he said. Zuckerberg was actually far more poised than Eisenberg, who seemed, or at least was acting, like a nervous wreck. The whole thing looked very much rehearsed.
Zuckeberg, former Facebook president Sean Parker, and others have laughed off the movie for making their lives far sexier than the reality was. But Zuckerberg’s current attitude toward the film, which has won a lot of accolades, is probably the right one. Zuckerberg fares best in the press when he shows a sense of humor about his nerdy self and tries to be charming in a self-deprecating way.
There’s also a business reason for this on Zuckerberg’s part. If the public views him as likable, that could carry over to a favorable view of Facebook as a brand. And if Zuckerberg is likable, then Facebook may have an easier time winning advertisers and investors. Perhaps we are overthinking a simple guest appearance on a TV show. But Zuckerberg can easily afford the best public relations advice — and you have to believe his handlers are thinking about these things.
Here’s the clip: