Suggesting that Elon Musk’s dedicated, juvenile, and frankly depressing attempt to turn himself into a real-life Tony Stark figure has now reached the “burnt-out Civil War era” of Robert Downey Jr.’s celebrated character arc, the New York Times ran an interview late tonight with the online celebrity/car company mogul, painting a portrait of a dude whose life and public image have now spiraled so out of control, he can’t even make a simple fucking weed joke without people yelling at him all the gosh dang time.
You might remember this one: A little more than a week ago, Musk announced that he might be taking Tesla private, at a very deliberately picked price of $420 a share. (Musk: “It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419. But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”) That not-actually-about-weed-apparently decision didn’t go over super-well with Tesla’s board (or the SEC, which immediately began asking questions, because companies don’t usually announce market-affecting news in the middle of the day while tweeting from their car). That latter investigation is reportedly ongoing, and the pressure has apparently begun rising for Musk for months.
Now, the Times piece paints a portrait of a guy who’s pushing himself to some kind of weird, nobody-asked-for edge, so hooked on his own Kool-Aid (but not, again, the devil drug marijuana) that he’s borderline killing himself to keep his “genius” label intact:
In the interview on Thursday, Mr. Musk alternated between laughter and tears. He said he had been working up to 120 hours a week recently—echoing the reason he cited in a recent public apology to an analyst whom he had berated. In the interview, Mr. Musk said he had not had taken time off of more than a week since 2001, when he was bedridden with malaria.
“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days— days when I didn’t go outside,” he said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”
Mr. Musk stopped talking, seemingly overcome by emotion.
He turned 47 on June 28, and he said he spent the full 24 hours of his birthday at work. “All night — no friends, nothing,” he said, struggling to get the words out.
The real meat of the Times piece, though, comes not from Musk’s apparent and ongoing emotional breakdown—although that is kind of worrying, coming from a man with access to quite so many flamethrowers—but from the anonymous comments sourced to “people familiar with the matter,” implied to be, or be closely related to, Tesla’s board. To hear it from these sources, the investors’ concerns about Musk are widespread—and unlikely to be mollified by a Times interview in which he’s described as vacillating between laughter and tears—and include the fact that he supposedly frequently tweets while using Ambien, that famed producer of so many unfortunate and career-destroying combinations of words. (Musk, on his sleeping problems: “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien.”)
The Tesla board has supposedly been looking for a viable second in command for the company for a while now, although it also issued an official statement of support for its combined chairman and CEO. Musk, meanwhile, got seemingly indignant at the idea that he might need a personal Happy Hogan or Pepper Potts: “If you have anyone who can do a better job,” he shot back, “Please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”