Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has an 'awkberg' Saturday Night Live

Publicity-shy Facebook founder performs skit with Jesse Eisenberg, the actor who plays him in The Social Network

Has Mark Zuckerberg poked comedy? Does he like it? Has he friended it? Or has the 26-year-old CEO of Facebook decided that having a company valued at $50bn (£32bn) isn't quite enough and, actually, he just wants the kids to think he's really into this newfangled thing called "a sense of humour"?

For whatever reason, this weekend, the normally publicity-averse Zuckerberg appeared on Saturday Night Live, alongside Jesse Eisenberg, the actor nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Zuckerberg as a twitchy and cruel nerd in The Social Network.

The two had never met and as Saturday Night Live comedian Andy Samberg, who frequently mimics the internet entrepreneur on the show, put it when Zuckerberg appeared on stage alongside himself and Eisenberg, the encounter had the potential to be "awkberg".

Awkberg, and surprising. Although Zuckerberg's appearance on the show had been rumoured all week, many doubted it would happen. Zuckerberg's media appearances have so far proved limited and highly controlled.

Moreover, his dislike of the movie about how he started Facebook is well known. A report in the Wall Street Journal last year claimed that Facebook executives attempted to "massage" the film's script to make Zuckerberg look less of a Machiavellian oddball.

When that tactic didn't work, they simply tried to "discredit" it. Zuckerberg then happened to donate $100m-worth of Facebook stock to public schools in Newark, New Jersey, on the day The Social Network just happened to be premiering in the US.

With The Social Network now nominated for eight Oscars, perhaps Zuckerberg decided that if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em. Most of all, Zuckerberg found that popular appeal is something not even $100m can buy.

Despite whatever reservations Zuckerberg may have felt before, he clearly enjoyed himself on the show, occasionally to the detriment of his possible dreams of coolness: he couldn't resist shooting little glances into the camera – Hey, I'm on TV! – and was unable to suppress the occasional excited bubbles of laughter.

Although Zuckerberg had claimed in the past that much of the film's portrayal of him was "wrong" – objecting in particular to the intimation that he was dumped by his girlfriend when he started Facebook – on the show he didn't seem that far off from the movie's slightly odd nerd desperate for popularity.

The show opened with Eisenberg performing a monologue, before being joined by Andy Samberg in his Zuckerberg costume – for the record, a wig and zip-up sweatshirt.

The camera then went backstage where the real Zuckerberg was seen grousing that Eisenberg "is like my evil twin" and that "those guys are such nerds. Come on! I invented poking!"

When Zuckerberg finally did appear on stage, he stared down a nervous and seemingly awestruck Eisenberg.

"Did you ever end up seeing the film?" Eisenberg asked.

"Yeah, I did," replied Zuckerberg, tersely.

"Cool. What did you think?"

"It was interesting," said Zuckerberg.

"Interesting. OK, I'll take that," said a happy Eisenberg.

It was a position Zuckerberg could do well to adopt for himself. Not everyone can be cool, liked or popular. Sometimes just being an interesting billionaire has to suffice.


Hadley Freeman in New York

The GuardianTramp

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