For the 49th season premiere, Saturday evening live skipped the regularly scheduled sketch that parodied the week’s news. Instead, host Pete Davidson, in a rare sedate demeanor, delivered a solemn cold open on the war between Israel and Hamas.
“This week we saw the terrible images and stories from Israel and Gaza. And I know what you’re thinking, who better to comment on that than Pete Davidson?,” said Davidson, who shared a personal connection to the ongoing trauma. “Well, in many ways I’m a good person to talk about it because when I was seven years old, my father was killed in a terrorist attack. So I know something about what that’s like. (Scott Davidson was a New York City firefighter who died on September 11, 2001.)
Davidson did not break and continued to speak, returning to his views on the violence in Israel and Gaza. “I have seen so many terrible images this week of suffering children, Israeli children and Palestinian children. It took me back to a really horrible, horrible place. No one in this world deserves to suffer like this, especially children.”
He shared an anecdote about how he became an informal comedy student. “After my father died, my mother did pretty much everything she could do to cheer me up. I remember one day I was eight and she gave me a Disney movie, but it was actually Eddie Murphy’s stand-up special. Delirious. We played it in the car on the way home, but when she heard what Eddie Murphy said, she tried to take it down, but then she noticed something. For the first time in a long time I had to laugh again.”
“I don’t understand it, I really don’t, I never will, but sometimes comedy really is the only way forward through tragedy. My heart is with everyone whose lives have been destroyed this week. But tonight I’m going to do what I’ve always done when tragedy strikes: and that’s try to be funny,” says Davidson.
Then, without missing a beat, he says, “Remember, I said try it.”
Davidson’s tasteful joke went down well with the audience. He accepted the applause and began his first act as host, like so many before him. “And live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”
After SNLThe film’s opening scene saw the comedian finally take the legendary Studio 8H stage as host after his May 6 show was canceled due to the writers’ strike. This week, Davidson went further The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and explained how his second chance came about. He told Fallon that Lorne Michaels sent him “a classic Lorne-y text” in which the executive producer wrote, “There’s a rumor going around that you’re the host of the premiere. … I think it’s true because I started it.”
The SNL Alum then opened the show with a monologue about bonding with his sister through watching Game of Thrones together for the first time. “I think we need to have a better relationship,” Davidson says. “You know, me and my sister have nothing in common. You know, she assists in brain surgery and I’m a drug addict. As the siblings get caught up in the series, he admits he was surprised that there were “barely any dragons,” but instead “so much incest… tons of incest.” In expected locker room humor, Davidson says he “threw out an antenna.” He even cut through the ridiculousness of the joke, which ended with him admitting, “Ah, I probably wouldn’t get her, I’m too insecure.”
The New York native switched gears and returned to his disapproving humor about growing up on Staten Island. “If you don’t know what Staten Island is, it’s somehow the only island in the world with a worse reputation than Epstein,” Davidson says. “But on Staten Island, the kids are harassing the priests. Everything is backwards down there.”
The 29-year-old then told his “origin story” as a stand-up comedian. “I remember the first night I wanted to do a stand-up show. I had sex with this girl in my car, because on Staten Island that’s like an apartment. My two bedroom Cherokee with a view! This girl was amazing. She was just a sex friend and it was her idea. You know, they don’t make them like that anymore. Good old ladies.”
Davidson goes on to explain that their situation would normally end with a pizza, which he came up with “door to door by the slice.” But as his car date came to an end, he forgot that he was going to appear on a comedy stage in Manhattan. Then she told him, “The coolest thing anyone has ever said to me… ‘Hey, maybe one day I’ll watch TV with my husband.’ You come over and I turn to my husband and say, ‘Hey, I fucked that guy.’” Deeply excited by her candor, Davidson happily drove to his first performance, knowing his dream was within reach. “I remember being all excited, like, I’m going to be a comedian,” he added.
Davidson ended his opening monologue on an unfortunate turn of events, but delivered it in his deadpan comedic style. “She kind of predicted the future. I have been on TV, which is really cool. Two years later, she tragically died of an overdose. Yes. Very sad. She was one for two,” says the actor. “I found out this was a mess, I found out because I was watching TV with my girlfriend and she showed up. Then I turned to my girlfriend and I said, hey, I fucked that girl.
Classic Pete Davidson.