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For the premiere of its 49th season, Saturday Night Live skipped its regularly scheduled sketch parodying the week’s news. Instead, host Pete Davidson delivered, in a rare staid demeanor, a solemn cold open addressing the Israel-Hamas war.
“This week we saw the horrible images and stories from Israel and Gaza. And I know what you’re thinking, who better to comment on it than Pete Davidson?,” says Davidson, who shared a personal connection to the ongoing trauma. “Well, in a lot of ways I am a good person to talk about it because when I was 7 years old, my dad was killed in a terrorist attack. So, I know something about what’s that like.” (Scott Davidson was a New York City firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001.)
Davidson did not break and continued speaking, returning to his take on the violence in Israel and Gaza. “I saw so many terrible pictures this week of children suffering, Israeli children and Palestinian children. It took me back to a really horrible, horrible place. No one in this world deserves to suffer like that, especially not kids.”
He shared an anecdote about how he informally became a student of comedy. “After my dad died, my mom tried pretty much everything she could do to cheer me up. I remember one day when I was 8, she got me what she thought was a Disney movie, but it was actually the Eddie Murphy stand-up special, Delirious. We played it in the car on the way home, but when she heard the things Eddie Murphy was saying, she tried to take it away, but then she noticed something. For the first time, in a long time, I was laughing again.”
“I don’t understand, I really don’t, I never will, but sometimes comedy is really 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 have always done in the face of tragedy, and that’s try to be funny,” says Davidson.
Then without missing a beat, he says, “Remember, I said try.”
Davidson’s tasteful joke landed well with audiences. He took the applause and kicked off his first appearance as host, like so many before him. “And live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”
After SNL’s opening sequence, the comedian finally stepped on the storied Studio 8H stage as host after his May 6 show was canceled due to the writers strike. This week, Davidson went on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and shared how his second chance came about. He told Fallon, Lorne Michaels sent him “a classic Lorne-y text” where the executive producer wrote, “There’s a rumor going around that you are the host for the premiere. … I guess it’s true because I started it.”
The SNL alum went on to open the show with a monologue about bonding with his sister by watching Game of Thrones together for the first time. “I think we should have a better relationship,” says Davidson. “You know, me and my sister have nothing in common. You know, she assists brain surgery, and I’m a drug addict.” As the siblings get caught up on the series, he confesses he was surprised that there were “hardly any dragons” but instead “so much incest… tons of incest.” In expected locker room humor, Davidson says he “threw out a feeler.” He even broke at the ludicrousness of the joke, which ended with him acknowledging “Ah, I probably wouldn’t get her. I’m too insecure.”
Switching gears, the New York native went back into his deprecating humor about growing up in Staten Island. “If you don’t know what Staten Island is, it’s the only island in the world with a worse reputation than Epstein somehow,” says Davidson. “But in Staten Island, the kids molest the priests. Everything’s backward 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 used to have sex with this girl in my car because in Staten Island that’s like a condo. My two-bedroom Cherokee, with a view! This girl was awesome. She was just a sex friend, and it was her idea. You know, they don’t make them like that anymore. Good old broads.”
Davidson continues explaining that their situationship would normally end with a pizza, which he coined “door to door with a slice.” But as his, uhm, car date, was ending, he forgot he was due on a comedy stage in Manhattan. She then said to him, “The coolest thing anybody’s ever said to me… ‘Hey, maybe one day, I’ll be watching TV with my husband. You’ll pop on, and then I’ll turn to my husband, and I’ll go hey, I banged that guy.’” Deeply enthused by her candor, Davidson happily drove to his first gig knowing his dream was within reach. “I remember being all hyped up like, I’m going to be a comedian,” he added.
Davidson ended his opening monologue with an unfortunate turn of events but delivered in his deadpan comedic style. “She kind of predicted the future. I did get on TV, that’s very cool. She tragically died of an overdose two years later. Yes. Very sad. She was one for two,” says the actor. “I found out, this was messed up, I found out because I was actually watching TV with my girlfriend, and she popped up. Then, I turn to my girlfriend and I went, hey, I banged that girl.”
Classic Pete Davidson.
If there was a prize for winning the best sketch parodying the Swifties invasion of Monday Night Football, SNL scored the big win with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance from NFL star Travis Kelce. He closed out the skit featuring Davidson as sideline reporter Kenny Ditullio, dressed in a pink, fur-trimmed hat and multiple Taylor Swift Eras Tour sweatshirts after he scraped his game analysis for updates on whether Swift was at the game or not. His fellow sports pundits, which included a lisp-y Michael Strahan played by Devon Walker, fumbled the broadcast by turning into a Taylor-fest discussing secret songs, brandishing friendship bracelets and an impromptu sing-along to “Bad Blood.” Kelce was then teased in as “someone who actually wants to discuss football.”
That wasn’t the only Taylor-adjacent sighting. The Eras Tour movie queen came onstage to coyly introduce Ice Spice’s second SNL performance (but I’m sure audiences were hoping for a live edition of their summer smash “Karma.”)
The first “Weekend Update” featuring Michael Che and Colin Jost circled back to the heightened tensions in Gaza with Jost stating that “it’s been a terrible week for the world.”
In a segment, “Middle East Crisis,” he transitioned to the publicly shared opinions from “random idiots who like to share unhinged thoughts, wherever they can.” One joke set up that a 1000-word essay on “How I’d Fix Palestine” was left in a Yelp review of a Buffalo Wild Wings, and another referenced former President Donald Trump confusing Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group, with the name of the genie from Aladdin.
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