Saturday Night Live turned 44 on Saturday, and managed to stay awake past midnight, bless its heart. The team turned out a show that — despite successful coverage of the history-making Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, a wild appearance by Kanye West, and a host from the “Star Wars” movies — held fast to one theme: Pete Davidson’s love affair with Ariana Grande.
Our host, Adam Driver and Pete chat about their summers. #SNLPremiere pic.twitter.com/mOLLlwifrW— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) September 30, 2018
Pete Davidson is a 24-year-old comic in his fifth year on SNL who became engaged to the stratospherically famous pop-star Grande this summer after a courtship that was about the length of a cold-open.
Davidson, already beloved, attracted overnight the unmitigated attention of about 3 billion people, attention the increasingly-enfeebled SNL was eager to exploit this weekend. The premiere featured references to Davidson’s engagement in host Adam Driver’s opening monologue, a Weekend Update segment and a pre-taped sketch.
His biggest showcase came, predictably, in the place Davidson has always shone the most on the show — playing himself on Weekend Update. And true to Davidson’s form, the 3.5-minute-long clip is a masterful blend of candid, comic oversharing.
In a luxuriant hoodie, Davidson took the stage to perform, in his adenoidal, outer-borough accent, the same schtick we’ve enjoyed by him for the past few months: He can’t believe he’s with Grande, his life has radically changed but he hasn’t, he’s still the same lowlife enjoying his dumb luck.
And then, he took it too far. Laughing with Update co-host Colin Jost that male partners don’t have to be “breadwinners,” he said: “Last night I switched her birth control with Tic Tacs… I believe in us and all, I just wanna make sure… that she can’t go anywhere.”
Anyone who’s surprised to hear this joke from Davidson should pop a Tic Tac or two and have a think. As a public we’ve learned to think of Davidson as a stoned Romeo, but he’s always loved shock comedy, leaning on comments like this when he runs out of ways to self-deprecate. In much of his comedy, Davidson seems like a friend to women, and a friend to equality. It’s lazy jokes like these, jokes that ignore the majority of his audience’s humanity, that make it hard to respect him as anything other than Ariana Grande’s arm-candy.
And Davidson would do better to think of self-deprecation as less of a snacking mint and more like oral contraception — something to use only once a day. In the same segment he said of Grande, “She’s the number one pop-star in the world and I’m that guy from SNL who everyone thinks is in desperate need of more blood.” Now, this just won’t fadge. Davidson is one of the youngest-ever cast members on a legendary comedy show, he starred in a summer blockbuster, and he delivered this line on a show practically dedicated to him. Grande’s fans have taken to him in a way they never, ever took to Grande’s longtime former boyfriend, Mac Miller.
The reality is that while Pete Davidson’s game is to convince us that he is unworthy of dating a pop-star — or of our attention — he is actually spellbinding. He knows it. We know it.
It’s a neat trick, but he’s going to need to find another, and fast. Otherwise, he risks the fate of Jennifer Lawrence, once America’s best friend and favorite sex-fantasy guest star, who fell out of favor despite her tremendous talent because fans grew tired of her shtick. Lawrence filled her interviews with talk of farts, high-fat food and awkwardness, though audiences could plainly see that she had the looks of a pinup model and normal social skills. Like Davidson’s “joke” about subverting his fiancee’s medication and tricking her into carrying a child, Lawrence made “jokes” about things like using rocks that are sacred to native Hawaiians to scratch her butt. Now she’s slumming it with a bad Russian accent in a movie that scored 47% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Pete, you can still be funny and non-conforming and legitimately somewhat despise yourself without going the “religious butt-scandal” route! Davidson has always been a font of charisma and comic material. Now his lanky frame, enormous teeth and cartoonish eyes have captivated America, as has his painful life story. His relationship with Ariana Grande was the catalyst for his new fame, but it is actually the blend of his unwieldy swagger and her über-feminine power that make them both irresistible.
So accept responsibility for being famous, Davidson. But stay away from the rape-adjacent medical jokes. They really do make you seem like trash.