The sketch comedy show returned for its 49th season on Saturday (14 October) with a surprise appearance from Taylor Swift and a timely cold open from Davidson. It was the comedian’s first time hosting the programme since he exited as a cast member in 2022.
Instead of performing his usual stand-up, Davidson, 29, opened up about how the “horrible images and stories from Israel and Gaza” have reminded him of the death of his father.
“I know what you’re thinking, ‘Who better to comment on it than Pete Davidson?’” joked Davidson.
“Well, in a lot of ways, I am a good person to talk about it because when I was seven years old, my dad was killed in a terrorist attack. So I know something about what that’s like.”
The actor’s father was a New York firefighter who died at the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001.
“I saw so many terrible pictures this week,” he continued. “Children suffering, Israeli children and Palestinian children. And it took me back to a really horrible, horrible place. No one in this world deserves to suffer like that, especially not kids…”
Returning to his dad’s death, Davidson said his mother “tried pretty much everything she could do to cheer me up”.
“I remember one day when I was eight she got me what she thought was a Disney movie but it was actually the Eddie Murphy stand-up special Delirious,” he recalled. “And we played it in the car on the way home. And 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.”
Released in 1983, Delirious is a stand-up special from comedian Eddie Murphy that was aired on HBO.
Davidson continued: “I don’t understand that. I really don’t and 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’ve always done in the face of tragedy, and that’s try to be funny. Remember: I said ‘try’.”
Davidson’s 2020 comedy-drama The King of Staten Island was a semi-biographical take on his life. In the film, his character’s father was also a firefighter who died during 9/11.
The comedian had been due to host SNL back in May, but his episode was the first to be cancelled due to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike.
While the writers’ strike is over, however, the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA are still withholding their labour, as they have done since 14 July.
As a result, many have questioned how SNL’s cast members, who act as well as write on the show, are able to appear on the show amid the ongoing collective action.
Anyone performing on SNL, from hosts to cast members to guest stars, is performing under a Network Code Agreement (also known as a Net Code).
This is not one of the contracts SAG-AFTRA is striking, the union has explained, saying: “[The SNL cast] are not in violation of SAG-AFTRA strike rules, and we support them in fulfilling their contractual obligations.
Elsewhere during the episode, Davidson performed a Barbie parody, in which he mocked himself during a musical spoof of the Margot Robbie-fronted blockbuster film.
“No one cares about the work I do. I made a show with Joe Pesci too and no one streamed it but my mom,” Davidson sang in reference to Bupkis, a Peacock drama that Davidson created and starred in alongside Edie Falco and Joe Pesci.
He also referenced his much-publicised dating life, including relationships with Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian, singing: “I generate tons of publicity for everything except my comedy.”
Following the return of SNL on 14 October, the second episode of the season will be hosted by musician Bad Bunny, who is also the episode’s musical guest, next Saturday (21 October).
NBC has also announced that comedian Chloe Troast is the only new player joining the cast for the forthcoming season.