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 seven 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 eight, 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!”