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'SNL' returns with Pete Davidson and a Taylor Swift cameo

New York: In its first new broadcast in six months, “Saturday Night Live” returned to a starkly serious world and to news developments seemingly impervious to any kind of comedic commentary. Would this topical sketch show in any way address the Israel-Hamas war? Should it? As it has in previous times of crisis, “SNL” met the moment by taking things seriously and, in this case, found an unexpectedly poignant spokesperson in Saturday’s host, Pete Davidson.

Davidson, an “SNL” alumnus, began the show by speaking directly to the audience, reminding them that his father, a firefighter, had been killed in 9/11. “This week,” Davidson said, “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?”

He continued: “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 that’s like. I saw so many terrible pictures this week of 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.”

Davidson shared a story about how, in the months that followed, his mother had sought to cheer him up by giving him what she thought was a Disney movie — but it turned out to be the Eddie Murphy stand-up special “Delirious”. Although it may not have been ideal material for an 8-year-old, it did make Davidson laugh.

“Sometimes comedy is really the only way forward through tragedy,” Davidson said. “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.’”

Opening monologue of the week

Davidson’s monologue was an abbreviated stand-up set, delivered in his more traditional manner — no topical material but lots of ribald jokes we can’t safely transcribe here, so caveat emptor.

Among the subjects that we can (just about) get away with mentioning, Davidson discussed an ill-fated attempt to bond with his sister by watching the fantasy series Game of Thrones, which neither of them had seen. “I thought it was like dragons and stuff, and magic,” Davidson said. “Hardly any dragons. Lots of incest. Tons of incest. So much incest. You could leave the house, come back, incest still happening.”

He also joked about his Staten Island roots and how it was not necessarily his childhood dream to become a comedian. “My dream was to be a construction worker,” he said. “It was. Hopefully work for a construction company for like eight years, and then if I’m lucky, fall off a ladder. Sue the city for 6 mil, settle for 3. Marry some chick I had a crush on in high school. That I’m not even really into anymore — but no one else can have her!”

Unofficial guest star of the week

Although she wasn’t announced ahead of time as a participant in this week’s show, Taylor Swift — who, you may have heard, had a new movie released this past weekend — not only was a surprise guest on “SNL” but was the running theme of Saturday’s broadcast: A sketch that lampooned Fox’s NFL coverage leaned heavily on jokes about the pop star’s burgeoning relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, and it concluded with a cameo from the football player.

Swift was also referenced in a filmed segment from the comedy group Please Don’t Destroy and in a “Weekend Update” desk segment that cast Bowen Yang as Christopher Columbus. For good measure, Swift showed up to introduce a second performance from Saturday’s musical guest, Ice Spice. Mikey Day showed off his friendship bracelets during “SNL” good-nights, but Swift wasn’t seen there. She has an empire to run, after all.

Barbie parody of the week

This being an “SNL” episode centered on Davidson means that you’re going to get a lot of sketches about the fact that Davidson is, well, Davidson and lives the life that Davidson lives. That said, he and “SNL” availed themselves pretty well with this segment that both parodies and faithfully re-creates a musical lamentation performed by Ryan Gosling in this summer’s hit comedy Barbie.

The many, many references to Davidson’s real-life exploits are too numerous to catalog here, but we would like to acknowledge this verse in particular:

I’m just Pete.

Anyone else, I’d be a three

But I guess I’m hot for dudes in comedy

’cause it’s an ugly industry.

‘Weekend Update’ jokes of the week

Over at the “Weekend Update” desk, anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the Israel-Hamas war and Laphonza Butler’s appointment to the Senate seat formerly held by Dianne Feinstein.

Jost began: “Well, this was a terrible week for the world but a great week for random idiots who like to share completely unhinged thoughts wherever they can. And, weirdly, it’s not even on social media anymore. I saw a 1,000-word essay called “How I’d Fix Palestine,” and it was posted in a Yelp review of a Buffalo Wild Wings.

“Even world leaders who could be making it better are making it worse. For example, former President Trump went out of his way to praise the terrorist group Hezbollah, calling them ‘very smart.’ Though, in Trump’s defense, he thinks Hezbollah is the genie from Aladdin.”

Che continued: “Laphonza Butler was sworn in as California’s newest senator, becoming the first openly [gay] Black woman in Congress. ‘Um, you mean second,’ said George Santos.”

(Published 16 October 2023, 05:10 IST)

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