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The first episode of season 49 of Saturday Night Live debuted last weekend, after the long hiatus due to the WGA strikes and in the midst of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. While it can seem like a difficult time to put on a comedy show, the host, Pete Davidson, delivered a cold open message that struck the right tone for the audience. In just two minutes, he touched on the tragedy of what is happening in the Middle East and connected it to his own experience with losing his father on 9/11, adding that through the dark period of his life, comedy helped him make it through.
The cold open begins with Davidson, dressed in a navy hoodie and puffer, directly addressing the audience. “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?” he quips, earning some laughs from the audience. After the initial joke, Davidson continues more seriously than before. “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.” His father was a firefighter who lost his life when the Twin Towers collapsed, and Davidson has frequently talked about how traumatized he was by this loss.
“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, and no one in this world deserves to suffer like that, especially not kids. After my dad died, my mom tried pretty much everything she could to cheer me up,” he explains. “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 standup special Delirious. 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.”
This finally brings Davidson to his final message. “I don't understand it. I really don't, and I never will, but sometimes comedy is really the only way forward through tragedy,” he says. “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.” While Davidson's speech strikes a very different tone than most previous cold opens, people felt like it helped ground the rest of the episode. Sure enough, the following skits provided numerous laughs, including the parody of Ken's song from the Barbie movie called “I'm Just Pete.”
Comedian Pete Davidson opened SNL season 49 with a message about the Israel-Hamas War.
Audiences praised him for striking the right tone.
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The rest of the episode had many highlights, including a parody of Ken's song from the Barbie movie.