This week on Saturday Night Live, Pete Davidson came full circle. Just two years after departing the sketch series, Davidson returned to host the show and took the opportunity to look inward. It’s a bit of a trend for the actor, though this time the therapeutic comedy came in the form of Pete Davidson-themed parody of Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” from Barbie.
Pete Davidson, interesting guy. The comedian joined Saturday Night Live in 2014, becoming the first cast member born in the 1990s and one of the youngest ever. Being the new kid on the block without much to say or many sketch characters in his back pocket was the ongoing joke. Turned out he had plenty on his mind: Throughout his run on SNL, Davidson has explored the impact of losing his father on 9/11, his battle with Crohn’s disease, his drug use, his rehab stints, and his bipolar disorder diagnosis. That kind of airing of emotional laundry combined with a run of high-profile relationships — from Ariana Grande to Kate Beckinsale to Kim Kardashian — made him a #1 gossip rag target. How much fame wound up warping what was already part of his being is something only Davidson knows, but in recent years, he’s processed his odd life through his work, on Saturday Night Live, the feature film The King of Staten Island, and most recently on Peacock’s Bupkis. Pete Davidson, interesting guy.
On the season 49 premiere of SNL, Davidson dug in once again. “I’m Just Pete” scrutinizes the media obsession with Davidson, his ongoing mental health struggles, and his own anxieties about body image. As he puts it: “Anyone else, I’d be a three / But I guess I’m hot for dudes in comedy / Cuz it’s an ugly industry” Davidson was joined in the musical production by First Update Pete (Mikey Day), Met Gala Pete (Bowen Yang), and Black Pete (Devon Walker, who absolutely kills his reaction of “It’s just Black Pete then? All right”). While SNL might be a few months late to the Barbie craze, “I’m Just Pete” is a somewhat spectacular recreation of the movie’s big dance sequence and for someone could be scraping the barrel of his own memoir comedy, another jab from Davidson at a media machine that can’t stop obsessing over him.
And people really should watch Bupkis, c’mon.
Saturday Night Live returns at a heated moment, as negotiations between SAG-AFTRA, which has been on strike since July, and AMPTP melted down earlier this week. Though the WGA recently settled the screenwriters’ contract, the actors union remains on strike, leaving Hollywood closed until further notice. But the cast and weekly players involved with SNL are clear to perform.
“Our members appearing on Saturday Night Live either as hosts, guests, or cast members are working under the Network Code agreement, which is not a contract we are striking. They are not in violation of SAG-AFTRA strike rules, and we support them in fulfilling their contractual obligations,” the union said in a recent statement.
This makes Saturday Night Live not just a fully operational legacy program for network television but a rare place for high-profile talent to make a splash during a promotional dead zone. While Davidson returned to the premiere after being bumped earlier this year when the WGA strikes went into effect, it’s possible SNL might recruit some of its biggest host lineup in years, as Hollywood figures out how to campaign during Oscar season without actors. In the meantime, we have “I’m Just Pete,” a safe but effective sketch from an old-but-still-young veteran.