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, “S.N.L.” met the moment by taking things seriously, and in this case found an unexpectedly poignant spokesman in this week’s host, Pete Davidson.
Davidson, an “S.N.L.” alumnus, began the show by speaking directly to the audience, reminding them that his father, a firefighter, had been killed in the 9/11 attacks. “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?”
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 turned out to be the Eddie Murphy stand-up special “Delirious.” Though 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 six mil, settle for three. 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
Though she wasn’t announced ahead of time as a participant in this week’s show, Taylor Swift — who, you may have heard, has a new movie out this weekend — was not only a surprise guest on “S.N.L.” but the running theme of this week’s broadcast: A sketch that lampooned Fox’s NFL coverage leaned heavily on jokes about the pop star’s burgeoning relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, and concluded with a cameo from the football player.
Swift was also referenced in a filmed segment from Please Don’t Destroy and in a Weekend Update desk segment that cast Bowen Yang as Christopher Columbus. For good measure, Swift herself showed up to introduce a second performance from this week’s musical guest, Ice Spice. Mikey Day showed off his friendship bracelets during “S.N.L.” good-nights, but Swift herself wasn’t seen there. She has an empire to run, after all.
‘Barbie’ parody of the week
This being an “S.N.L.” 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 “S.N.L.” availed themselves pretty well with this segment that both parodies and faithfully recreates 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:
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the 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.