In 'Alive From New York,' Pete Davidson Makes 'SNL' the Punchline

If his Netflix special shows how far he'll go as a current 'SNL' cast member, what is Davidson willing to say after he leaves?
Ashwin Rodrigues
Brooklyn, US
Pete Davidson Netflix standup special
Screenshot via Netflix

Over the past two years, Saturday Night Live star and infamous Ariana Grande ex-fiancé Pete Davidson’s struggles have been extremely visible in the public eye, including his multiple high-profile relationships and breakups, rehab stints, and struggles with mental health. Much of the subject matter Davidson covers in his new Netflix comedy special—Alive From New York, out now—touches on these news stories and attempts to reclaim ownership of his personal narrative. The celebrity of Pete Davidson has become a meta-joke, a topic that Davidson visits frequently, alongside his fraught relationship with SNL. This makes for some great comedy at times, but also seems like a dress rehearsal, in part due to Davidson's loose delivery, mid-joke laughs, and commentary on how jokes are landing.


Alive From New York, suitably, starts with a cold-open. Davidson tells a story about Louis C.K., who informed Davidson’s boss, Lorne Michaels, that Davidson smoked so much weed that it made C.K. uncomfortable. Time, of course, would render this remark rather tone-deaf for C.K., and Davidson relishes in the comedian’s #MeToo reckoning. It’s one of the strongest bits in his set, one where the audience knows quickly where he’s headed. It also hits two of the main themes of the special: Pete Davidson's personal life and the show that made him famous.

Davidson does not do many interviews, and does not use social media. As a result, Alive From New York serves as an FAQ on Davidson’s thoughts on the many stories in which he's often unwittingly starred. He goes on to declare this intention outright, saying that since he doesn’t have Twitter, he might as well put out a special, before detailing the fallout of his joke that eyepatch-wearing US Representative (then candidate) Dan Crenshaw looked like “a hitman in a porno” on "Weekend Update." Though Crenshaw later made an appearance on Update to smooth things over, Davidson says he only needs to apologize for making Crenshaw famous and a household name for no reason.

Like the special’s title suggests, the references to Saturday Night Live are frequent. Davidson hasn't been fond of how SNL has portrayed him as an oafish idiot. He shared a similar sentiment during a recent candid interview with Charlamagne Tha God. Davidson, it seems, is over it, telling Charlamagne, “I personally think I should be done with that show.” Though criticism of SNL is far from the hot take realm, hearing it from a current cast member, in a comedy special, is pretty unusual. There are countless digs at the show throughout the special, some that don’t get the laugh they deserve. For example, in a somewhat throw-away fashion, Davidson says in the event of his firing from SNL, he could “just creep into the back of [Nick Cannon's improv show] Wild ‘N Out and no one would notice—who gives a shit?” (Davidson was a cast member on Wild ‘N Out before joining SNL.)

Many of Davidson’s bits are punctuated or interrupted by his own laughter, which sounds more like nerves than the comedian reacting to his own material. There are quite a few dick jokes in the special, which seems fair, given how many dick jokes have been made about Davidson, the inspiration for the ubiquitous catchphrase “big dick energy.” Much of Davidson’s special focuses on stories in which he’s a central figure, which also serves to remind the audience how much news coverage has been dedicated to him, whether about his joke about Dan Crenshaw, his breakup with Ariana Grande, or the internet’s dialogue about his dick.

Davidson seems at his most natural when casually throwing grenades at his current place of employment, and given his remarks in the special, and his interview with Charlamagne, there will likely be post- SNL material soon.

If Alive From New York shows what a currently employed SNL cast member will say about the show, it leaves you wondering: What is Davidson waiting to say until after he leaves?