Pete Davidson: I Was ‘Forced to Apologize’ to Dan Crenshaw
The public apology on SNL was seen as a rare moment of political civility, but in his new Netflix special, Pete Davidson more or less takes it back.
Comedian Pete Davidson’s new Netflix stand-up special is titled Alive From New York—an allusion to both his role as Saturday Night Live’s most tabloid-friendly cast member and an acknowledgement of the very public suicide threat that followed the end of his relationship with Ariana Grande.
Davidson’s apparent unease with his place at SNL and his celebrity persona are ever-present throughout the special, his biggest solo project to date before the new semi-autobiographical film The King of Staten Island hits theaters later this year.
He opens with the story of how Louis C.K. essentially tried to get him fired from SNL for smoking too much weed. Lorne Michaels decided to keep him around and vindication came on that “glorious morning” five years later when C.K. was later exposed for serial sexual misconduct. “I didn’t want it to happen, but if it was going to happen to anyone, I’m glad it was him,” he jokes.
But the centerpiece of Davidson’s new hour comes later when he goes deep on the undoubtedly most controversial moment of his SNL career. “I got in trouble last year, because I was making some jokes,” he says.
During a “Weekend Update” bit that aired just before the 2018 midterm elections, Davidson was tasked with “roasting” various candidates for office. When a photo of Lieutenant Commander Dan Crenshaw, who wears an eyepatch, came onscreen, Davidson joked that he was “surprised he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie.”
“I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” Davidson adds. “It was like words that were twisted so that a guy could be famous.”
The comic goes on to explain that because he no longer uses social media, he didn’t have a real platform to talk about the whole situation until this stand-up special. “So I made fun of this guy with an eyepatch and then, like, I kind of got forced to apologize,” he says, revealing that he got death threats over the joke, including one that came in the form of a phone call to his mother, or as he refers to her on stage, his “roommate.”
“My roommate thought I should apologize so that I didn’t get shot in the face,” Davidson says.
As he remembers it, he wrote the joke in question based on Crenshaw’s photo alone and only found out that he may have lost his eye in combat moments before going live. That’s why he added the line that seemed to offend Crenshaw and his right-wing backers even more: “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.”
“I said ‘whatever’ and people were like, ‘You hate America!’” Davidson says. “And I’m like, no, I just didn’t want to be incorrect about how he lost his fucking eye, is that a crime?!” He adds, “It’s an expression, it doesn’t mean I hate America.”
Davidson also pushes back on the notion that his ridicule helped Crenshaw win his congressional seat. “That guy is a Republican with an eyepatch in Texas, so it was a lock before he even started,” he jokes. “In Texas, I’m pretty sure they only have pictures, that’s how they vote.”
In the week after Davidson made his initial joke, Crenshaw made the rounds on Fox News to express his outrage before appearing with the comic on “Weekend Update” the Saturday after he won his election. The two men seemed to publicly bury the hatchet in the name of “civility,” with Davidson apologizing for being a “dick” and Crenshaw delivering a heartfelt tribute to Davidson’s firefighter father, who died on 9/11.
But while Davidson evidently felt “forced” to apologize to Crenshaw’s face, he is now using his stand-up special to more or less rescind that apology.
The “only thing” that Davidson says he is now willing to apologize for is making Crenshaw “famous and a household name for no reason.”
“I did what, like, Ariana Grande did for me,” he jokes, before adding the punchline: “I sucked his dick at SNL.”
After watching the new special, you get the feeling that with Louis C.K., the Dan Crenshaw saga, and the enormous attention he received during and after his engagement to Ariana Grande, Davidson is increasingly uncomfortable with his role as a punchline in and of himself at SNL.
He made that much clear this week during a radio interview with Charlamagne Tha God. Currently in his last year of the show’s standard six-season contract, Davidson revealed, “I personally think I should be done with that show because they make fun of me on it.”
At just 26 years old, he’s somehow become so big that he may have outgrown the show that made him famous. Instead of joking about celebrities, he has become the celebrity that gets made fun of on SNL.
“I’m like, cold open, political punchlines. I’m like, ‘Weekend Update’ jokes,” he said, referring to jokes that have been made at his expense, especially in his absence. Last fall, for instance, Colin Jost joked, “A man who drove his car to a musical festival still cannot remember where he parked his car a week after the show. Well, we hope you make it back soon, Pete.”
“When I’m not there, they’ll be like, ‘Huh huh huh, Pete’s a fucking jerk face.’ And you’re like, ‘Whose side are you on?’” David asked in the new interview. “I have a weird feeling in that building where I don’t know whose team they’re playing for, really—if I’m the joke or I’m in on the joke.”
“They think I’m fucking dumb. I’m literally painted out to be this big dumb idiot,” he added. Still, he said he would never ask his cast mates to stop making jokes about him. “But if I'm just fodder now, though, maybe I shouldn't be there.”
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