“The pandemic has taught me that we never really know what the future holds. And it’s also taught me to be grateful. And I’m very grateful to be here, and it’s been an honor to grow up in front of you guys. So thanks.”
That sure sounded like Pete Davidson saying goodbye to Saturday Night Live when he said those words live on Weekend Update to close out his segment during the Season 46 finale in May. The subsequent month has done little to dispel that speculation.
The 27-year-old Davidson (yes, he’s still only 27!) hinted as much during a roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter published the following week, saying: “Yeah, I’m good. I’m surprised I made it to seven [seasons]…I’m ready to hang up the jersey. Kenan’s, like, fuckin’ Karl Malone out there.”
In a video interview with Gold Derby last week, Davidson mentioned the magical seven-year mark again as a natural end point for SNL cast contracts.
“I don’t know what the plan is,” he said. “Everything’s kind of up in the air right now just depending on scheduling. It is my seventh year, and that’s usually what the contract’s usually for, so it was really emotional. I worked with these guys for a fourth of my life, and I started there with acne and left with tattoos, and it was just, like, a very crazy, long period of time.”
That, again, sounds like a farewell.
And when he discussed his biggest recurring character, “Chad,” Davidson seemed to close the door on him, too, talking about the perfect narrative arc, starting as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s pool boy and ending with a explosive finish on Mars thanks to Elon Musk.
“It’s the easiest thing ever,” Davidson said of Chad. “Literally. When I find out they’re doing a ‘Chad’ during the week, I get so excited because I’m just like, oh, great. It’s all on the host. Because the host has all this dialogue, and all this buildup, and like such a dramatic performance, and then it just cuts to me just saying like alright. ok. It’s fun for me because I don’t have to memorize any lines or do any work at all. And I get to watch these multimillionaires put on Oscar-worthy performances, and they just get an OK back…I know we’ve done like 10 of them, but It just always makes me giggle because it’s just so ridiculous.”
Davidson even got to accomplish what he described as “one of my favorite moments ever at the show” this past season with his music video parody of Eminem’s “Stan,” called “Stu.” “I don’t get to do a lot of stuff that’s a stretch on that show, but when I get to do stuff like that, it just reminds me how fun and enjoyable the job can be.”
So…should Pete Davidson stay or should he go?
Now seems like a fine time as any to explore other projects onscreen and onstage for Davidson. And not just because his accomplishments this past season served up a fitting exclamation point on his SNL tenure, but also because of how he turned things around from where he thought he stood with Lorne Michaels and company pre-pandemic.
He almost bolted then. In a February 2020 interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Davidson was exploring his options, saying: “I personally think I should be done with that show because they make fun of me on it.” He’d asked former cast members for advice about quitting SNL, hearing: “You’ll know when you know, and it’ll be all right.”
But then the pandemic shutdowns hampered Davidson’s mental health. The isolation in self-quarantine made him want to return to 30 Rock, after all.
Michaels expanded the cast to a record 20 performers for Season 46 to compensate for potential departures as well as several longtime cast members working on side projects. So it’s not as if SNL needs Davidson, and frankly, he no longer needs the show.
He’s got a part in the expected summer blockbuster, The Suicide Squad, as well as the upcoming A24 thriller film, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. And news broke this past week of Davidson negotiating a co-starring role opposite Kaley Cuoco in a rom-com called Meet Cute.
Not to be confused for this 2017 SNL short he co-starred in with Kristen Stewart.
Just as Davidson expressed gratitude on the SNL season finale for spending his twenties on live TV with us, he also expressed gratitude in his new Gold Derby interview for Lorne keeping him involved with the show despite his multiple stints in rehab. If he were on a sitcom on FOX, Davidson wondered: “I don’t know if I’d have a job. (SNL) kept me around and I got to, in my eyes, redeem myself.”
Davidson even has a solid grasp of his legacy on SNL, calling himself “pretty much the Dennis Rodman of the cast.”
Regardless of what you thought of his life off the stage, he was an eclectic team player, a beast on the boards and an integral supporting member to the other all-stars. That sounds about right.
Whether nodding in agreement to guest hosts as Chad, or providing sit-down stand-up commentary on Update, stepping up for several hip-hop music videos, setting up one of John Mulaney’s NYC musical tourism numbers, backing up a scene with laughs, or even the occasional impersonation (most recently, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo), Davidson consistently supplied that intangible element that kept your attention glued to the screen.
Redeemed, he is. Mission accomplished.
As far as I’m concerned, on behalf of all fans of comedy and SNL, Pete, you’re free to go this summer if you like. Heck, as you told your latest interviewer, you’ll follow the path most SNL alums travel, making sitcoms, movies or talk shows produced by Lorne’s Broadway Video. Nobody ever really leaves the SNL family. Unless they get fired.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.
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