To say that Pete Davidson is one of the more divisive figures in the modern world of comedy is not a very controversial opinion.
Nowadays most comedians either do everything they can to avoid offending people or try as hard as possible to offend everybody for the sake of laughs.
While Davidson falls more into the latter camp than the former, in truth he is just quite aggressively awkward.
That’s his product. Statements such as “I can’t believe I haven’t been fired yet,” “All I do is smoke weed” and “I bought my mom a new house and I live in the basement” are all lines that emphasize his act as being a crescendo of bluntly weird.
If you’re one of the few people who are on the fence about Davidson or one of the many who actively think he’s not funny at all, then his debut stand-up special Alive From New York that came out on Netflix last week is in all likelihood not going to be for you.
He’s as eclectic and haphazard as always, unapologetically on brand and he’s not looking to surprise you.
In fact, several of his bits in the special, which clocks in at under an hour, are actually predicated on the viewer already knowing several things about him as a person.
This includes his aforementioned living situation in his mom’s basement, as well as the fact that he is the ex-fiancé of popstar Ariana Grande and that his father was a firefighter killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
As someone who is a big fan of Davidson’s humor, I have to say that I thought the special was a real success.
It certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were many moments of awkward silences or mistakes that a more polished comic like Davidson’s mentor John Mulaney probably wouldn’t have made.
If you’re someone who knows that they like this style, the overall product will not disappoint.
The special opens with a lengthy bit about an interaction Davidson had early on in his days at Saturday Night Live (SNL) with host Louis C.K., who, as Davidson says, was “a really well-respected comedian, at the time.”
Louis C.K. was apparently very upset by the excessive amounts of weed that Davidson was smoking at work and reported him to the creator and producer of SNL, Lorne Michaels.
According to Davidson, Michaels was most likely aware that people were doing drugs on set and was therefore unimpressed by the accusations. Michaels simply asked the young comic to be mindful of his marijuana intake.
More important than that story, though, is the vindication that Davidson apparently felt when he heard about sexual misconduct allegations against Louis C.K. after the New York Times exposed him in 2017. The allegations led to TV programs cancelling all of Louis C.K.’s shows.
If you didn’t already know, I’m hoping that you’re getting a better picture of the type of comedy that this is and why it’s definitely not up everyone’s alley.
Where the special really shines, though, is actually during the more personal and less accessible parts, which is around the last 20 minutes or so of the routine. This final act focuses on Davidson’s late father and Grande. Viewers get a rare look into Davidson’s personal life.
Davidson, as unscrupulous as he can be, had until this time never formally done a set about Ariana Grande since their very public relationship and equally public breakup.
Given the celebrity of both Grande and Davidson, it’s no wonder that this is a topic that many people are interested in hearing his perspective on, and he killed it.
The way he emphasizes the double standard applied to the two of them after their split was admittedly somewhat contrived. Still, Davidson’s explanation of the long con that she pulled by telling the world that he has a large penis (which he claims to be a vast exaggeration) is diabolically funny.
Davidson then utters a line about as typically problematic and unseemly of his style as you can get.
“Alright everybody, let’s do some 9/11 jokes and then we can get out of here,” he said.
His set about his father is great, and when he does get a bit uncharacteristically emotional on stage, it feels genuine and real. While such a reaction is certainly more than understandable, it is still atypical for Davidson.
Regardless, the jokes are great and his delivery is solid. Alive From New York is a worthwhile watch for anyone who’s a fan of Pete Davidson and his comedy.