Saturday Night Live alum Pete Davidson returns to Studio 8H to host the season 49 premiere. He’s back on the stage that helped make him a star and, for better or worse, fodder for gossip columns.
But strictly looking at Davidson’s SNL career, it’s easy to see why he quickly became so popular. He joined the SNL cast for season 40 at just 20 years old, becoming the first cast member born in the 1990s and among the youngest to ever land the gig.
Davidson would be among the first to admit that his comedy talents don’t perfectly translate to sketch comedy. He is by no means a master impressionist, nor did he leave behind a legacy of iconic characters like Matt Foley or the Church Lady.
Instead, he and the SNL writers played to his strengths. Davidson was at his best being himself at the “Weekend Update” desk. He was a reliable straight man in fan-favorite sketches like “Diner Lobster” and “Career Day.” But Davidson’s best Saturday Night Live sketches also proved that he could commit to a big character or zero in on something that would land with a specific audience.
Pete Davidson’s best Weekend Update moments on Saturday Night Live
On Saturday Night Live, Pete Davidson first made a splash at the “Weekend Update” desk as the show’s “resident young person.” The premise would be some story about millennials that needed context or explanation from someone of that generation. It typically evolved into Davidson essentially performing stand-up and in the process, making him a more recognizable SNL cast member.
As time went on, Davidson began to address more sensitive and serious subjects but without losing his signature delivery or style. Whether it was mental health or his personal life, Davidson managed to swing between sincere and absurd while also keeping the audience in his corner.
Chad became Pete Davidson’s signature character
Creating or portraying a signature character can be a jackpot for a Saturday Night Live character. The number of original SNL characters with repeat appearances isn’t what it used to be. However, Pete Davidson hit gold when he created “Chad.”
Playing up stereotypes about stoners, bros, and himself, Davidson managed to do a lot with a character that only says a handful of words. But it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Chad or getting hosts to commit to the bit as well as they did. “Chad” sketches showed how SNL can be at its best with a well-produced pretape sketch.
Pete Davidson’s best Saturday Night Live sketches
Pete Davidson wasn’t immune to breaking while performing live sketches on Saturday Night Live. Famously, hosts Adam Driver and Dave Chappelle both got Davidson to crack in front of the camera.
Still, Davidson had the talent to carry a live sketch all the way to the end. Two of his best are among the most-watched sketches on Saturday Night Live‘s YouTube channel.
“Teacher Trial” didn’t ask much of Pete Davidson. But his line delivery made the sketch what it was, despite trying to thread the needle of finding humor in a sensitive subject.
In “Rap Roundtable,” Davidson teamed up with Timothee Chalamet to parody SoundCloud/TikTok rappers. The sketch mocks a very specific thing in pop culture while still holding a mass appeal. Younger viewers can catch the specific references and slang. At the same time, everyone can relate to feeling lost or annoyed when it comes to understanding a younger generation.
Davidson goes all in as Guaplord. His over-the-top performance wasn’t what Saturday Night Live audiences typically saw from the comedian.
Watch Pete Davidson add to his best moments when he hosts the Saturday Night Live season 49 premiere on October 14.