Why Pete Davidson Can Make Jokes About His Breakup

Considering everything that Ariana Grande has been through, including the Manchester bombing last year and Mac Miller’s death in September, fans might have expected ex-boyfriend Pete Davidson to be more sensitive and not make jokes about his split from Ariana so soon. But when you have a public relationship, you're going to have a reaction from fans whether you like it or not. Pete still has the right to express himself creatively in whatever he’s going through. Right now it just happens to be his breakup with the biggest pop star in the world.

I’ve been a fan of Pete Davidson since he started on Saturday Night Live four years ago. It was love at first sight as soon as they said on Weekend Update, “Here’s our resident young person.” For anyone who’s been watching Pete for as long as I have, we know his humor and we take his jokes in context. People who only heard about him once he started dating Ariana Grande might think his jokes are insensitive, but that's just Pete.

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Like most of the world watching the romance unfold, Pete was aware of the power dynamic in his relationship with Ariana. When the public couldn't believe he got engaged, Pete said on SNL, “I get it, she’s the number one pop star in the world and I’m that guy from SNL who everyone thinks is in desperate need of more blood.”

Pete’s "lower status” is only viewed that way because he is compared to Ariana Grande. Pete is actually so successful and doesn’t get enough credit. Pete joined SNL in 2014 when he was only 20 years old. He’s one of the youngest SNL cast members ever. To make it onto that show at such a young age and to still be on it four years later as a main cast member is a big deal. It’s not like he’s building his career out of his relationship with Ariana Grande; he already pulls in millions of viewers on SNL every week. 

People aren’t used to seeing a very successful woman with a less successful man. They don’t know how to handle that imbalance when the relationship comes to an end and both partners still have a public platform to speak about the split.

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Two weeks ago in an SNL promo video, Pete asks Maggie Rogers to marry him and when she declines, Pete says, “Oh for three” in his signature self-deprecating humor. But people got mad. Even Ariana fired back by tweeting, “For somebody who claims to hate relevancy u sure love clinging to it huh.” We’re talking about the guy who said he would be happy if “Staten Island just fell into the sea” and people are mad because he jokingly asked the SNL musical guest to marry him? Pete is known for his dark humor. His father died in 9/11 and Pete makes jokes about it. He has borderline personality disorder and makes jokes about mental health. Hardly anything is off limits for Pete Davidson, as for a lot of comedians.

A comedian's creative outlet is through jokes, sketches, stand-up, etc. They make people laugh, even at sad things. Naturally, their personal lives influence their art just like any other art form. Listen to literally any Taylor Swift album for evidence. Usually, after two artists break up, they go make art inspired by the relationship and how it fell apart. Ariana was inspired to write her new album, thank u, next. Davidson is going to make jokes (shocker). He happens to be on SNL each week, so he has plenty of opportunities to.

Comedy is a different ballgame than pop music. Singers can reveal so much about past relationships metaphorically, but comedy is usually more straightforward. People just aren’t used to a comedian making jokes about a high-profile celebrity they’ve been in a relationship with. Usually it’s the comedian who’s married to a “regular” person. John Mulaney jokes about his wife and how she is a “dynamite, five-foot, Jewish bitch and she’s the best.” Ali Wong makes jokes about making more money than her husband. Nobody bats an eye when they make jokes like this because their partners are not A-list celebrities.

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On last week’s SNL, Pete Davidson appeared on Weekend Update alongside Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw to respond to controversy after Pete made offensive jokes about Crenshaw's eyepatch, which he wears because of an injury he had while serving in Afghanistan. Crenshaw gets back at Pete by roasting him and making fun of how he looks. Then Crenshaw’s phone starts ringing. Of course, his ringtone is Breathin’ by Ariana Grande. Crenshaw asks Pete, “Do you know her?” The joke was framed as a reminder of his breakup. Pete didn’t actually deliver this joke, but he might’ve known about it or helped write it beforehand. But the bit could have even been a surprise to Pete. SNL is known for throwing in new lines on the cue cards without the performer knowing (John Mulaney threw in new jokes to crack up Bill Hader as Stefon).

With all jokes aside, Pete can be serious when he needs to be. At the end of another Weekend Update, he gives a nice statement wishing Ariana “all the happiness in the world.” Referencing the song Ariana included on Sweetener named "Pete Davidson," he adds, “I’m still a great song though!” A couple weeks before they broke up, Pete joked that if they did break up, “There will be a song called Pete Davidson playing in speakers in Kmart and I’ll be working there.” A source tells Entertainment Tonight, "His friends think he is embarrassed by the breakup and that he has to overcompensate by making jokes about their relationship, because, days before they split, he was saying they would never break up.” Making jokes might just be Pete's own method of coping. 

Ariana and Pete have both been respectful so far and every joke he has made since the breakup has been self-deprecating. The jokes focus on himself and how he’s handling the situation, which allows him to express his feelings about the split while still being respectful of Ariana. Ariana can write her songs and Pete can make his jokes. Pete Davidson is the punchline, not Ariana Grande.