Pete Davidson And Friends 8pm Show At Caroline’s On Broadway, Tuesday, January 22nd, 2018, Reviewed
What is it with warm up acts? I can’t think of a worse idea for comedy. Imagine you are married and it is date night and the plan is to fuck at the end of the night. Would you spend all afternoon fucking other women to warm up? Same with comedy shows, how much laughing do these guys think we, the audience, are capable of? Why warm us up by running out our laugh juices?
Last night at Caroline’s On Broadway, 24 year old Saturday Night Live’s millennium poster boy brought us his instantaneously sold out “Pete Davidson And Friends,” and his friends, Ricky Velez, Dave Sirus, Joey Gay, Jordan Rock, and Marcus Price, were uniformly hysterical. The friends did fast and furious ten minutes sets, all “A” material, from white beat box performers, to a surname of Gay, to the correct way for straight men to jack off gay men, to the highlight of the tandem bike of comedy when the alarm at Caroline’s went off during Ricky Velez’s set and nobody moved.
Of course we didn’t move, we were waiting for the hottest comedian in the USA right this minute to take the stage. Pete sold out the club just about instantaneously and added a 1030p performance so he might consider the end of 2018 to early 2019 a nightmare that accumulated in a suicide threat, we see it as the ultimate social media outburst culminating in Saturday Night Live’s brilliant review of Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” with John Mulvaney and a joke about the suicide watch: “I shouldn’t say that but it’s funny, right?” Pete admitted, which would make a great sticker for comedians in cars.
They took my cell and my Iwatch before I entered the room and I really think it is completely ridiculous. A coupla years ago I went to see Kevin Hart and the warnings were obnoxious and rude, how they threw out sixteen people for using their phones the night before: we were being criminalized for buying a ticket. Then Hart came on and the first fifteen minutes was his opening monologue from the SNL the week before. Not that it matters really because humor doesn’t work the same way anymore, if you’re telling folks an “a priest, a rabbi and a hooker walk into a bar…” well, ok, you don’t wanna lose your punchline, but Pete Davidson isn’t that comedian and comedy has become much more like music, all timing and repetition, so what if your set is on Youtube? Who gives a shit? If people know your set they are gonna anticipate your set and ready themselves and enjoy your show more not less. And anything is better than the antithetical to the rebellious and speaking truth to power post-Lenny Bruce age hand your phones at the gate, fuckface. It is like the clubs are totalitarian governments and Alec Baldwin is President. How bad is it?
“This is a strict NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED show. Please leave your phones in your cars or at home. Anyone who brings a cell phone will be required to place it in a locked pouch. Everyone is subject to a pat down. Anyone caught with a cell phone inside the venue will be immediately ejected.
NO EXCEPTIONS WILL BE MADE!
Thank You for Your Cooperation”
Pete gave us a fun 45 minutes of life as lived in a sort of emo rap self-immolation, the first half hour (including a genius transgression about a room service employee) is a snapshot of the pasty faced yet bemusingly good looking 21st century funny guy who suffers from mental illness, perhaps that’s why he looks funny and yet haunted, the final fifteen minutes deals with his break up with Ariana Grande with a terse “if you start shouting stuff out I’ll stop” (if he wants to be accurately quoted leave me alone to tape the sucker).
I can’t do the fashion stuff so settle for Pete was wearing a Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang hoodie (the picture illustrating this story is just Grand Theft Auto picture division) with the hood up through the entire set, black and white kicks and fashionista sweats. Up close, Pete looks younger than his age and both sadder and goofier than he does on TV: if Post Malone, Lil Peep and Pete were the Three Stooges of face tattoos, Pete would be Larry Fine: within the confines of comedy there is a seriousness at the heart of him. Also, unlike ebullient give and take between audience and comedic “the friends” shared, Pete was like the Kings Of Leon of comedy, he neither broke character nor really paid attention to us: the mix up, the lack of softness, was strange in a man who has a refined sugar appeal on screen he’s a sweetheart, watch the way he broke up during Weekend Update and hid behind John Mulvaney but up close not so much. The fame monster comes down hard on him and he isn’t that man of the people: he’s a potential asshole.
Yet Pete is a fascinating case study for modern comedy, like the rap he adores so much it is a place where spiel ends and life begins. Plus his timing is impeccable, his flow rap like and, his strung out but not that far good self a walking warning about the price of just about everything. He is especially good about his father, Scott Davidson of Ladder 118: Scott died during 9-11 pulling people to safety, and Pete was so happy to learn his dad used to take cocaine: “I knew he was a hero but I didn’t know he was a superhero”. Pete’s mother, Amy Waters, makes two appearances, first catching her son masturbating in his bedroom in the middle of the day (he is living at home now) with a “Really, Peter? Really?” And next getting annoyed by the school administration where she works as a nurse after a fifteen year old kid passed her in the hall and started singing “Thank U, Next” .
Which leads us, kicking and screaming, to the “ex” portion of the proceedings, the final third. The behave yourself intro was really annoying, it wasn’t much but I really hate being told to watch myself, and what is worse I can’t help feeling that he is invading his own privacy, and is pissed at me for forcing his hand by paying to watch him do it,. My only other complaint is it includes a joke that doesn’t work. I was arguing about Louis CK’s Parkland riff the other day, I thought it was a bad joke not because of Parkland (pace Sharon McAuliffe’s last words, “what’s that button for?”) but because if you have been terrorized by a shooter, your opinion of gun control is validated whatever your age, so the joke that they are too young to talk to congress is pathetic – if Louis CK really wanted to fun em, talk about their dress sense. Anyway, Ariana has a song on her excellent last album Sweetener called “Pete Davidson”… now, I am way too old to spend my life deciphering lyrics but apparently it is about Pete’s long dong. OK, Pete claims it was an evil plan by Ariana so that every girl he sleep with for the rest of his life will be disappointed and while the payoff (his friends think she is referring to Big Sean) is funny, here is why it is a bad joke: it was written before their break up, when they were engaged to be married: whatever the reason for the song is, it isn’t payback and therefore the joke doesn’t work. Everything else in this section is strong and self-aware without being self-important. He figures that Ariana dropped “Thank U, Next” half an hour before Pete was going live on SNL because she’d heard he had written about her for a segment and thought it would be negative. The Ariana portion isn’t cruel but it isn’t kind either, what he went through at her hands and in the world of public opinion was shameful but it’s the world we live in: he who lives by the Paparazziing of everybody, dies by it.
Pete was a little boring, in a small club the distance between him and us seemed unbridgeable and therefore there wasn’t a shared buzz, and also, his friends were uniformly hysterical and people were a touch laughed out. Having said that, he is a good comic, he knows his job, he can thread the needle however which way he chooses despite his “problem with transitions,” and when he is at the heart of a story he really gets you in and keeps you within the story. There is no point or world purview here, in some ways it is timeless despite its present tense mode, Pete as a comedian has no reason for being other than that he is living a very interesting life and he knows how to make jokes about it.