The 22-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., native didn’t set out to be comedy’s “9/11 boy,” as he has jokingly referred to himself, but it can’t be erased from his biography that he lost his firefighter dad, Scott Davidson, 15 years ago when the Twin Towers collapsed. Nor should it be. Pete, known for his playfully juvenile sense of humor (think weed and masturbation jokes), is a proud son. He has said that his late father is his “hero” and that “not a day goes by” when he doesn’t think of him.
Pete was 7 when his dad died. A write-up about the fallen firefighter in the Staten Island Advance at the time said that the Brooklyn-based firefighter enjoyed spending time with his kids, including Pete’s younger sister Casey, and “passed on his inherent love of all sports” to them.
Several years later, in 2009, the newspaper caught up with Pete’s mother, Amy Waters, at a Sept. 11-type memorial, and she noted that Scott’s death, was “especially tough for our son, who was little when it happened. It’s still raw, and it’s not going to get any better.”
Last year, she elaborated during an interview with the New York Times, saying,“It was sad how sad he was growing up.” Pete ripped out all his hair until he was balding and became a “lab rat” for doctors studying the children of Sept. 11 victims. He also had a tough time making friends, attending three different high schools. So when he started getting into comedy at 16, she would happily drive him to his gigs in Manhattan. “He had a tough time growing up without a dad — I wanted him to be happy, and this made him really, really happy,” she explained.
There’s nothing he won’t joke about (Sept. 11 included)
As they say, laughter is the best medicine. He embraced his ability to make people laugh, and nothing has been off-limits, including Sept. 11 jokes.
“When my dad died, I had to go to therapy,” Davidson, who has his father’s firefighter number (8418) tattooed on his arm and wears a chain with it as well, told Interview in 2015. “My therapist was Afghan. He would be like, ‘How do you think your dad died?’ I always wanted to be like, ‘Why don’t you tell me, man? I know you know.’ Five people will laugh [when this joke is told in a set], and the rest will be like, ‘Hmmmm, no.’ But it’s f***in’ funny! Things that I feel really sad about, I talk about. That way, if it’s funny, it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
He told the New York Times that he recently returned to therapy after a couple of years away and is seeing the same therapist. “I’m on antidepressants like everyone else,” he offered with a shrug.
He’s made at least one quip about his dad’s death on Saturday Night Live, but not in the same way as during the Comedy Central roasts. In the roast of Justin Bieber, he made it a punch line: “I lost my dad on 9/11, and I always regretted growing up without a dad until I met your dad, Justin. Now I’m glad mine’s dead”). Other people have made jokes about it as well. (David Spade: “Pete, I actually thought you were black, but I guess you just have your dad’s ashy skin”). Gulp.
In the same New York Times article, he said that he enjoys making people squirm a bit. “I’m like, ‘Heyyyy, I just want to talk about this that everybody’s uncomfortable about.’ I like doing that. I like making things that are dark, awkward, weird things that you don’t really find funny funny.”
He added: “There’s nothing I won’t joke about, and I think it’s because of what happened to me. That’s the worst thing that could ever happen to somebody. Now it’s just like, ‘Who cares, man?’”
“Nobody else in comedy can get to be the 9/11 boy”
Pete used humor to call out fellow comedian Steve Rannazzisi after The League star ‘fessed up to his outrageous lie about being in the World Trade Center when the towers were struck. “It’s ok @SteveRannazzisi people make mistakes … Can’t wait to meet my dad for lunch later,” he tweeted, a comment that resulted in an offline chat between the men.
Pete later appeared on the Opie Radio Show, where Rannazzisi’s lies were discussed at length. At one point, Pete, adopting a crazy voice, joked, “I’m the only 9/11 kid here. Nobody else in comedy can get to be the 9/11 boy. Back the f*** off, Steve!”
Smart-ass meets sentimental
The 6-foot-3 star, who is dating Larry David’s daughter Cazzie, also infuses comedy into his online tributes to his father. Last year, he posted a series of photos of them together on Twitter to mark Sept. 11. The first he captioned, “Can’t believe its been 14 years. I remember seeing ur gigantic dick like it was just yesterday. RIP Dad #NeverForget.” A second said, “All jokes aside. There’s not a day that goes by where I dont think of u. Ur my hero. Cant wait to see u again someday.”
He also posted the photos on Instagram, captioning them with this message: “Can’t believe it’s been 14 years. Over 2/3 of my life without you. It feels like it was just yesterday. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of you. You’re my hero. Can’t wait to see you again someday. RIP dad ¼/68-9/11/01 #neverforget.”
On the day before the 15th anniversary he continued his mix of emotionally tinged wisecracking, posting a photo of both his dad and his toddler self tipping back a bottle of beer and wrote, “Can’t believe tomorrow is going to be 15 years. Missing the legend !!! Thank u all for ur kind words and support as always #werememberthem.” And the following day he posted a throwback photo of his father alongside a pair of his boots and said, “One of my dads homies gave me his old dirty ass boots from work and a sick photo of him lookin like a young legend !!! Apparently my dad wore sketchers how f***in embarrassing!!”
A photo posted by Pete Davidson (@petedavidson) on Sep 10, 2016 at 7:18pm PDT
A photo posted by Pete Davidson (@petedavidson) on Sep 11, 2016 at 3:02am PDT