In partnership with ‘The King Of Staten Island’
In The King Of Staten Island, Scott Carlin is struggling to get his life together, still grappling with the death of his firefighter dad when he was a kid. The comedy draws from Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson’s own life, using the death of his father and his life growing up in New York’s “forgotten borough” as a foundation for one of the most heartfelt and hilarious movies to be released so far this year. Written by Davidson, Dave Sirus and Judd Apatow, The King Of Staten Island (available to rent at home now) looks set to cement the comedian’s place as one of the funniest, brightest stars around right now, so what better time to get to know him?
Where it all began
He might be able to sell out grand venues and command the attention of film and TV’s most powerful names, but Davidson’s first comedy performance was a little more modest. Seeing potential in him when he was 16 years old, a friend’s dad organised a set for him at a makeshift comedy club run out of the back of a bowling alley in Staten Island. The rest, as they say, is history.
Pete’s comedy influences
Davidson has listed his comedy influences as Dane Cook and Adam Sandler. The most important comic in his life, though, is Bill Burr, who he saw in Atlantic City when he was 16 and has called “the best comedian of all time, and a real-life hero”. That set inspired the wannabe comic to start frequenting New York’s open mic scene, performing himself a few nights a week. Now, Davidson is starring alongside his biggest hero – Burr plays Raymond Bishop, the firefighter with his eye set on Scott’s mum, in The King Of Staten Island.
Losing his father
Like his character in The King Of Staten Island, Davidson’s dad was a firefighter who died trying to save other people’s lives. In real life, Scott Davidson died on 9/11 when his son was seven years old. The tragedy had a huge impact on the star, who frequently references his dad’s death in his material as a way of lessening the pain. When Davidson was still fairly unknown in mainstream comedy, he participated in Comedy Central’s Roast Of Justin Bieber, drawing a big reaction for his unflinchingly raw material. “I lost my dad on 9/11 and I always regretted growing up without a dad,” he said at one point. “Until I met yours, Justin. Now I’m glad mine’s dead.”
A brutally honest comedian
Nothing is off limits in Davidson’s set, be that the death of his dad, his mental health issues, drug use or his engagement to Ariana Grande (and their subsequent break-up). His performances are often called “dark” because of his willingness to use the bad moments in his life to elicit a laugh from the audience. “I always have to be honest,” he told the New York Times recently of his act. “It automatically shuts down everyone. Also, most people are lying to you and most of it is an act. The reason I’m able to relate to certain people is because of that.”
His big break
After becoming a part of New York’s comedy club circuit, Davidson caught the attention of Amy Schumer, who recommended him to comedy kingmaker Judd Apatow. The director was looking for someone to play a very small part in 2015 movie Trainwreck and ended up casting Davidson. His role featured only one line, but he still managed to make an impression on one of the film’s stars. According to the rising comic, the day after he filmed his scene he got a phone call from Bill Hader telling him he’d recommended him to SNL creator Lorne Michaels. From there, a star was born, becoming one of the youngest cast members of the long-running show at the age of 20.
He’s already built up an impressive resumé
Over the last two years, the comedian has become a pretty in-demand name in the film world. He’s starred in Netflix rom-coms (Set It Up), voiced a CGI bird (The Angry Birds Movie 2), and stolen the show in indie flicks (Big Time Adolescence). His star doesn’t look set to stop rising just yet either – as well as starring in, co-writing and co-producing The King Of Staten Island, Davidson is also set to play an as-yet-unknown character in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad.
His best character (so far)
Davidson might have described himself as a “utility player” when it comes to his role on SNL, but that’s to overlook his most iconic character so far – Chad. The part involves little but monosyllabic responses, a vacant look, and finding dirty humour in his scene-mates’ lines. But the results are undeniably hilarious, whether he’s the oblivious pool boy set free from an affair with suburban mum Julia Louis Dreyfus, or the victim in a Scream-style horror movie.
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