Netflix has done it again. They gave us yet another subpar comedy special from a comedian of Saturday Night Live fame. This time it was “Pete Davidson: Alive from New York,” and it was only slightly less disappointing than Seth Meyers’ “Lobby Baby.”
Let’s start with what I liked about the comedy special: it’s short. The whole special is only 49 minutes long, so it’s very easy to watch in one sitting. However, it isn’t as chock-full of jokes as you might think despite its length. Throughout the whole thing, Davidson fumbles over words and repeats himself so much that the comedy loses its power. I also genuinely like listening to Davidson’s Staten Island accent and cadence. It’s something that makes his somewhat raunchy comedy unique and, honestly, much more palatable.
Some of the jokes have real potential. His opening joke talks about how Louis C.K. tried to get him fired from SNL, and although it isn’t timely, it has a fantastically satisfying ending and hilarious punchline. It’s probably my favorite bit from the show. I think there’s also some really fantastic bits like when he jokes about the special being on Nickelodeon after a particularly risqué joke. I usually like his work on SNL, so I’m not surprised the special got a few chuckles out of me, but I am surprised by how much I disliked it as a whole.
My biggest issue with the special is that it feels like Davidson wrote it the day before they filmed it. He stumbles over his words and interrupts his stories with what should be small jokes and one liners, but he ends up going off on tangents. Then, when he eventually makes his way back around to the original story, it’s not nearly as funny as it could be. It lessens the natural flow and the impact of the joke. He also tends to focus on audience reaction in this special. By that I mean, that he waits for the audience to react a certain way to continue with his joke. Comedians tend to do this when they say particularly controversial things, but the way that Davidson does it makes him look nervous and unprofessional.
I also genuinely dislike some of the bigger subjects in the special. Davidson focuses on drama about his controversial joke about politician Dan Crenshaw on SNL and his past relationship with Ariana Grande. The Dan Crenshaw joke has the same cadence as his other jokes, and there’s a clear build of good punchlines in the story that I liked. The Ariana Grande joke, however, falls flat for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not invested in celebrity drama, but the jokes he says about her feel spiteful. I wouldn’t even consider myself a fan of Ariana Grande, and I recognize that she is far from perfect. Where Davidson thrives is his ability to balance self-deprecating jokes with jabs at the person he’s making fun of. He does this very well in the Dan Crenshaw bit, but it’s severely lacking in the Ariana Grande bit. It doesn’t feel like a well-crafted, genuinely funny Davidson joke and instead feels like a bit of drama I’d see on E! News, and, personally, that’s not what I’m looking for in comedy. There were hints of that self-deprecating comedy I enjoy, but it was overshadowed by what I felt was an unnecessary rehashing of year old drama.
Overall, “Alive from New York” wasn’t terrible. At times it felt disingenuous and forced, but with a bit more development, it could’ve been a special I rewatch regularly along with John Mulaney, Bo Burnham, Hannibal Burress and Tom Segura’s specials. Unfortunately, although there were some seriously solid jokes in this special, the cons outweigh the pros for me, and I think it’ll be the last time I watch “Alive with New York.”