He knew he had to address it. Pete Davidson had been so outspoken about fiancée Ariana Grande throughout their five-month relationship, that'd it feel almost disingenuous to stay silent now. So moments into his 45-minute set at Saturday's Judd & Pete for America, his comedy show with Judd Apatow benefiting Swing Left, the Saturday Night Live standout made his first strike. "Well, as you could tell, I don't want to be here. There's a lot going on," he told the crowd gathered at West Hollywood's Largo at the Coronet before joking, "Does anybody have any open rooms?"
He could use a roommate. Possibly a recommendation for laser tattoo removal as well.
"So, obviously you know I, we broke up or whatever but when me and her first got engaged we got tattoos," he shared, his first public words about his split from Grande. The ink tally hovers close to six with matching clouds, a reborn message, the acronym H2GKMO ("Honest to God, knock me out,") and a shared Breakfast at Tiffany's reference, along with an "AG" inscribed on his thumb and a tribute to her Dangerous Woman album, which he already had converted into a heart.
"So, well, we got matching tattoos," he continued. "And it was, like, in a magazine, like, was Pete Davidson stupid? And 93 percent of it said yes. So my boy, he was like, 'Don't listen to that s--t man. They're literally f--king haters.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, f--k that. I'm not stupid.' And the other day we were in my kitchen and he was like, 'Yo, bro, turns out you were stupid."
In other words, if you were wondering how Davidson was handling his split from the 25-year-old superstar, he subscribes to that whole laughter being the best medicine policy. In fact, the 24-year-old hasn't found one tragedy he can't cope with using his particular brand of macabre humor. He's cracked jokes about losing his father in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and dealing with both Crohn's disease and borderline personality disorder, a diagnosis that didn't come until after he went to rehab for pot use and suffered a nervous breakdown. So a broken engagement? Yeah, of course he's going to deal by turning up his self-deprecating charm.
"When my dad died, I had to go to therapy," Davidson told Interview magazine by way of explanation in early 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 I tell this joke], and the rest will be like, 'Hmmmm, no.' But it's f--kin' funny! Things that I feel really sad about, I talk about. That way, if it's funny, it doesn't hurt anymore."
Right now, though, losing the woman he's called "the f--king coolest, hottest, nicest person I've ever met," well, that still kinda hurts. So expect more jokes ahead.
Finding the funny is a strategy the comedian has employed since the very start of his unexpected romance with the four-time Grammy nominee. He knew what people thought of their pairing, how the collective Internet had analyzed their budding relationship and determined it somehow not right. He certainly heard about it on social media where he actually received a death threat. "Someone wanted to shoot me in the face," he revealed on SiriusXM's The Howard Stern Show because she's so hot."
More often than not, he battled basic incredulity. "I got engaged and no one could believe it. I can't believe it and I get it," he said on the NBC sketch show's Sept. 29 premiere. "She's the number one pop star in the world and I'm that guy from SNL that everyone thinks is in desperate need of more blood."
He made cracks about their varying degrees of wealth—often thanking the "God is a Woman" singer for letting him live in the $16 million New York City apartment she purchased—and fame, remarking about his sudden vault from SNL regular to the upper echelons of fame and how flimsy it all felt.
"You know, I don't even get royalties for that 'Pete Davidson' song?" he told costar Colin Jost on-air of the track Grande penned in his honor. "Like, if we break up, and we won't—we will—but we won't. I'm kidding. But, like, in 10 years if God forbid that ever happened, there will be a song called 'Pete Davidson' like playing in speakers in K-Mart and I'll be working there."
You know, just a for instance he considered. Not that he'd totally hate an off-the-radar existence.
For Davidson, if there's one good thing to come out of Grande's decision to press pause on their whirlwind engagement, it's the chance to return to a less escalated level of notoriety. He really hadn't ever adjusted to the more moderate fame that came with being named SNL's youngest-ever cast member, telling People in 2015, "I hate all of the attention. But I've had the same friends forever and they're cool, so nothing has really changed. Everybody's just like, 'Wow, this is weird!' That's how I feel anyway. It's just really weird."
And so his new role as one half of young Hollywood's most-watched couple felt especially ill-fitting. "I gotta tell you, up until about two months ago, if someone wrote about me, I saw it," he told GQ of the transition. "Nobody gave a s--t two months ago, so anytime there was an article, I would obviously see it, because my mom would send it to me and be like, 'Yaaay!'" With Grande, though, every walk down the street or Instagram back-and-forth that they shared became headline news, leading Davidson to check out of the social media game altogether.
"He's a private dude who feels more at home being on stage doing comedy in small clubs and being around close friends and family," one pal remarked to Page Six. "Being in a relationship with Ariana meant jumping into an entirely new world from his. He would always joke about how he was out of her league—and yeah, he really believed [it]."
Now he's readjusting to his world, spending time at his mom's Staten Island home, bunking up with other relatives in the city and preparing for a Nov. 3 return to SNL. And though his film career has fully taken off, with the likes of Going Places, What Men Want and Big Time Adolescence in post-production, friends anticipate him making a return to the NYC comedy club circuit soon, perhaps popping up at his old haunts such as Gotham Comedy Club, Carolines and The Comedy Cellar to test out new material.
Perhaps you've heard the bit about the regrettable ink? "Um, I've been covering a bunch of tattoos, that's fun," he said at Saturday's show. "I'm f--king 0 for two in the tattoo [department]. Yeah, I'm afraid to get my mom tattooed on me, that's how bad it is."
Body art aside, though, things aren't going all that terrible. "Pete's doing well and is concentrating on himself and work right now," one insider revealed to E! News. Added another, "He has a strong support system of family and friends around him that are keeping him laughing."
Not to mention delivering a healthy dose of perspective. "Pete's a fighter," the pal told Page Six. "As long as he has time and patience, he will be fine. We are talking about someone who has dealt with his father passing away on 9/11 and has battled mental illness. He has been through a lot worse."
And there's a chance, insist insiders, that this is just a blip on the pair's route to forever. After all, you don't just stop believing someone is your soulmate.
It's just, well, Grande has been through a lot. Being at the center of a vicious terrorist attack and watching your first love succumb to an apparent drug overdose is too much for any one person to deal with in a lifetime, much less the past 18 months. And the chart-topper had to handle the worst life could throw at her with millions of fans weighing in.
Truly reeling from the September death of Mac Miller, Grande "feels very overwhelmed with her life right now," an insider told E! News. "Ariana hasn't given herself enough time for the grieving and healing process, and feels like her emotions are out control. She's been battling her feelings and knows that she needs to take time for herself right now."
While she certainly still cares for Davidson, said another source, "She has been struggling emotionally and is not in a situation where she should plan a wedding. She had to take a step back and just breathe for a minute."
And after the pause, sure, she could find her back to the man she decided to marry when she first laid eyes on him in 2016. Though the pair haven't physically been in the same place, they also haven't completely cut off communications. "Neither of them know what's going to happen in the future," says the source. "She just felt she had to slow it down."
So, yeah, Davidson could still use a roommate, or possibly a new lease on a one-bedroom Midtown rental, but he may just want to hold off on covering up those tats. "It's really a waiting period for them right now," says another confidante. "They still care about each other but now is not the time for them to further their relationship."