by Brenda Hillegas
Many of Saturday Night Live’s cast members have been hitting the road lately to do stand-up routines in comedy clubs across the US. Fans of the show can clearly see the increase in stand-up comedians being hired as cast members and writers. While some SNL die-hards may prefer a cast with more sketch comedy experiences, stand-up is the way to go in my opinion.
SNL’s youngest current cast member (and the first to be born in the ‘90s), Pete Davidson, is considered to be a stand-out on the show. His Prehab Tour made a stop at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia this week and the sold out shows proved that he’s quickly rising to the top. And if you weren’t at any of these shows in our city, then shame on you. Being able to see a rising, or veteran, comedian in such an intimate setting is something worth experiencing.
This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to see currently SNL cast members Michael Che, Jay Pharoah, and Vanessa Bayer do stand-up in our city. When the cast and writers go on tour, it gives fans the opportunity to see what these people really can do. Now in its 41st season, SNL has 16 people competing for screen time. As a result, they can’t all get the recognition they deserve. Davidson joked about this at last night’s show after an audience member shouted out for him to do a Justin Bieber impression. “That’s not me,” Davidson said. “I’m the guy who comes out and says things like ‘here’s your cake’ and that’s it.”
Don’t worry Pete, many of SNL’s breakout stars began by saying similar lines- always playing the waiter or the guy who runs into a scene holding a clapboard.
Seeing Davidson’s stand-up last night made me think how many great sketches could come out of what he was talking about. Early on in his set, Davidson told a story about a college class and mentally challenged students. Offensive to some people? Sure. But the content would be perfect for SNL; most of his set could have been written into a hilarious sketch for the show. As the audience laughed, Davidson said “they made me cut that from Weekend Update”. Whether that statement was true or not, there is no denying that Saturday Night Live has been playing it too safe lately. It’s another reason to go experience a stand-up show and see these comedians in an atmosphere that doesn’t make them hold back.
I caught Davidson’s last show of his Philly run. He looked a bit tired and disoriented at times (maybe still in a cheesesteak coma, as I saw someone running a bag from Geno’s backstage just before the set). But still, Davidson is one of the best comedians I have seen live in a very long time. I was expecting some of his content to be familiar- maybe something he tried on Weekend Update or during the Justin Bieber roast last year, but I hadn’t heard any of this stuff before. Every other comedian I’ve seen lately pulls something out I’ve already heard- whether on a special or another show. And I get it. It’s not an easy gig. But this is what Pete Davidson was born to do for sure.
I won’t go into his jokes, what he said, what made the audience laugh and/or groan because he’s filming his first comedy special this upcoming weekend at NYU (also sold out) and made it clear that he was trying out new material that will be on the special. He checked a list that was on stage next to his bottles of Coors Light, and he pulled out his phone a few times to check notes and see if he missed anything. He apologized for doing it, but said he’d rather lose track with us than during the taping of his comedy special.
My fiance, who rolls his eyes whenever Davidson appears on our television screen (probably because I have a crush on him and a framed picture of the two of us in my office), was even wiping the tears from his eyes due to laughing so hard. Again, confirming that while you may not think a cast member on SNL is worth a spot, they can prove viewers wrong by kicking ass on a comedy club’s stage. Keep an eye out for the release of Davidson’s comedy special, and by all means, catch a comedian who comes to your town- even if you’ve only just heard the name before.
Davidson brought along current SNL writer/stand-up comedian, Dave Sirus, and Toronto-based comedian Jeffrey Danson (aka Heavvy) to warm up the crowd. They did not disappoint.
Helium Comedy Club is a great venue, and surprisingly that was my first time there. I’ve been known to wander off to NYC to see shows at UCB quite frequently, but I forget about the great opportunities for shows in Philadelphia. Fans of SNL can look forward to shows from Jon Rudnitsky at Helium this June. You’ll find me there.
Current cast member Sasheer Zamata will also be in town this August at the Trocadero, and season 39’s Brooks Wheelan will be at the Ruba Club on May 13th.