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Pete Davidson talks on 'SNL' about Israel-Hamas war and losing his dad on 9/11

Saturday Night Live went without its usual bits or zingers in its opening this weekend — and for good reason.

After more than five months off the air because of the writers strike, the show returned as the brutal war in Gaza and Israel raged. While some might call that tough material, host and former cast member Pete Davidson did not shy away from addressing the atrocities.

"I know what you're thinking — who better to comment on it than Pete Davidson," he said to laughs.

"But in a lot of ways, I am a good person to talk about it, because when I was 7 years old, my dad was killed in a terrorist attack. So I know something about what that's like," he continued.

It's not the first time Davidson has spoken on stage or during his standup act about his father, a New York firefighter who was killed on 9/11 at ground zero. But this monologue stood out for its temperament.

In an effort to find the right words, Davidson did not present himself as a comedian — but a son who lost a parent too soon. Davidson shared that seeing the images of Israeli and Palestinian children suffering took him back to "a really horrible, horrible place."

"No one deserves to suffer like that, especially not kids," he said.

It's been a little over a week since the militant group Hamas excuted the worst attack on civilians in Israel's history, which some have described as"Israel's 9/11." The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas left more than 1,300 people dead in Israel, including 29 U.S. citizens.

In response, Israel launched its largest-ever military offensive in Gaza that has killed at least 2,329 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israel also cut off access to food, water and fuel in the territory.

Outside the region, the conflict has opened old wounds and erupted division — in some cases, leading tofurther violence. Words have been especially painful, as seen on college campusesacross the country.

Davidson, one of the youngest cast members in SNL history who left the show last year, appeared to understand that in this weekend's installment, featuring muscial guest Ice Spice.

Before preforming a typical opening monologue, where he would go on to poke fun at Game of Thrones, his home of Staten Island and himself, Davidson shared how he planned to navigate the tragedy in the Middle East.

Davidson recalled a story from his childhood after losing his father. In his mother's attempts to comfort him, she accidentally showed him an Eddie Murphy standup special, Delirious, thinking it was a children's movie, the 29-year-old comedian recalled.

Though his mother did not expect it, Davidson finally chuckled.

"Sometimes comedy is really the only way forward through tragedy," he said. "Tonight I'm going to do what I've always done in the face of tragedy, and that's try to be funny."

"Remember, I said 'try,'" he added.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.