Why have comedians stopped being funny? Are they genuinely out of fresh material, are there too many restrictions because of the sensitivity of the current climate, or is it simply a case of lack of interest due to mediocrity and over-commercialization of the art form? It’s hard to pinpoint the problem, but for now, it’s safe to say that Pete Davidson: Turbo Fonzarelli doesn’t even elicit a chuckle out of us.
In the interest of a full disclaimer, we haven’t watched any previous works by Pete Davidson. Our interest in him is the result of the inexplicable pattern of his dating life. Therefore, we decided to watch Turbo Fonzarelli to get an idea of his personality. The jokes that people tell or like give you a great insight into the kind of person they are. What we understood about Pete Davidson was that he was an average comic on a bad day who was doing his best, because that was the philosophy. At the end of his set, Pete mentions that, as a comedian, he needs to commit to his set whether or not it is working. That is what he did for the entirety of the hour.
Pete starts with jokes about his mother, moves on to his stalker and how he felt flattered at having one, and then finally ends with how his stalker moved on to ‘better’ prospects. There is also a bit about the ‘Make a Wish’ foundation. Most of it is bland, and only one part, the one about Pete being with his mother, is disgraceful and uncomfortable. You can tell that this man did not test that joke with the right audience before presenting it to Netflix. We almost want to refer to a psychoanalytic theory to explain the foundation of that joke, but that reference is simply because Pete Davidson reminds us of another prominent personality whom we would rather not name.
Pete talks about loving and wanting to be with Leonardo de Caprio but misses the very obvious joke that he is not 25 years old. He also talks about his admiration for Dave Chappelle, but the joke he makes next is lost on us. Mostly, Pete Davidson talks about ridiculous situations and his equally ridiculous feelings regarding those, but none of them succeed in being remotely funny.
Additionally, the overused laugh track felt like quite a disgrace. Who does Netflix think it is fooling by using that track that way? Are we supposed to believe that people laugh in groups like that, with a momentary rise and fall at the most mundane jokes? Sitcoms do a better job with track overuse, and it is just painful to hear it so excessively in stand-up specials. It’s worth questioning whether artists have truly given up (for whatever reason) and are getting by with these shortcuts that give the illusion of a job well done without actually having to do it. Everyone loves shortcuts, especially if they are at work, but there are some avenues where any kind of compromise ends up destroying its value completely. It is unbelievable that we have to say this, but Matt Rife was better than Pete Davidson.
Perhaps the problem with Turbo Fonzarelli is that the comedian just doesn’t push the envelope. He doesn’t challenge the audience, he doesn’t act like a troll, and he doesn’t even make good comparisons. Basically, this looks like material that was put together in a day by someone who did not care.
At the end of the day, if Pete Davidson’s material is not interesting enough for us to talk about, who else do we discuss, if not the man himself and the enigma he has strengthened with his poor performance? Something we understood about Pete Davidson from this one hour of material is that he is sensitive but has a thick skin. He likes his moments of vulnerability as long as he doesn’t have to commit to them. He also separates the art and the artist; otherwise, why else would he like the problematic people (in his stand-up) that he does? Overall, he is quite average but has a charmingly self-deprecatory manner that makes women, especially those who are more successful than most men, extremely comfortable. In so many ways, Pete Davidson paints the picture of the kind of ‘damaged’ that women love to ‘heal’ as a fantasy. He knows that, and he sells that. His privacy regarding that part of his life somehow adds to his persona, which we desperately want to create in our minds. There are a few moments where we understood the reality behind the facade he creates. Pete Davidson has a boomer sense of humor stored away within him. He is a Scorpio, so he has an all-or-nothing approach (astrological speculation) to things he loves, comedy included. Turbo Fonzarelli was on the ‘nothing’ end of the spectrum. We would have to see his other specials to understand what it is like when he gives it his all.
If Pete Davidson is more famous for his dating life than for his comedy, it is his fault (that is all we can say after watching Turbo Fonzarelli). Couldn’t he have committed to the writing process as much as he did to the performance part of it? One can’t find any passion or emotion behind those deadpan eyes, and we just want to ask why. Especially when the world is desperate to give him a chance, to estimate him higher than they ever did, and when people are curious about him like never before, why squander it at this point? Did he learn nothing about marketing from Kim Kardashian or Ariana Grande? The lovely ladies fall under the Virgo and Cancer zodiac signs, respectively, so one can assume that they must have brought a lot of communication and friendship into the relationship. All Pete needed to do was ask, and they would have taught him anything he needed to know about effectively using pop culture and the public gaze. Hopefully, his next venture will be something better than what he has presented with Pete Davidson: Turbo Fonzarelli.