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Zoomers love them some Pete Davidson. Don’t believe me? Literally just look in any of the comments of a Saturday Night Live sketch he’s in, and there will be tons of people talking about how healthy he looks or unhealthy, depending on the second.

Pete Davidson looking cool

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Looking pretty spiffy here!

Pete Davidson is famous for dating hot people. And also for being on SNL. And that’s great for him - he’s quite funny. He’s got lots of fans who love him, including most of us here at Cracked (“I just think he’s neat!” says my editor).

Today, what we’re not going to do is talk about what Pete is normally in the news for (dating out of his league, or more recently, being the subject of Kanye’s scorn); what we are going to do is explore this question: Why does his humor and personality appeal to those rascally zoomer youths so much?

Gen Z's Humor: Setting The Table For Pete Davidson

Look, Gen Z is weird. I know - I’m part of it. We are like all the weirdest things about millennials dialed up to 3.5π (that’s 11 for you normal folks). Surrealness? Yep, we love it. Depressive and self-excoriating jokes? That’s what we’re all about. Dark humor is our thing.

Of course, strange and dark jokes are not unique to us, nor are they the only type of jokes we make. They're just the most prominent. Why is that? Well, let’s look at the circumstances we’ve grown up in.

While the oldest of us were born before 9/11, every single one of us has grown up and come of age in a post-9/11 world. This basically means that all we have known is pretty much continual crisis – 9/11 and the rise of the national security police state, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Great Recession, the highest rates of inequality in over a hundred years, a resurgence of fascism and neo-Nazism, a multi-year, global pandemic, not to mention that throughout all of that, we have had the existential threat of impending climate disaster hanging over our heads. We’ve been told over and over that if nothing is done, our planet will be radically different for the worse, and we’ve seen little to no action taken despite warnings from the scientific community since the 70s. 

What I’m trying to illustrate is, it looks to us like we got shafted super hard and the very oldest of us just graduated college, so, uh, that’s not very fair, huh?

So of course, how is all this not going to give us our sardonic sense of humor?

Many of you might be going, “Hey now, millennials are in the same boat and have a similar sense of humor! Stop trying to monopolize despair for the kids!” Well, that’s true, but here’s the difference between millennial sensibilities and zoomer sensibilities: millennials grew up with a hope for a great future that was wrenched away from them by the aforementioned events - Gen Z never had that hope to begin with.

And that brings us to Pete Davidson.

Not The Voice Of His Generation, But The One After Him

If you want to get reaaal technical, Pete is a young millennial and not an old zoomer (Gen Z defined as being born between ‘95/96 – 2010, and Pete was born in ‘93). Despite this, he really do be representin’ us. 

Let’s start with his comedic style – sardonic, darkly self-depreciating. It’s exactly in line with the sensibilities of Gen Z. 

He makes jokes about sensitive topics – mental health especially – because those topics are hard to talk about. Laughing about them defuses the tension. Gen Z has higher rates of mental health issues compared to previous generations, with no small part of that being that zoomers are more likely to report and be open about those issues. Pete is an example of that openness in the public eye. He mocks himself while not downplaying or sidelining the problems. He, like many others in the young-ins demographic, uses painful experiences as a source of joy or inspiration. 

Further, the point of view he’s joking from is largely in line with what most of Gen Z believes socially and politicallythat being a fairly progressive point of view regarding topics like LGBTQ rights, social programs, military spending and use, blah blah blah we all know the talking points buzzing around the national discourse. Regardless, his views and his topics of choice align broadly with Gen Z (which of course tends to also align broadly with millennials – go team).

Now, aside from the things he jokes about and the way he jokes about them, Pete also appeals to Zoomers through his work on SNL. The subject matter of the sketches he appears in tends to be on the radar of younger people harder than some of the other things the show likes to rag on. In particular, the state of rap.

Rap is the most popular genre of music among younger people. I say this with supreme confidence not only from years of experience being a young person, but also because this says so. Now, we’re not going to get into the nitty gritty of music genre definitions and how blurry the boundaries can be (“if rap is the most popular form of music, doesn’t that definitionally make it ‘pop’?” “X rap song has Y qualities, shouldn’t it be called pop-rap or something?”), but we are just going to use this basic premise to make a point.

Quite a few Pete sketches deal with the state of rap. There’s his noteworthy appearance with Timothee Chalamet and the rap history sketch when Chance the Rapper hosted. Both these sketches mock, among other things, the SoundCloud or mumble rap subgenre, a genre which had its ephemeral popularity driven by younger people.

So yeah, it’s all of these characteristics together that make Pete so appealing to the kids. But of course, none of that would matter if he wasn’t funny, so thankfully, he is – and not just to us.

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