“I’m a pothead, but that’s not the joke,” wunderkind Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live” told Rolling Stone last year while discussing how he felt pigeonholed into making jokes about marijuana on the show.
It’s true. Aside from his insightful barbs, the comic became known primarily for three things: his father’s death in the 9/11 attacks, being one of SNL’s youngest talents when he joined the cast in 2014 at age 20, and his love of pot.
Take the sketch, for example, in which Davidson leads an army of potheads to celebrate in the streets of New York after the city amended its laws against possession.
His love of marijuana, though, wasn’t purely recreational.
“I got Crohn’s disease when I was 17 or 18,” Davidson told High Times in a September video interview, as he smoked a joint. “Weed would be the only thing that would help me eat.”
Added Davidson, “I wouldn’t be able to do SNL if I didn’t smoke weed. I wouldn’t be able to do anything, really.”
(Crohn’s disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, “is a chronic, or long lasting, disease that causes inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract. … The most common symptoms … are diarrhea, cramping and pain in your abdomen, and weight loss.”)
Those closely watching this politically charged season of SNL might have noted the absence of Davidson’s “resident young person” character on Weekend Update and, well, his presence in most of the show.
On Monday night, he took to Instagram to explain why: He has sobered up.
In a caption under a photo of a healthy looking Davidson holding a coffee, he wrote: “Just wanted to let you guys know I’m okay. I know I’ve kinda been missing on social media and on the show.”
It continued, “I quit drugs and am happy and sober for the first time in 8 years. It wasn’t easy, but I got a great girl, great friends and I consider myself a lucky man. I’ll always be here for you guys, I promise. Remember to never give up hope because sometimes that’s all we got. We are a family and I appreciate all your love and support. It’s nice to be back in action.”
Davidson hasn’t made any other statements on his decision to quit, and NBC declined the Associated Press’s request for comment.
As outspoken as the young comic always was about his drug use, neither the network nor SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels publicly aired any problem with it. In fact, Michaels told the New York Times, “Pete’s really focused for someone who mostly talks about how much pot he smokes.”
Davidson himself hasn’t spoken publicly about wanting to be sober, although in a Comedy Central stand-up special, he joked about going to rehab as a Christmas present for his mother. “I tried going to rehab because I wanted to smoke weed less,” he joked. “Like, I didn’t even want to quit. Don’t tell anyone that in rehab, by the way.”
It remains unclear whether Davidson has found a new method of dealing with Crohn’s disease, but the shift might be good for his comedy. As Bill Hader relayed to the New York Times and Davidson himself told Rolling Stone, he has long been ready to move on from the pot jokes that have almost come to define him — many years before most comics are defined at all.
“I still don’t know my voice yet, because I don’t know who I am as a person,” Davidson told Rolling Stone last year. “I just started to try to do smarter stuff this year, things that would interest me like transgender bathrooms and Trump and gun control and stuff like that, just to show them that I’m not stuck to” weed jokes.
Davidson, of course, will not be the first celebrity to quit drugs after becoming so associated with their usage. Eminem famously went through rehab after several albums in which he described his drug use. His later records, two of which were titled “Relapse” and “Recovery,” spoke directly to his sobriety. Comedian Marc Maron relaunched his career after finding sobriety with his podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” which features deeply intimate interviews — often on the subject of sobriety — with other celebrities.
Given that Davidson’s progression from marijuana jokes was already in motion, it seems unlikely his comedy will change significantly. Perhaps we’ll find out in the latter half of this season of “Saturday Night Live.”
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