By D. Allan Kerr
If you caught Saturday Night Live on TV a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen an almost-25-year-old kid with a lot of problems say something pretty stupid.
The kid in question is a comedian named Pete Davidson. He apparently has various personality disorders, drug issues and medical conditions, which he incorporates into his appearances. He’s probably best known for a whirlwind romance he had earlier this year with superpop singer Ariana Grande, which made him tabloid-famous.
He’s been a regular on SNL for a few years now, and I’ve always thought he was funny and somewhat brilliant in a goofy, offbeat kind of way.
So this one night he had a spot where he was making fun of politicians, which is always a good time. A photo of a ruggedly good looking guy with an eyepatch flashed on the screen.
“You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit man in a porno movie,” Davidson said. Then he added, “I’m sorry – I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever. Whatever.”
Turned out this candidate, Dan Crenshaw, is a former lieutenant commander and Navy SEAL who did indeed suffer wounds to both eyes in Afghanistan during his third combat tour. A lot of people were outraged by Davidson’s jokes about a veteran’s wartime injuries.
Some of the outrage was beyond hypocritical. For instance, Sean Spicer – who once championed many of Donald Trump’s most brazenly ignorant comments – proclaimed SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels should be fired.
Crenshaw, a Republican, wound up winning his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. And a week after Davidson’s controversial remarks, SNL provided a genuinely remarkable bit of television.
Davidson appeared on camera during the same “Weekend Update” segment in which he uttered his offensive words and offered an apology to the camera.
“The man is a war hero and he deserves all the respect in the world,” Davidson said. “If any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day, the left and the right finally came together to agree on something – that I’m a dick.”
Then Crenshaw himself slid up in a chair beside Davidson and replied, “Ya think?”
Davidson took the opportunity to man up and apologize to Crenshaw face-to-face. Then Crenshaw proceeded to steal the show with some outstanding comedic chops of his own.
After graciously accepting Davidson’s apology, Crenshaw’s ringtone went off – to the tune of an Ariana Grande song. When Davidson mentioned the fact, the former Navy SEAL cheekily responded, “Oh, do you know her?”
Then the scrawny, heavily tattooed comedian offered Crenshaw a chance of revenge, by letting him poke fun on-air of Davidson’s photo. Crenshaw proceeded to do so, several times.
My favorite – “This is Pete Davidson. He looks like if the meth from Breaking Bad was a person.”
Crenshaw then closed his appearance with a heartfelt reminder that America is a place where people can forgive and look past barriers which might otherwise divide us. He asked viewers to “never forget” veterans who had served our country, as well as first responders like Davidson’s own firefighter father who died during the 9/ll attacks.
As the segment ended, Crenshaw and Davidson shook hands and the mic picked up Davidson’s words as he leaned toward his guest’s ear and said, “You’re a good man, thank you.”
As much as critics accuse SNL and celebrity-types of being out of touch with “real” Americans, contrast the way the show handled this incident with Donald Trump’s mocking of the late John McCain’s military service.
Davidson not only apologized for his remarks, he did it man-to-man and on national television.
When Trump, another entitled, spoiled New Yorker, finally apologized to McCain… well, hopefully you get the punchline.
Trump, who repeatedly dodged the draft while McCain was a POW in Vietnam, never manned up enough to apologize. Not when McCain was battling brain cancer, not when he was on his deathbed, and not when the rest of the civilized world paid tribute to the old warrior after he died.
Davidson, who just turned 25 this past Friday, should be saluted for having the guts to apologize in such a public and humorous and just plain cool manner, but the real hero in all this was Crenshaw – and not just for his battlefield exploits.
I would imagine the burly Crenshaw was tempted to snap Davidson like a breadstick when he first learned of the remarks. But he not only accepted the apology, he ventured onto the home turf of the feared “liberal elite” and more than held his own.
Ultimately, this turned out to be a boon to the political novice, who wasn’t widely known outside his district. Now people around the country who might have automatically dismissed him as a Texas Republican politician see him as not only a war hero – he earned two Bronze Stars during multiple deployments – but as a pretty cool dude with a genuine sense of humor.
He could have ramped up animosity toward “the other side,” played the victim and stoked the politics of hate like so many others. Instead, he made it a unifying experience.
Imagine what kind of future Crenshaw has now. He’s only 34 years old – amazingly young for someone with his resume – and speaks fluent Spanish. He’s shown himself to be highly telegenic. And he’s a man of character.
Maybe things aren’t as dark as they’ve appeared lately.
D. Allan Kerr hopes people like Crenshaw and Maine’s Jared Golden take over Congress someday.
(Nov. 17, 2018)
Follow, connect, empathize, and harass D. Allan Kerr on Twitter @Sloth_Blog