MEDFORD, Mass. — Comedian Pete Davidson returned to the stage Monday night, two weeks after an Instagram post raised concerns that he was having suicidal thoughts, and showed that his preferred coping mechanism was still intact: laughter.
Delivering a rough and raucous stand-up set, Davidson, 25, a “Saturday Night Live” cast member, also sought to move past his ill-fated engagement to the pop star Ariana Grande.
He staged two sold-out shows, one in Boston and one in the neighboring suburb of Medford, in what were his first public performances since the Instagram post two weeks ago in which he stated that he really didn’t “want to be on this earth anymore.”
The post prompted the New York Police Department to dispatch an officer to the Manhattan studios of “SNL” for a wellness check, and Davidson did not appear in any sketches on that week’s show, the last of the year. (Davidson is expected to return to “SNL” in January, according to a person familiar with the show’s plans who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.)
The performance in Boston was called “Pete Davidson and Friends,” and the title was apt. Davidson made clear that he had been getting by with a little help from them — and the uproarious applause of thousands of exuberant fans Monday night probably didn’t hurt.
Davidson, wearing an oversize hooded jacket and sweatpants, ambled to the microphone with a beer in hand after four fellow comics, all close friends, delivered crisp sets. Davidson’s set started slow and discursive — he suggested that in addition to his usual “flagrant” marijuana smoking, he had ingested psychedelic mushrooms earlier in the day — but he steadily found his stride.
After covering several of his comedic staples, including his penchant for marijuana, Davidson turned to a subject that the audience clearly had on its mind: his breakup with Grande.
“When you get dumped,” Davidson said, pausing as the audience began to cheer. “I’ll stop if you’re going to be stupid.”
Davidson then offered an intimate glimpse into what life has been like for a kid from Staten Island, with friends he described as “goons,” to be engaged to and then dumped by one of the most famous pop stars in the world.
Davidson told of how his mother, a school nurse, was taunted by a student singing Grande’s song “thank u, next,” which was inspired in part by the breakup. When the school’s dean heard this, Davidson said, the student was summoned to his office and made to sing in front of four administrators — “retired cops with mustaches.”
His post-breakup experience, Davidson said, “showed me how ugly people can get but also how cool.”
The performance marked a return to form. In December, Davidson, who has been candid about his struggles with mental illness, alluded to intense online bullying in the wake of the breakup.
On Dec. 15, he posted: “I’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last. All I’ve ever tried to do was help people. Just remember I told you so.” His Instagram account was subsequently deleted.
After Davidson’s performance in Medford on Monday, audience members said they were pleased to see him back on his feet — and to view another side of him.
“I think we can be a little bit more on Pete’s side,” said Megan Samec, 22, referring to the split with Grande. “We’re going to root for you in this case.”
Jack Beauchamp, 23, pointed out that the relationship with Grande accounted for only part of Davidson’s material.
“That was maybe a fraction of the show,” he said. “Everyone knows him as the ‘SNL’ guy. This was really him trying to show who he was as a comic.”