The whole entire, stated purpose of satire is to hold up someone or something to criticism using humor, insults, mocking, and general irreverence. Its nature means that the art form of satire is often mistaken for earnest sincerity, or taken out of context after being misunderstood. Satire drips with irony and sarcasm, and some folks are just not as well equipped as others to detect such things.
On “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, cast member Pete Davidson put this phenomenon of not understanding satire on full display during his appearance on the show’s Weekend Update sketch. Davidson got audible boos from the studio audience when he compared singer R. Kelly to the Catholic Church. Despite starting his bit by saying that Kelly is “a monster and he should go to jail forever,” apparently some people watching there in Studio 8H didn’t catch that part.
“But if you support the Catholic Church, isn’t that like the same thing as being an R. Kelly fan?” (Daily Beast)
To be honest, I don’t even understand why that line drew any boos to begin with.To my ears, that line just sounds like perfect satire. It’s a statement of truth wrapped in a rhetorical question. We all know why Pete drew the comparison. But the gifted satirist he is, Davidson added more context to his comedy and drove the point home further.
“Look, I’m not saying it’s an easy decision,” Davidson said. “I’m just saying you don’t know how good someone’s music really is until you find out they’re a pedophile. You know? The reason everybody is so upset is R. Kelly and Michael Jackson made great music, you know. But if I found out Macklemore did some weird stuff, I’d be happy to free up some space on my iPhone.”
To his unending credit, Pete didn’t hear the boos and stop his hilarious commentary. He just dug in, instead.
“I don’t really see the difference,” he added. “Only one’s music is significantly better. Just the other day my mom was like, ‘I’m going to mass.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go listen to the ‘Ignition’ remix.”
At the end of it all, Davidson was just reminding everyone that R. Kelly and Michael Jackson aren’t the only ones who have been accused of being sexual predators toward young people. The Catholic Church has been around and been accused of covering up sexual abuse of children for much longer than either two singers. Knee-jerk defense of the church is so unwarranted here it’s kind of funny in and of itself.
Maybe people thought Davidson was trying to defend MJ and R. Kelly by deflecting to the Catholic Church and that’s why they booed. But that doesn’t make any sense because he started the segment throwing Kelly squarely under the bus, calling him a “monster.” It just seems like people, ultimately, didn’t “get” the joke or the point Davidson was making.
Essentially, Pete was trying to get everyone to realize that if we’re going to have a conversation about people who use their inordinate power and wealth to allude the consequences of their actions, then we need to include religious organizations too. It’s hard in this country to have any kind of discussion of religion without offending someone who thinks you’re picking on them personally because you point out the corporate entity running their religion isn’t infallible.
From the way I see it, if you’re booing Pete Davidson, you’re enabling the Catholic Church’s continued cover-ups. There’s a big difference between expecting every moderate Muslim to condemn a terrorist attack and expecting Catholics to not ignore the years of rampant sexual abuse and disgusting, disturbing cover-ups by the hierarchy of the church. Pete was trying to get everyone to see the similarities between R. Kelly and the Catholic Church, not say one was more or less guilty than the other.
If we’re going to live in a world where we call out people in power who are abusers, which we absolutely should, than there should be absolutely no sacred cows. It’s hard to believe that in 2019 there are still people who think referencing Catholic sex abuse scandals is taboo and worthy of booing, but here we are anyway. This isn’t some big secret Pete let out of the bag.
Luckily for most of us, I think we’ve accepted that the ones covering up sexual predators in their midst are the ones who are the bad guys, not the comedians calling those people out. The point he was making was that all of them should be held accountable; not just the famous singers.
Watch Pete’s entire Weekend Update appearance, below.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.