Pete Davidson says he learned his firefighter dad died on 9/11 while watching TV
Pete Davidson has spoken candidly about the heartbreaking moment he learned his father had died while opening up about his mental health and his ongoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The comedian, 29, discussed the death of his father, Scott Matthew Davidson, a firefighter who was killed at the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks in 2001, during a wide-ranging conversation with Jon Bernthal on his Real Ones podcast.
According to Davidson, who was seven when his father died, he did not find out his dad had passed until days later.
“The sentence that my therapist and I have agreed on is, like, my dad told me he was going to pick me up from school on 9/11,” the former Saturday Night Live star said of the PTSD stemming from his childhood. “I got picked up by my mom, she didn’t tell me what was going on for, like, three days.”
The actor then revealed that, in the days after the terrorist attacks, his mother had assured him that his father was still at work and would be coming home.
“I had no idea,” he continued, while recalling how his mother had told him he was “grounded” and “not allowed to watch TV”.
“And I was like: ‘What? Like, I didn’t do anything,’” he said of his confusion. “And then one night I turned on the TV and I just saw my dad on TV, and they’re like: ‘These are all the firemen that are dead.’”
According to Davidson, who said he then talked to his mother about what he’d seen, it was “weird” because “we didn’t know he was dead for like three weeks”.
“They were finding people, you know? They were pulling people out and there was just some sort of hope and it was just up and down and nobody knew how to deal with it,” Davidson remembered.
While reflecting on the period after his father’s death, Davidson praised his mother, who was 30 at the time, for how she’d handled the situation, before acknowledging the impact the experience had on him as both a child and an adult.
According to the actor, in addition to PTSD, he also has borderline personality disorder and “fear of abandonment”.
“Dad says he’s going to come pick you up and he doesn’t, for life I’m just like, I don’t believe anyone,” Davidson said of the lasting effects of the trauma. “I’m trying to learn how to believe people.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Davidson, who has referenced his dad’s death in his comedy career before, also addressed criticism he says he’s faced over the jokes, with the 29-year-old revealing that he tells the jokes because they are a way of keeping his father’s memory alive.
“I’m trying to share little jokes here and there about him because I like to keep that memory alive,” he said. “My dad was a great dude, like, why is that a f***ing problem? I get defensive. It’s my family.”
This is not the first time that Davidson, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2017, has opened up about his diagnosis and the therapy he receives as part of his treatment.
In 2018, Davidson denounced comments questioning his ability to date because of the mental illness, with the comedian writing at the time: “Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship … Everybody is different and there are a lot of treatments for mental illnesses and I have done/am doing all of them … I just think it’s f***** up to stigmatise people as crazy and say that they are unable to do stuff that anyone can do.”
During his conversation with Bernthal, Davidson also addressed the frequent attention on his dating life, and shared an update about his current mental health.
According to the King of Staten Island star, he is now in a positive place mentally, which he admitted has been “a weird thing for [him] to even grasp now, because [he’s] lived in discomfort for so long”.
“So, now I actually have people around me that love me and it’s weird,” he said. “It’s a whole new thing I never thought of. It’s weird being happy.”