Is all fair in love and post-break-up art?
That is the question when it comes to Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson‘s recent split, as the two are now navigating the rocky waters of moving on after such a high-profile and public engagement. And unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they are exactly on the same page when it comes to addressing their split.
On Thursday, Grande, 25, took to Twitter to seemingly blast Davidson, 24, for using their break-up as fodder in a new Saturday Night Live promo.
“She wasn’t amused by Pete’s jokes at all,” a source close to the “God Is a Woman” singer told E! News. “They made an agreement that they would not address their relationship or discuss it after they split up. He violated that agreement.”
Another source, however, said “it’s not true” that Davidson “violated any agreement.”
And for Davidson, using the darker experiences from his past, the ones other people usually hide away from unless they are sitting on a therapist’s couch, is an integral part of his comedy, and has become one of his stand-up signatures.
“I’m like, ‘Heyyyy, I just want to talk about this, that everybody’s uncomfortable about.’ I like doing that,” he told The New York Times in 2015. “I like making things that are dark, awkward, weird things that you don’t really find funny, funny.”
This often includes referencing his father—Scott Davidson, a firefighter was killed on 9/11—during his routines, a loss that impacted him in the way only losing a beloved parent at seven years old can.
One example of his coping comedy? “I always regretted growing up without a dad…until I met your dad, Justin,” Davidson said to Justin Bieber during the Comedy Central roast for the pop star in 2015. “Now I’m glad mine’s dead.”
If you’re feeling a little unsettled by that joke, well, that was Davidson’s intention, with the 24-year-old’s brand of sort-of-offensive-humor helping him become one of SNL‘s youngest cast members ever.
After his father’s tragic passing, Davidson’s mother told the Times, “It was sad how sad he was growing up,” adding he began acting out in school, and even ripped all of his hair out until he was bald during one particularly rough period.
And then when he was 16, Davidson began doing stand-up. “I feel very safe—you can say whatever you want,” he said.
Making people uncomfortable while on stage is Davidson’s comfort—even when it’s at his own expense, owning his losses before they can possibly be used against him.
And this exactly what he did when he referenced his recent split with Grande his during the promo released for Saturday Night Live‘s Nov. 3 show. In it, Davidson jokingly asks musical guest Maggie Rogers, “You wanna get married?”
When she declines, a sad Davidson says, “0 for three.”
It wasn’t the first time Davidson had brought up the broken engagement—it was just the first time he did it on such a big stage. And his ex-fiancee definitely noticed.
“For somebody who claims to hate relevancy [you] sure love clinging to it huh,” she wrote, adding, “Thank [you], next.” Grande didn’t refer to Davidson directly, but the subtweets were pretty darn clear.
She then retweeted a user who wrote. “SNL is about to milk their breakup just like they did with the engagement” as well as an edited clip of Maggie turning Pete down.
Some people cry. Some people go to therapy. Some people write a song. Davidson takes to the stage, turning his insecurities into comedic ammunition.
“Things that I feel really sad about, I talk about,” he told Interview magazine in 2014. That way, if it’s funny, it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
But is there a line when it comes to talking about his high-profile split with one of the world’s biggest pop stars? There’s a fine line when it comes to personal and private when it relates to art and it’s one Davidson and Grande clearly have a difference of opinions on, which makes sense given their respective careers.
No one is holding punches when it comes to stand-up comedy. Everything and everyone is fair game, for better or for worse.
Music—and more specifically songwriting—however, is all about innuendo and veiled references. Taylor Swift had the entire Internet deducting every lyric (and liner note) with her Red album in 2012, desperately trying to crack the code to figure out which of her ex-boyfriends inspired each song.
“The more it seems like a journal entry the better,” said Swift. “The more it seems like an open letter the better. The more true and honest and real it gets the better,” Swift told Songwriter Universe in 2012. “Where you’re naming the places you went and the time it happened and all the things about a relationship.”
For Grande, who co-wrote most of the songs on her Sweetener album, the songwriting process is also deeply “vulnerable” and personal, with many of the songs dealing with her anxiety and rising up in the aftermath of the 2017 Manchester Bombing.
But she also used her relationships–then-current and old–as lyrical inspiration on several songs.
Grande seemed to allude to her break up with Mac Miller (who later died of an apparent drug overdose in September at the age of 26) after years of dating on and off on the song “Better Off.”
While she almost didn’t include the song on the album, Grande explained on Twitter, “[because] at first i was nervous about like……. it coming true. if that makes sense. more honest than i was ready to be w myself at the time (its [very] old). but it’s beautiful and has always been one of my favs and i’m very happy she’s on there.”
She directly referenced her then-fiancee Davidson on a song named after him, which she wrote shortly after they began dating.
“I just made it and I sent it to him and I didn’t know what to call it, so I just called it ‘Pete.’ It was going to be that or like, ‘This Is About Pete Davidson,'” she told Jimmy Fallon. “I was like why not just be direct?”
And she tweeted about the song, telling her fans, “Music lasts forever. It’ll outlive any tattoo, any memory, any anything, even myself so i want my love for him and how i feel to be a part of that.”
But it wasn’t just Grande being direct about their love, as Davidson also talked openly about his romance during interviews and stand-up sets.
During Saturday Night Live‘s season 44 premiere in late September, just before the split, Davidson made several references to his relationship with the pop star.
He told Colin Jost during Weekend Update, “I got engaged and no one could believe it. I can’t believe it and I get it. She’s number one pop star in the world and I’m that guy from SNL everyone thinks is in desperate need of more blood.”
He even discussed their prenup situation, jokingly explaining, “Obviously I wanted one. So God forbid we split up and she takes half my sneakers? No, look, I’m totally comfortable being with a successful woman. I think it’s dope. I live at her place. She pays 60 grand for rent and all I have to do is stock the fridge.”
Clearly, Davidson knew who was “the settler” and “the reacher” in the relationship. The joke was always on him and he was OK with that.
But some of his humor received some backlash during their relationship, especially a joke he made on SNL about switching Grande’s “birth control with tic tacs,” as well as a comment he made about the Manchester Arena bombing during a comedy set in July. Davidson reportedly made light of his then girlfriend’s level of fame by joking, “Britney Spears didn’t have a terrorist attack at her concert.”
A few days after Davidson’s comments, Grande addressed the controversy on Twitter.
In response to one user who said Grande should break up with her fiancé over the insensitive remark, she said, “This has been v tough & conflicting on my heart. he uses comedy to help ppl feel better ab how f-ed up things in this world are. we all deal w trauma differently. I of course didn’t find it funny. it was months ago & his intention wasn’t/ is never malicious but it was unfortunate.”
Post-split, Davidson’s humor about the relationship kept the same self-deprecating angle, including the SNL promo that sent Grande to Twitter.
“Pete never said her name in the joke,” a source told E! News of the comments. “It wasn’t a joke about her, it was self-deprecating.”
And the source continued that Davidson is doing what he usually does during a difficult period of his life: filtering his heartbreak through humor.
“Pete’s way of dealing with the breakup is through jokes, but he’s doing just fine and is moving forward,” the insider said.
Davidson first publicly spoke about the split when he co-hosted the comedy show Judd & Pete for America in October, addressing the elephant in the room pretty damn quickly.
“Well, as you could tell, I don’t want to be here. There’s a lot going on,” Pete told the crowd. “Does anybody have any open rooms? Looking for a roommate?”
In addition to joking about his lack of housing, the comedian also brought up their infamous matching tattoo (which she’s already been covering up post-split).
“So, obviously you know [Ariana and I] broke up or whatever but when me and her first got engaged we got tattoos, and it was like in a magazine like, ‘Was Pete Davidson stupid?’ And 93% of it said yes,” he said. “”So my boy, he was like, ‘Don’t listen to that s–t man. They’re literally f–king haters.’ And I’m like, yeah, f–k that. I’m not stupid. And the other day we were in my kitchen and he was like, ‘Yo bro. Turns out you were stupid.'”
As for Grande, who is prepping for her Sweetener World Tour in 2019, she’s stayed mostly silent, save for some interactions with her fans on Twitter, before taking to the social media platform following the SNL promo to seemingly call out her ex.
“Time to say bye bye to the internet for just a lil bit. It’s hard not to bump news n stuff that i’m not tryna to see rn,” she posted—then deleted—on Instagram Stories in Mid-October. “It’s very sad and we’re all tryin very hard to keep goin. love u. and thank u for bein here always.”
Now, after Davidson’s jokes referencing the broken engagement, a source told E! News that Grande is “really hurt” and knowing he would see her tweets, she “hopes that he will have enough respect to not do it again.”
We guess we’ll all have to wait and see what happens live from Saturday night…