Pete Davidson Spoke In Raw Detail About How He Found Out His Dad Died On 9/11 And Explained Why He Gets So “Defensive” Over Criticism When He Jokes About It

Pete Davidson Spoke In Raw Detail About How He Found Out His Dad Died On 9/11 And Explained Why He Gets So “Defensive” Over Criticism When He Jokes About It
Reporting To YouSign InSign InAbout UsGot A Tip?buzzfeed.comCelebrityPete Davidson

Pete Davidson Spoke In Raw Detail About How He Found Out His Dad Died On 9/11 And Explained Why He Gets So “Defensive” Over Criticism When He Jokes About It

“One night I turned on the TV and I just saw my dad on TV… It was weird because we didn’t know he was dead for like, three weeks.”

By zo6OKE5Hk_large.jpg?crop=305%3A305%3B66%2C26&downsize=120:*&output-format=jpg&output-quality=autoby Ellen Durney

BuzzFeed News Staff

Posted 10 minutes agoTwitterFacebookLink

In a rare in-depth interview, Pete Davidson opened up about his father’s death and how it impacted his long term health.


Roy Rochlin / WireImage

For context, Pete’s father, Scott Davidson, was a firefighter who died while responding to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Pete — who grew up on Staten Island — was just 7 years old at the time.

View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @amyymarie118

If you’ve been following him for a while, you’ll know that the subject of his father’s death isn’t something Pete’s been afraid to make light of in the public eye, first joking about the topic in one of his earliest Saturday Night Live segments back in 2014.


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

A year later, he gained a lot of attention for his appearance on the Roast of Justin Bieber, in which he joked that meeting Justin’s father made him feel glad that he grew up without his own, and that the 2004 movie Soul Plane “was the worst experience of my life involving a plane.”


Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

Thanks to shocking jokes like these, Pete, over the years, has become known for making light of his dad’s tragic death.


Paul Morigi / Getty Images

However, in a new interview for Jon Bernthal’s Real Ones podcast, Pete opened up about life after leaving SNL, and admitted that he’s now hoping to distance himself from the goofy public persona he forged for himself in the first chapter of his career.


“That’s why I’m trying to like, act — be an actor in something and not just be what people think is me,” he said, admitting that being viewed as “big idiot with a dick that smokes weed” became “humiliating” over time.


Kevin Winter / Getty Images

“That was my thing for a bit,” he said of playing up the goofy guy image, “but it doesn’t have to be my thing forever.”


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Interestingly, he tied this into his frustrations about being associated with 9/11 jokes, confessing that he feels the label isn’t completely justified.


Jose Perez / GC Images

“It’s like the 9/11 thing,” he began. “People will be like, ‘Oh, he’s probably just talking about his dead dad all the time,’ and it’s like, Yo, I made two jokes about my dad in a span of like 15 years.”


He went on to say that the idea he’d joke about it for sympathy is “bullshit.” “It makes me feel so small and shitty,” he said, before explaining the real reason he’s chosen to make light of his personal tragedy in the past.


Elsa / Getty Images

“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 fucking problem? I get defensive. It’s my family.”

View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @amyymarie118

In case you didn’t know, Pete was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2017, and since then has spoken openly on occasions about how his condition impacts his life and relationships.


Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Speaking with Jon now, Pete talked more candidly than ever about his mental health and revealed that he’s currently in a really happy place — which he said can actually feel a bit confusing after having experienced so much trauma in his life.


Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

“It’s a weird thing for me to even grasp now, because I’ve lived in discomfort for so long, where that became comfortable. 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.”


Pete admitted that this is something he’s discussed at length with his therapist, which they concluded stems back to PTSD from his childhood — specifically, the loss of his father.


Theo Wargo / Getty Images

“My dad told me he was gonna pick me up from school on 9/11. I got picked up by my mom,” he began, before continuing to recount the events of the tragic day.


“She didn’t tell me what was going on for like, three days. She kept telling me, ‘Dad’s at work,’ ‘Coming home,’ whatever. I had no idea,” he went on.

View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @caseydavidson

Pete explained that his mom was trying to prevent him from watching the TV by telling him he was grounded, even though he’d done nothing wrong at the time. He eventually discovered what had happened after he turned on the TV himself and saw his dad.

View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @amyymarie118

“One night I turned on the TV and I just saw my dad on TV, and I was like, ‘Oh, okay,’” he recalled, explaining that the news was showing “all the firemen that are dead.”


“It was weird because we didn’t know he was dead for like, three weeks,” he added. “They were finding people, you know? They were pulling people out of shit, and there was just some sort of hope. Like, it was just up and down and nobody knew how to deal with it.”


Reflecting on the aftermath of 9/11, Pete said he’s only gained more respect for his mother in the years that have passed.

View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @amyymarie118

“My mom was fucking, like, 30…I’m about to be— I wouldn’t know what the fuck to do,” he said. “And that’s why as I get older I’m like, ‘Man, my mom was awesome. Fuck, she really loves me.’”

View this photo on Instagram

Instagram: @amyymarie118

Looking back, he said that — by no fault of their own — no one around him quite knew the right way to handle the tragedy, which has left him struggling with a lot of abandonment and trust issues in adulthood.


Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images

“You know, Dad says he’s coming to pick you up and he doesn’t. For life, I’m like, I don’t believe anyone, and I’m trying to learn how to believe people — and Hollywood isn’t exactly the greatest place to learn that skill,” he said.


Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Following on, Pete confessed that the public eye is a difficult place for him to work on himself, but that he’s made a lot of progress with his growth as a person.


Sean Gardner / Getty Images

“You actually have to trick your brain, because your brain after a while becomes used to trauma, it becomes used to being hurt,” he said, admitting that he finds the key to being stable is to “fact check” himself in order to prevent falling into unhealthy thinking patterns.


“It’s just growth,” he said. “I’ve been self-harming since I was a kid … And up until a year ago, I used to cut and I used to bang my head against walls, because if I couldn’t deal with something, I would bang my head against the wall hoping I’d pass out because I didn’t want to be in that situation.”


“And over years, and years, and years, it becomes less, and less, and less, and you have to use these skills,” he said.


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

If you are dealing with the urge to hurt yourself or have thoughts of suicide, the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

More on this

jack-harlow-opened-up-about-pete-davidsons-appeal-2-732-1653435257-8_big.jpg Jack Harlow Opened Up About Pete Davidson’s Appeal And Said He “Immediately” Knew Pete Was “A Different Breed” When He First Heard Him Joke About “His Own Dad Dying During 9/11” Ellen Durney · May 24, 2022 kim-kardashian-unfollowed-kanye-west-on-instagram-2-948-1645199312-22_big.jpg Kim Kardashian Unfollowed Kanye West On Instagram After He Blasted Pete Davidson For Joking About His Mental Health In A 2018 “SNL” Clip And Said It’s “Payback” Not Harassment Ellen Durney · Feb. 18, 2022 tmp-name-2-1648-1645113269-2_big.jpg Kanye West Posted And Deleted A Screenshot Of Himself Following Pete Davidson’s New Instagram Account Days After He Exposed Their Private Text Messages Ellen Durney · Feb. 17, 2022

Topics in this article

Pete Davidsonzo6OKE5Hk_large.jpg?crop=305%3A305%3B66%2C26&downsize=120:*&output-format=jpg&output-quality=autoEllen Durney

BuzzFeed News Staff

Ellen Durney is a Celebrity News Fellow for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Ellen Durney at

Got a confidential tip?