On The Set of Crashing With Pete Holmes

Everyone is excited for the return of Crashing, the semi-autobiographical series about Pete Holmes, his untimely divorce, and getting his start in New York City’s stand up comedy scene. Season One put the primary focus on Pete’s break up, his inability to afford a place to live, and his couch surfing ways, with a look into the comedy club scene in New York City. This season still covers Pete’s marital situation and his unusual relationship with the guy who his wife was unfaithful with,  but the focus shifts more to moving on.  We’ll see Pete dating, getting a day job, and also delve much deeper into his developing comedy career and his introduction to comedy alt rooms.

I got to visit the set over the summer and watch Pete and his co-stars tape an episode revolving around a Roast Battle, and Pete’s first time writing roast jokes. You may have noticed being mean is not Pete’s strong suit. I had the chance to talk with Jeffrey Ross during the taping, a conversation I’ll share in more detail when that episode airs later in the season. I also got to sit down with Pete, who told me a great story about how Demetri Martin bombing changed Pete’s life.

Finding his Place in the Alt World

“The story in my real life was that I started at the Boston, which is season one, Boston Comedy Club, and season two I’m still at the Boston but what happened in real life was, it was actually Dmitri Martin and Jim Gaffigan. That sounds like a name drop, but it was 10 years ago,” Pete said. “And so what happens with a guy like me who is very clean and friendly and going up at clubs, you would follow very very funny guys, but very dirty guys, very clubby, heavy hitting headliner guys that talk about life experience that my character in real life didn’t have. I was very sweet. I loved Seinfeld. I loved Cosby- obvious that’s a little complicated now, and I loved Brian Regan. So it was really about who I was going up after. It would be like an hour and a half of female ejaculate stuff. Funny stuff. But really brilliant guys, like Patrice all these guys. It was really killer, I’m not putting it down. And then I’d go up and try to be like- I had a joke about how I read something on the back of an ice pack. Even if its a good joke, it’s hard to get their attention.

Then Demetri Martin came by the club and did something that changed Pete’s life. “He went up and didn’t do very well. It just wasn’t his crowd,” Pete said. “And I was over the moon. I was just so happy that someone I admired, and admire so much didn’t do well in the place I don’t do well.”

That made him give more consideration to something that Jim Gaffigan had told him, which is, you are a product of your environment. Pete said that if you go to the Cellar, a lot of the guys that have been there for years have what he described as “a similar flavor.” “Its a hilarious wonderful flavor that I love,” he explained, but then you go to the alt rooms, and there’s a different flavor. Neither Demetri or Jim appear on the show, but on Crashing there are a few characters that Pete says represent an amalgamation of the comics who inspired him. “Characters who see ‘Pete’, see that he’s kind of like an observational sweetie, and says that I think you’d be better off at 8 o’clock in the back of a video store.

The video store in question, Rififi, which shows up in season two, was an alt club on the lower east side where many alt scene comedians developed in the early 2000’s- comedians like Chris Gethard, Nick Kroll, Eugene Mirman and John Mulaney among others.

Pete remembered the first time he went up at Rififi in real life. “I told a joke that never worked at the Boston and they laughed really hard. They might have even clapped. It might have been an applause break situation and I was like, what is going on here? So that’s one of the transformations that we’re showing in season two. its an exploration of the alt scene.”

Being Less Funny

Back in 2008, when Pete was hitting up the alt clubs, the challenge was to get funnier, and smoother on stage. Now in 2017, filming season two of Crashing the challenge is just the opposite. Pete has to work hard at being less funny, less smooth, and less confident because he’s portraying someone new to stand up comedy.

For example in a scene where Pete is supposed to be breaking balls with other comedians, he was a little too good at it, and got notes telling him he needed to be “less good.” He has to forget how to hold a mic, and to forget how to tell jokes. Pete also had to remind other actors to ignore him in scenes or to be meaner or more dismissive. “In reality, when an open micer sits at the table no one notices. But [during filming] there was a natural instinct to go, well this is the guy from the show we should listen to him.” Even his friends were too kind. Pete remembered one scene where Robert Kelly had to be mean to him.”I had to tell him, Bobby, you have to be cruel to me. And he didn’t want to do it but he did and then afterwards he was going, was that too much? I was like that’s exactly what we’re going for. Cause comedians are, especially when they’re making a show and a dream is coming true, they are very supportive. People never believe me but the story about how we help each other.”  Another example comes in the Roast Battle episode.  Pete finds himself battling against Tony Hinchcliffe using jokes that Tony wrote about himself. Having watched them I can confirm they’re hard hits demonstrating how far comedians are willing to go to help each other out.

“That is the story of Crashing, kind of in a microcosm,” Pete said.

Season two of Crashing premieres this Sunday, January 14th at 10:30pm immediately following the season premiere of Divorce, on HBO.

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