The Universe Talks Back: A Sit Down With Pete Holmes & Jamie Lee From CRASHING on HBO!!!

Pete showing us his “smallest smile”

Sara Dahms is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. She travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she shares her travels with us. You can read her ongoing column right here on The Interrobang.   This week, Crashing came to Chicago and Sara connected with season two stars Pete Holmes and Jamie Lee.

The second season of CRASHING premieres this Sunday at 9:30 CST on HBO and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down at the Chicago premiere with the creator, executive producer and star of the series; Pete Holmes and the actress who will be playing his new love interest this season; comedian, author season one writer Jamie Lee. We talked about the show, how they got to where they are today and even received some pretty insightful advice along the way.

The Interrobang: One of the things I love about CRASHING is that it really embodies what I feel to be the true spirit of comedy.

Pete Holmes: Aaaaaaaaaaswww!!! That wasn’t a fake noise, that was a real noise. We’re gushy! No snark here!

Jamie Lee: We are the gushiest people you can interview. Literally snark free.

The Interrobang: That’s awesome. Let me give you an example of what I mean by, “the spirit of comedy.” Last week, Michael Che posted the actual text he received from Colin Jost telling him that he killed it on Hannibal’s show and asked if he would ever consider submitting a packet to SNL. Boom! Fast forward to today and they are the co-head writers on Saturday Night Live. That is the spirit of comedy. Comics helping comics and your show completely embodies that essence.

Pete Lee: I hope so. Comics do help comics and sometimes we get the question, “Do they really?” To which I reply, “If they’re not, you’re hanging out with the wrong people. Move to the left!” The people that are good are happy for you when you get things and if something comes my way that’s not right for me, I love passing it along to someone else and CRASHING is peppered with people who have helped me through my career. Bill Burr is in season 2. He’s one of the first people who let me open for him. Even small parts, like Dustin Chafin plays a standup comedian in the first season. He used to manage the actual Boston Comedy Club. There are these New York guys, like Geno Bisconte and I was telling them, “One, first and foremost you’re hilarious and two, you were kind to me.”

The Interrobang: This is you passing the torch.

Pete Holmes: Yes. It’s me paying it back.

Getting cozy at the Chicago screening of CRASHING, season 2.

The Interrobang: Jamie, you got your start in comedy not as a standup, but as a writer for Comedy Central. How did that happen?

Jamie Lee: I was always really into watching standup, like ever since middle school and actually the first comic I ever saw live was Margaret Cho. After that I saw her every single time she came to Dallas. I thought she was a badass, goddess person. I knew that I really loved comedy, but I didn’t know how to start the path to becoming a comedian. When I finally moved to New York and was exposed to people pursuing standup as a career, I thought, I guess this could be a thing and I’d say about six months into working for Comedy Central I started to have ah-ha moments.

The Interrobang: Do you remember your first moment on stage?

Jamie Lee: The most vivid memory I have is when I was taking a comedy class at Caroline’s on Broadway. It was my first time doing standup. I don’t think I’ve ever even told Pete this story, but they told us at the beginning of the class not to do open mics. They said, “Do not do open mics! You should only do shows at Caroline’s on Broadway” and I believed them. One night I had a family friend who was doing standup come up and tell me that he was going to do an open mic and invited me to go with him. I was like, I was told I’m not supposed to because I haven’t completed my courses yet… but I went with him and did about three minutes at that open mic in the West Village. My most vivid memory is sitting in the back of that room until almost two in the morning and watching people go up and I can still remember the feeling of having to go to work the next morning.

The Interrobang: Was there ever a time when you were in that opener/feature realm and a headliner saw your talent and helped you through the process?

Jamie Lee: I had a couple of moments. It wasn’t like come with me and I’ll take you on the road and to be honest, it’s not that men don’t bring women with them as their features, they absolutely do, just to be clear on that, but I do think that may be more of a thing now than it was then. For me, there were more little moments when established comedians would come up and say, “You are really funny” and that always stuck with me. There was a time, pretty early on, with Gary Gulman after a show we were on at the Eastville Comedy Club and he saw me go up. My mom was in the audience and afterwards, he came up to both of us and said you are really great and of course I was like, oh my god, you are so amazing! It’s still true. Anytime I have those moments with someone who’s been doing it a lot longer than me, I’m always like, thank you for seeing me! That goes a long way!

Jamie Lee and Pete Holmes introducing season 2 of CRASHING

The Interrobang: Pete, what about you? Was there ever a time during your standup career, when you were able to be that headliner that saw an opener or feature act and said, they’ve got “it” and then helped bring them up?

Pete Holmes: Oh, sure. That happened with Chris Thayer who opened for me for about three years. I saw Chris and I think we met in Austin at South by South West and then again in San Francisco and that led to years and years of us working together. He also became the internet writer for THE PETE HOLMES SHOW and we still do things from time to time. Another great comedian Brent Sullivan has opened for me and is a dear friend now. It’s constantly happening. Even when you hire writers. Jamie wrote on my talk show and was one of our writers for season 1 of CRASHING. Comedian, Oren Brimer has produced everything I’ve ever done. You start collecting your little crew.

Jamie Lee: You start collecting your crew and it’s interesting because at the time, you don’t even know it’s happening. You’re just like, these are people I know and then you just kind of latch on to certain people and something clicks. Then you want to keep working with them which is really nice.

I did not think I was gonna get it and I fell to the floor crying when I found out. I was always like, I’m just a writer and I’m happy to be a writer but secretly inside I was always like, put me on camera.

Pete Holmes: You ask yourself, who do you want to see when you’re tired and you’re on a deadline? And the answer is always almost, Jamie. I wrote this part with her in mind but I kept that to myself. It’s not like I have the power to just say who gets the part. She auditioned among the many dozens, we’ve been friends for a decade, Judd watched 30 seconds of it and was like, well that’s it. I was so excited for my friend.

Jamie Lee: I was genuinely shocked. I did not think I was gonna get it and I fell to the floor crying when I found out. I was always like, I’m just a writer and I’m happy to be a writer but secretly inside I was always like, put me on camera.

Pete: That was me at every writing job I ever had. Maybe there’s, ah, an engaging guy who comes in…..

The Interrobang: I’m inspired by your podcast, so in the spirit of YOU MADE IT WEIRD, I will end with something a little more deep. I was at a screening you did for season 1 of CRASHING in Chicago last year and I got to ask you a question. I asked if there was ever a time in the early years of your career when you were going through the hardships and struggles we see in the show and you thought to yourself, I can’t do this anymore, I’m done, and if so, what kept you in it and made you persevere? You said, “I hate to disappoint you, but my honest answer is no. The universe talks back and I always knew that comedy was where I was supposed to be.” So, going back to that response, is there one message or sign that you can think of, when you felt it was the universe “talking back” and you thought, I read you loud and clear?

Pete Holmes: People always hear follow your dreams but I like to say, follow the dream that is also following you. You get these little signs…

Jamie Lee: I can’t (as she lifts her arm to show goosebumps). He is always giving these to me. I can’t. It’s a lot! Jesus Christ!

The Interrobang: I love that answer! I’m definitely going to use that! It’s beautiful!

Pete Holmes: You do get feedback. Some people force the ones that involve riches and fame but you should really listen as much as you talk… says the guy who interrupts everybody on his podcast (big laugh)!

The Interrobang: This was SO much fun! Thank you for your time!


Pete showing us his “smallest smile”

Soon after the interview ended Pete and Jamie were brought out onto the stage. They gave a brief introduction of themselves and the second season of CRASHING. Then the lights went down and we watched the first two episodes of the new season together. Both episodes were smart, funny and to use Pete’s word, “peppered” not only with many of the comedians he knows and respects, but also with undertones of philosophy and spirituality as well. Check out the latest episode of Pete’s podcast, YOU MADE IT WEIRD, featuring Penn Jillette and you can hear the exclusive audio of an extended clip from episode 1, season 2. It’s of a very deep and spiritual conversation Pete and Penn have which ends up knocking over the first proverbial domino along Pete’s journey to success, evolution and enlightenment in his personal and professional life this season. The more I watch this show, the more I think Pete (the character) and Leaf make up the dichotomy that is Pete Holmes, the actual man. The screening was followed by a Q & A that was moderated by Marah Eakin, Senior Editor, of The A.V. Club. Ms. Eakin did a brilliant job asking questions and guiding the conversation down very entertaining pathways.

She ended by bringing up an Instagram post Pete made from his appearance on THE COLBERT SHOW about something called, “the smallest smile.” It’s a game that he and his wife sometimes play, and just like it sounds, they compete to see who can have the smallest smile. Eakin asked if he wouldn’t mind giving us a demonstration and Pete was happy to oblige and even got Jamie in on the action. It was an absolutely hilarious way to end the Q&A portion of the evening and was proof positive that he and Jamie are just as fun and down to Earth as they seem.

The season 2 premier of CRASHING airs at 9:30 CST on Sunday, January 14 on HBO and will be available to stream anytime on HBO GO and HBO NOW, in addition to HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.

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Sara Dahms

Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.
Sara Dahms
Sara Dahms
Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.