‘Crashing’ Star Pete Holmes on the First Joke That Made Him ‘Come Alive’
On this week’s episode of ‘The Last Laugh’ podcast, stand-up comic Pete Holmes on the end of HBO’s ‘Crashing’ and going deep in his new book ‘Comedy Sex God.’
“I’m glad that you get it,” Pete Holmes tells me when I compliment the title of his new spiritual memoir Comedy Sex God. “A lot of people are like, are you calling yourself a comedy sex god?’ And I just want to start owning it. Like, yep, that’s what I’m saying.”
No, Pete Holmes is not calling himself a comedy sex god. As he explains on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast—and as those who listen to his popular podcast You Made It Weird already know—those are the three topics that interest him most. “Comedy just being art or creativity,” he tells me, “sex being relationships or love and God being just a catch-all for what’s going on here?”
That quest for meaning pervades every aspect of Holmes’ work, from this new book and the podcast—on which he has deep conversations about what happens after we die with guests like Deepak Chopra, Penn Jillette and (most famously) Garry Shandling—to stand-up comedy and Crashing, his autobiographical series that ran for three seasons on HBO.
Holmes loves talking about “what’s going on here” and during our hour-long conversation he opened up about how his own “Christ-leaning” spirituality has made it easier for him to handle the often tumultuous ups and downs of a career in comedy—including HBO’s decision to cancel Crashing after its third season wrapped up earlier this year.
How his outlook on life has changed after 40
“You know, Ricky Gervais talks about how nobody’s really funny until they’re over 30. And I would agree with that. I think there are some really great young comedians, and I thought I was pretty great when I was young. But the way that Ricky puts it is that you realize you’re not shit. So there’s sort of this surrendering that comes when you get older. Like, I’ll do this podcast or I did a live talk recently and I caught myself being a little nervous. But when you’re 40 and you’ve done hundreds of podcasts and hundreds of live talks, you realize, and then what? It happens and then what? You just start to get a little bit zoomed-out on your perspective.”
On enlisting his famous friends to appear on ‘Crashing’
“Crashing is about comedians helping comedians. And then making Crashing was really that in practice. Sarah Silverman had a medical scare the week before she was supposed to shoot and still came. Didn’t have to do it. Sarah Silverman does not need any help getting her name out there. John Mulaney does not need any help getting his name out there. These people did it out of love, I really believe that.”
On the first joke that made him feel like he’d found his voice
“It’s not necessarily whether you’re talking about fluffy stuff or real stuff, it’s talking about what makes you come alive. So when [Jerry] Seinfeld’s talking about cotton balls, I believe that that’s important to him. He comes alive when he talks about that stuff. That bit [about Holmes’ girlfriend and the subway] was the first joke that I felt like I had found my voice. And the way that I knew that was that I didn’t need to recite it. It’s not this, then this, then this. It’s talk about how you feel when your girlfriend makes you miss the train. And know that these are the big punchlines. But you’re communicating it rather than dictating it.”
On making peace with the end of ‘Crashing’
“When the show was canceled, people were like, you must be devastated. I made a show about making friends with change. I think I’m OK—definitely better than I used to be—at dealing with change. So I can roll with this. And that’s what the show is about. He makes friends with the guy who has sex with his wife. That’s a metaphor. I didn’t really become friends with the guy who had sex with my wife, but metaphorically I did. I made friends with the idea that my wife had an affair.”
Subscribe now to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, the Himalaya app or wherever you listen to podcasts to hear our full conversation—including Pete Holmes on his new book Comedy Sex God, how his approach to stand-up has changed after 40, the end of Crashing and a lot more.