The first season of Pete Holmes’ semi-autobiographical HBO hit Crashing followed Holmes’ character trying to make his way in comedy. After his wife cheats on him, he’s forced to crash on comedians couches and try and bark his way onto the New York comedy scene.
Earlier this year, I spoke to Holmes when Crashing hadn’t even dropped its first episode. Now Crashing is filming its second season and the first has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray.
To celebrate, Holmes gathered his friends and Crashing family—including veteran comic Artie Lange—for a night of comedy at The Bell House in Brooklyn, New York, and I caught Holmes and his fiancé, Valerie Chaney, in the green room before the show to talk about what’s next for the still homeless Pete and how fictional Pete affects the real Holmes.
So we actually spoke before Crashing season 1 dropped, before anyone had seen it and now here we are!
That’s crazy. It’s wild to hear you say that. It’s a year-round job. Relentless always sounds negative, but relentless just means it just keeps going. So a lot of time has passed and sometimes if I don’t here someone say something like that to me, I forget.
Like where are we now?
Exactly! We’re always just right here. [Laughs]
Speaking of time passing, has the purpose of trajectory of the series changed since you first set out to make the series?
Well, you know, there’s the show you write and the show you shoot and the show you edit. I think what I have started to learn, in the second season, is the first season you really feel like you have this intense control over the show and then through all three of those processes you realize that the show kind of insists itself in its own ways, despite your intentions or whatever. That doesn’t mean that show got out of my grip, it’s just that you start to see that ever actor and every writer and every director and every day and the weather and the moods and the food and whatever it might be, kind of changes everything in a very subtle way. So in the second season, I have been a little more reverent in the show being its own thing, and me being a part that, instead of thinking I was going to shove the show into some sort of mold.
Do you worry about the premise of the show, the crashing aspect—both physically crashing on people’s couches as well as crashing and burning in a way—hindering the progression of the series?
When I first came up with the concept of the show, that’s something I feel like Judd [Apatow] and I discussed right away, because it seemed like something you wouldn’t do for infinity. You can’t. That would be a strange story. But I do look at it as something that we can refill, certainly for two more seasons. When people move cities, not that we have any plans to move cities, they always—in my real life I would always crash with friends when I would go to LA and stuff.
There are all these little different devices that we can use to keep the premise alive. I think that was just kind of a framework for a show that is trying to capture the feel of not yet belonging to a thing. So, there is some couch surfing for sure in the second season, and I anticipate there will be some in the third, in success. I think the main thing is finding interesting stories and funny things to happen, and that was just kind of something running in the background, “How are we going to keep Pete homeless?”
Yeah. Pete Holmesless! [Laughs]
I saw that the DVD and Blu-ray is also going to include your HBO special, Faces and Sounds, so I went back and watched it and then watched your first set in Crashing to see what that looked like—
Oh that’s fun.
Your joke in Crashing is about pointing to god and dollar store employee discounts and then your last joke in your special is about fucking Ryan Gosling. Did you ever look at it and think, “This has been a interesting journey!”
Well that’s what the show is about. The show is about how did we get from someone just doing—and I love observational humor—but doing something very light and not very personal and not very electric, I suppose in that way that personal things can be, and why he does that and how that came about. The story of Crashing is how we got from that one act to the next.
So now you are going to have to leave the special at the end of every season’s DVD/Blu-ray release, and fill in the blanks.
Exactly. It’s a big scam.
We’ll just keep stuffing them in there. Speaking of your standup, has it all changed since writing Crashing, having a different reflection at this point?
It’s given me a great appreciation for where I am. As we get the show—and I don’t mean it as a TV person I mean it as just a standup, because the show is about all the hurdles you have to get over, and I am at a place now where if I have a new joke I am able to go out and try it without announcing it or planning it. It makes me grateful for that position again because I remember, and I am reliving, what it’s like to make it as a standup and that just kind of affirms how grateful I am to just be a standup now.
That makes a lot of sense. Also, now that it’s all out thee in that way, and fans have seen into the inner working of your story, do you pay attention to fan responses at all? Anything stick out to you, because it’s hard to put your life on a platter for strangers.
Kind of. I don’t really do that very much. I know that a lot of actors and comedians lie that they don’t look at twitter very much, but I really don’t. When the episode would air, I would kind of see how people were responding, but at a certain point you realize those faucets are always running whether you are looking at them or not. It’s hot and it’s cold when it’s there and it’s not too healthy to necessarily always be tuning into that. Ideally you want to be making the show that is in you to make and you don’t want to contaminate that too much with someone thinking your hair looks stupid or someone liking your shoes. It kind of doesn’t matter, we have to make the show we are supposed to make.
Too much access. Switching gears just a little bit, the proceeds from this event tonight go to benefit REALgirl, which is an organization that you, Valerie, work with. I’d love to just hear a little about them.
Holmes: REALgirl is a female empowerment organization, for girls between the ages of nine and twelve.
Chaney: We can also do sixteen to eighteen, but it’s usually nine through twelve.
Holmes: Which [are] the ages around when girls’ self-esteem kind of skyrockets down. Skyrocket’s down?
Holmes: You can skyrocket down? If a skyrocket goes up it goes down. I love it because [REALgirl] teahes basic self-defense. One of my favorite things that they do is that they go through fashion magazines and inform the young girls on what’s being done to the images, so that they don’t believe everything they see.
They are doing something in Guatemala right now.
Chaney: [Guatemala] is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women right now. Domestic abuse is really high there, and all that. SO we do our same program but there’s a little more, just because it’s a different culture than over here. Then we also employ the local women so that gives them domestic freedom because they can afford to have their own houses and leave a potential dangerous situation. That’s what the show [proceeds] tonight are going to, our program in Guatemala, which is awesome.
That’s really amazing. Happy to learn about it. Thanks so much for speaking with me, see you on stage!