A Talk with Pete Holmes
The Pete Holmes Show: “We’re Not Here to Tell You How Much the World Sucks”The one thing late-night TV needed was another tall comedian on TBS, so Conan O’Brien has called upon podcaster excellente Pete Holmes (You Made it Weird) to bring his brand of thoughtful, positive, yet intensely silly comedy to the airwaves following his own show, in the half-hour The Pete Holmes Show, which kicks off a four-nights-a-week schedule October 28th. DVDTalk’s Francis Rizzo III had a chance to sit down with Holmes, his executive producer Nick Bernstein and supervising producer Oren Brimer at the New York ComicCon to talk about how his show will make your life better, why podcasting is like a romantic relationship and what it’s like to see a two-story image of himself having sex with the sky.
Q: How will it go bringing your podcast style to television?
Q: Two years ago you were writing on two sitcoms that were cancelled, and now you have a two-story banner of you at Comic Con. That’s got to be a bit weird.
Q: What’s it like working with TBS?
Q: What is the writing process like?
Like we were just on the floor here at Comic Con and I think the natural choice for a comedian is to kind of do nerd humor and be like “Look at these idiots. Do you have a girlfriend? What do you do?What do your parents think?” and just here today the vibe of our show is like, this is the greatest, this is like, we volunteered to do this. I feel like I know everybody, cause I see Deadpool. I don’t know who it really is, but I’m excited to see Deadpool, and he's excited to see Superman and do a photo together. And then you have like vaguely erotic women everywhere. It’s really...we’re not forcing it. I am a positive person. We’re not going to be saccharine and stupid and false. We’re going to be authentic and real and hopefully interesting. But it’s going to be in that sort-of Conan way, not at anyone’s expense. We’re not here to tell you how much the world sucks or how s****y things are. You may have mixed feelings about [Ben] Affleck being Batman, but we didn’t go after Affleck. We just put Batman in Good Willing Hunting. That’s the sort of mentality we have. If you want someone to slam Affleck, you can watch any other show. (Laughs.)
We have a no-lying rule. I don’t lie in my stand-up. It’s kind of weird. It’s a little bit obsessive for me. Unless it’s obvious. If it’s obvious that I’m lying, or I’m joking, I’ll make that clear. But I’ve never told a story that didn’t happen or just fabricated something that would be hilarious. Two words for the show are authentic and transparent. We want it to be real, and at the beginning, when people are watching it, we are just figuring it out, and kind of flailing a little bit, we want you to see that. We want you to feel like you were involved in something from its inception, and have all of that be genuine. So when the writers are writing for me, they have to learn a lot about me, because that’s what we’re trying to teach them and the audience.
Q: Where would you be today if it wasn’t for the opportunity that podcasting has provided?
Q: Who is the target audience of The Pete Holmes Show?
OB: We talk a lot about a playhouse environment. Pete says it all the time that that’s what the show is going to be. So that’s very exciting. It’s a very inviting place. I think we all have a similar sensibility, people who like the podcast, people who like Pete’s comedy, the Batman stuff…
PH: I think that’s a really good answer. The target audience is people who don’t want to watch something before they go to bed that’s really cynical and ugly. I don’t have anything in mind when I say that. We’re not raging against a specific machine. I just want a show you can watch at night that leaves you with some sort of afterglow of “That was funny, I don’t feel bad for laughing at it. i feel relief, I feel better about myself, I feel better about the world.” I know those are lofty claims, like our show will make your life better, but I think good comedy can make you feel better at the end of day, or at least it should.
PH: I can’t really say...Comic Con exclusive! Chelsea will be on the show. Chelsea also came with me to pick out outfits for the show, and we filmed that. That was for the pilot and that’s something we’ll use on the show.
I’m such a friendly person, such a bubbly, effusive man, but some of my friend...I like that salty/sweet thing. So I’ll be a sweetheart, and I’ll have people on that like to break my balls and roast me and make fun of me. And people seem to enjoy that. So you have this kind of Golden Retriever of a man, and then you have Chelsea Peretti...it’s fun. It’s got that different flavor to it. So not only Chelsea, but like Bill Burr, these people who really like giving me a hard time. Pretty much all my friends.
Nick Bernstein: That’s the goal of the show. We want funny friends to hang out with us.
PH: Yeah, that’s the other thing. It’s not going to be celebrity driven. I’m not supposed to talk about the guests, but I will say that nobody doing the show thus far is promoting anything. So people are coming on because they want to come hang out, and because we want to tell a specific story or we want to bounce off each other, and I think that’s going to be another reason why the show stands out. It’s not celebrity-driven promotional stuff. The monologue isn’t going to set-up, punchline, pulled from the news sort of stuff we’ve seen before. It’s going to be more in line with my stand-up, it’s going to be a lot more personal, it could be about anything. I don’t about a Vermont man found a dead beaver in his garbage disposal, and then I have a one-liner. That’s fine, but there are plenty of shows that you can watch that do that very well. I would rather do a monologue about how I don’t want to be a fat dad, or, I don’t know,,,
NB: Edible Arrangements?
PH: Edible Arrangements, or binging on Oreos in my hotel room, which I did last night. You don’t give me a mini-bar and alcohol.
Q: What made you become a comedian?
Q: Are there any older late-night shows that influence you, like Playboy After Dark?
NB: Well I was reared on [late night]. When I was growing up and getting into comedy, it was Conan, but I love all of them. Now, Kimmel and Fallon and Conan are all killing it. Just this week, they all put out something incredible, with the hashtag thing and Paul McCartney doing something and Kanye [West] on Kimmel. This is an amazing time for late-night right now. Like Oren worked on The Daily Show. But I loved Jack Parr, and what he did. I loved his kind of interactions with guests, whether it was John Kennedy or Jonathan Winters, it was mindblowing, kind of what Pete will do with an interview on the podcast. It comes from that kind of conversation. You know, Johnny Carson, everyone can talk about for years on end, he’s always the gold standard. you can’t say late night without [David] Letterman. it’s cool to have Arsenio (Hall) back. Like even in the ‘80s and early ‘90s...I’m a little older than I look...he was the first guy to put on NWA and Mariah Carey, which is crazy. She was a number one pop hit, but that wasn’t happening in late-night then. Everyone at some point did something to break the mold, and we’re trying to do it in our own way. I was reared on late night, love late night, want to do our own show.
OB: I grew up more watching a lot of sketch, a lot of SNL, Monty Python. That sort of influenced my comedic sensibilities a little bit more than late night. It wasn’t until Daily Show that I started watching late night regularly and every night. I bring more of the sketch sensibility to the show, and I’m the segment director as well, so I direct all of our Batman sketches and well as all the other sketches we’re going to be doing on the show.
PH: It’s not an old show, but it’s been an absurd dream-come-true for me because Conan has always been a hero of mine, and that is the late-night show that I watched. Now I try not to watch too much, because I know [Bernstein is] watching, so he can tell us if someone else has done it, and I try not to pollute my creativity by watching other people’s stuff. Because I really would like our show to be different, but also have some familiarity to it, which I think it will have. But I will watch YouTube clips of Hugh Hefner talking to celebrities. They all seem really uncomfortable, which is why it’s great.
Q: Have you been in contact with any of the other late-night hosts?
Q: Will you be parodying any Batman movies outside of the Christopher Nolan trilogy?
OB: And we’re parodying the X-Men movies now,
PH: Yeah, we specifically went after...and when I say went after, I hope, with everything we parody you can tell that we’re fans of it. We’re not just like “Batman’s stupid.” I love Batman to death. I just did an interview with Marvel and I couldn’t talk about Batman the whole time. It was so uncomfortable. I just had to allude to it. “Yeah, we did comic book guys movies…” So we did X-Men as well, and I think we’re gonna keep going in those worlds. We’re gonna do some video-game stuff as well. It’s going to be exciting.
OB: I think all of our parodies come with a healthy dose of respect for the world we’re parodying. I think that’s what we try to do with the Batman thing and all the other sketches that come from a movie world. Have fun within the world of the movie, don’t try to break the world. So we’re in the Nolan universe, but Batman’s the only thing that changed.
Q: Everyone wants to know when you’re going to take over Conan’s show and force him out.
NB: In all honesty, there couldn’t be a better big brother than the Conan group. They’ve just been so cool to us, they’ve never been able to produce another late-night show, and it’s pretty special the relationship we have with them.
PH: Yeah, sorry to be so sweet, but it’s true. Everybody’s been so great, and they’ve only been supportive. We use a lot of their resources and stuff. We’re the same suit size, so when he’s done, I just put it on. Similar hair, same height. That’s why they hired me.
Q: Will T.J. Miller be a part of the show?
Q: Any chance of bringing comic creators on the show as guests?
NB: We like to go after people you don’t always see on late night. So we went to see James Harden, the NBA player. And we sent Oren and Pete to Utah to talk to Olympic hopefuls.
PH: Yeah, we want it to be weird. We’re not trying to get some big celebrity promoting something. Which might be stupid for ratings. I don’t really care. I want it to have that feel.
NB: It’ll be fun. People will want to come hang out with us. We’ll have an open door.
PH: That’s right.If Ryan Gosling wants to come on, he can come on. No problem.
Q: Besides the monologue and guests, will there be other traditional late-night elements?
Q: Is there a chance of expanding the show down the line?
PH: So that’s my goal. Live, 90 minutes, black and white.
NB: The thing that’s true about our show is that it’s a half-hour on the air, but so much of what we do will have longer cuts online.
PH: That’s right. We’re going to use every part of the buffalo. Like every time we do a Batman sketch, so much of it is improvised, and it always breaks my heart that you guys only see three, four minutes of it, when I was sweating my b***s off in the suit with black eye make-up dripping down, riffing, trying to make [Brimer] laugh, trying to make Matt, who plays Commissioner Gordon, laugh, and that stuff will have a home now. That’s probably one of the best features of having a show like this now.
OB: There will be the show, then there will be the online show, and as we all know, the line between television and internet is just blurring forever, and by the time we’ve been on, Lord willing, three, four years, people will care even less. So the show might be over, and we’ll see the TV part as being the best of, and if you like what you saw, you can go online and find it.
Q: Are there any ideas you’ve wanted to do that you haven’t been able to?
NB: A genius.
PH: He’s a genius. He’s a wonderful gift in my life, and we can’t take a 5 a.m. cab ride to the airport without coming up with ideas. And I’m hungover, and just coming up with ideas. I’d love for that to be reported and for TBS to get that message and I think they know. We got ideas. We got a lot of stuff and this show is ready to go for the long run.
Q: F, marry, kill: Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson, Dan Abrams.
Q: F, marry, kill…
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