HBO’s new series, Crashing, is a show that should definitely be on your radar if you enjoy stand-up comedy. Pete Holmes stars as… himself… sort of. The show is a semi-autobiographical take on Holmes’ struggles as a young, unknown stand-up comedian in New York City.
If watching people bomb a stand-up routine gets under your skin, you will not enjoy this series. Holmes’ stand-up routines in the first few episodes are so painful they may make you question whether he’s actually himself, since the real Pete Holmes can do a solid hour-long Comedy Central stand-up routine with ease (also on HBO). That being said, it’s really not that painful, and the show does a good job keeping the bad stand-up to a minimum — focusing instead on clever every-day situational humor revolving around his adventures with famous comedians.
As stated: Pete Holmes as ‘himself,’ struggling comedian, New York City. Beyond that, a clear rift develops early between Holmes and his wife, Jessica (Lauren Lapkus), who financially supports him as he pursues his dream of becoming a famous stand-up comedian.
After walking in on his wife cheating on him, Holmes is cast out of his marital home and left homeless. Through a series of more fortunate events, Holmes always seems to land on a famous comedian’s couch each night after they provide some much needed career guidance to the clearly struggling Holmes. Thus far, the series has recurring appearances from Artie Lange, T.J. Miller, and Sarah Silverman and an unfortunate guest appearance by Hannibal Buress in episode four.
The joke Hannibal Buress tells during his brief stand-up routine in the show goes as follows:
“I’ve been dabbling in Cialis”
“I don’t tell the girls I’m on Cialis, I just dick them down and act like that’s how I always do it.”
“Just straight… bow, bow, bow…”
Woman’s Voice: “Wow! You’re A Machine”
“I could do a commercial for Cialis…”
“Take Cialis, and she won’t stare at your angrily while you sleep.”
I guess he says stuff in a funny way, though.
Room for improvement
The casual appearances by popular comedians can’t replace genuine chemistry between a consistent group of recurring cast members. I’m somewhat skeptical that Pete Holmes has the ability to carry this series for more than a few seasons without developing a few strong side-kicks, based on his history.
The formula for most long-lasting comedies relies on four or more main cast members to provide a variety of humor (thus satisfying as large an audience as possible). For example, Seinfeld had four main characters, It’s Always Sunny has five main characters, and other shows like The Office take advantage of an entire office of personalities.
It’s kind of like Entourage except there is no entourage.
Musical lead ins and fade outs would improve the show, which lacks a consistent feel from episode to episode. Similar shows like Seinfeld, It’s Always Sunny, and Curb Your Enthusiasm all benefit greatly from their music.
On the flip side, Holmes has a knack for making awkward and unfortunate moments funny. His observational humor is really very funny, despite what his stand-up routines reflect (which is part of the humor). For the record, when Holmes describes himself as a “lesbian Val Kilmer,” I believe a fat Anders Holm would have been more accurate.