Comedy of all sorts is laced with a real sense of despair. The phrase “You laugh, but it’s true” is the verbal equivalent of a smile fading away from someone’s face. Without hints of truth, comedy would fall flat, but, because of its all too real nature, it has us grinning out of satisfaction and sorrow. Crashing, comedian Pete Holmes’ latest venture on HBO, documents this duality within the comedy origins of one man.
This is the first major venture helmed by Holmes since the cancellation of his eponymous TBS show in 2014. Holmes, a Massachusetts native, had always brought his unique laugh, stylings, and sense of humor directly to audiences during that late night hour. Crashing seems to represent a return of that kind of humor to fans.
Following Pete (Holmes) as he struggles to make his own way in the comedic profession, the world is painted as a cruel, unforgiving, and antipathic. At home, his marriage to wife Jess (Lauren Lapkus) proves infidelious. On stage, his jokes can’t hit, garnering him ridicule. On the street, a slew of people are apt to further punish this downtrodden man. But through the grace of other comedians, played by the comedians themselves, Pete finds hope. In the first episode, Artie Lange extends an olive branch to the beaten man in the form of a simple slice of pizza.
What is most relatable in the show is the character of Pete’s sanguine attitude in the face of unrelenting criticism. Despite every being on the planet seemingly pushing him to cut his losses, the notion never seems to cross his mind. Following a dream is the imperative. Momentary displeasure is sidelined.
The show resembles Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me (2012) which documented events that were more or less true to that comedian’s life, with a few theatrical embellishments. A sort of TV stylized version of that ideas specific to Holmes is a welcome expansion into this genre of mostly-true fiction.A quasi-real story is refreshing as it asks audiences to look at it as a fiction, but one that is a reflection of the real trials the profession must take. It is interesting in this way, that one must wonder how much is fiction and how much is fact.
Like the character of Pete, Holmes shares many aspects of his life with his character. Similarities include his marriage at a young age, his New York life, and his late entry into and struggles of his career. Though these things may seem superficial, he is able to bring a more genuine sense of life to the character.
The show is jam packed with comedy names big and small. For any fan of comedy, these names are sure to ring bells. These incarnations of real comedians are full of genuinely funny lines and digs at the poor man Pete. Lange, Jay Oakerson, T.J. Miller, Sarah Silverman, and Geer Barnes are just a few of those with time of screen playing themselves.
This kind of show also is a great achievement for the comedic profession as it really is laughing at the struggles of comedians. Birbiglia did in it Sleepwalk With Me and now Holmes is doing it in Crashing. They are laughing and making light of one of the most difficult parts of their life. Retrospect is a key concept here, as they are able to find the comedy within their very real suffering. This kind of show is a sort of manifesto of the profession, that comedy can be found it all places. Holmes seems to say “Look, laugh at my suffering.” Audiences are sure to oblige.
Crashing is a heavy dose of reality. The unrelenting harshness of the world, at times, makes us feel defeated. As Pete tries to liken his situation with his wife supporting him to a wife supporting a man through medical school—life is quick to correct.
“You’re not in medical school!”
Pete shows that laughing is a way to lighten the weight. Through the release of air, it is easier to pick oneself up again.
Featured Image Courtesy By HBO