Pete Holmes is slowly taking over the world. Why do we think this? Well mainly because his comedy career cannot be going better. This year he released, Nice Try, The Devil which is the follow up of his stellar debut, Impregnated with Wonder. Pete is also on high demand on the road, hitting all the major festivals where comedy is housed. He’s played Batman in web shorts. His podcast, You Made It Weird is a consistently great draw for comedians and notables in the sea of comedy podcasts out there. Perhaps the most exciting piece of Pete Holmes news is that he recently inked a deal with Conan O’Brien to have a new midnight talk show that’s set to air this fall on TBS after Conan.
We caught up with Holmes right before he hit the Just For Laughs Festival in Chicago to talk about his jammed schedule, current projects, and what we can expect from his new late night TV show.
Can you describe the midnight show? It’s coming out in the fall still, right?
Yes it is. I believe it’s called the Pete Holmes Show now. In fact I know that. It’s called the The Pete Holmes Show [laughs]. We shot the pilot – the pilot was called The Midnight show, but moving forward, especially if the show is on for two or three years, I feel like a time slot is going to become even less relevant than it is now, so we didn’t want to call it anything involving the time that it’s on, especially if people are watching it online or however they are getting their entertainment. So we’re just calling it the Pete Holmes Show. But it’s a half hour talk show following Conan. I keep my description of it pretty loose because I think we’re going to be figuring it out as we go, but it will involve elements of basically everything I’ve been doing for the past decade. Things like stand-up, which might resemble a monologue but more in my voice, an interview like my podcast – at the end of the show we’ll probably have a guest. Maybe not always, but we’ll usually have a guest. And then a lot of sketch, like the Batman videos that we did with CollegeHumor, and steal pieces, where correspondents, like at The Daily Show go out and get comedy from the outside.
I’ve heard from a number of people that being a host of your own show like that is kind of like you’ve quote unquote “made it”. Is that what you’ve always want it to do?
It certainly is a phenomenal opportunity. My father asked on a scale of one to ten how big a deal this was. I was like “Dad, it’s a ten!” There are so few blocks for things like this. That’s why I never dared to dream as specifically as “I want a talk show following Conan.” As soon as it came along, and then shooting the pilot, it did feel like…I felt at home. I felt like it was where I wanted to be. With the show being elements of everything I had done so far, it felt like the proper place to end up.
It seems like you have a pretty thick schedule of dates. How are you juggling both things at once?
Well, we haven’t really started yet on the show. We’ve kicked around ideas. Me and the writers will kick around sketch ideas. But because the show will for the most part be somewhat timely or at least filmed in the studio with a guest and improvised, there’s not too much we can do right now. Right now, the idea behind all this touring is just to stay sharp, comedically. I like visiting the fans as much as I can. I kind of look at the shows as hangouts. It’s not even so much about promoting the CD or making money as it much as it’s kind of about visiting the people that enjoy the same kind of comedy as me.
Speaking of which, you’re obviously known for being a very nice comedian. Is it tough to do roasts being that way?
That’s a tough question. I appreciate that. I am a nice guy, but my friends who know me know I just love breaking balls. I recently told Comedy Central that I would love to do a roast. I love being mean, and I love having people that I respect be mean to me. I’d like to be clear on that: Sometimes people on the internet think I like when anyone is mean to me which is certainly not true. If someone like Chelsea Peretti wants to laugh at me a little bit, I love it. There’s nothing I like more than roasting my friends to be honest. In my experience, my audience has understood that there is another side to me. And of course, I’m just joking. I think it’s worth it to my overall character to occasionally be mean to the people I love.
It’s funny you mention Chelsea Peretti, because that was when I last saw you. It was in New York at the New York Comedy festival. I think you opened up for her and you two ribbing each other back and forth.
Yeah, I remember that. Chelsea and I are good friends. When people aren’t watching, she is very sweet and normal. Not to say that she doesn’t make fun of me when no one’s watching, which she of course does, but it’s so good natured. It’s just like Lucy and Charlie Brown. At the end of the day, we wouldn’t hang out with each other if we didn’t like each other.
You just mentioned the Batman videos. Those are fantastic! How do you become Batman?
Well, you gotta’ have some wonderful people behind you. Of course, like any guy, I’ve always wanted to be Batman. Oren Brimmer and Matt McCarthy are the creators of that series. We’re a group called Front Page Films and you can see everything we’ve ever done on frontpagefilms.com. But before I met Oren and before I found Matt and our dynamic together, I was just another comedian with a bunch of ideas. And then I met guys that can actually make it happen. Oren can write and direct and edit, and Matt can role with anything that I throw at him and he cracks me up so consistently. So that’s how you become Batman. I wasn’t interested in actually being Batman, because he lost everyone close to him except Alfred, but I have several outfits [laughs].
I also wanted to ask: You seem pretty into Vine now on your Twitter. What makes Vine so fun?
It’s so funny. I was just talking to Chelsea about why we resisted Vine. When Vine first came out, I was like “that’s stupid, I never want to do it, it’s never going to succeed”. And then as soon as I started trying it, I was addicted to it. It was watching people like Bo Burnham and Harris Wittels and Jamie Lee – some of my friends that were on there and were doing such creative and really funny things. Not just time-wasting things – actually very innovative things. They’re doing interesting things. So I saw the things that they were doing and thought maybe I wanted to give it a go. And now, I went from somebody who never used it to somebody who is accused of abusing it.
What’s the secret to it? Because it’s tough to compare it to actually making a short film or something like the Batman videos. You’ve gotta’ rethink it a bit.
Yeah. In my experience, with Vine, one of the secrets to Vine is just admitting it’s not going to be that good. It can’t be that good – it’s only six seconds long. You kind of have to surrender to the idea that it’s not going to be a masterpiece. You can probably only get one simple joke out or one moment out. That’s what’s so great about Bo Burnham, who I really do think is a master of it. He’ll find a way to put two jokes in there, which in six seconds – three seconds sped up, and then somehow put two functions in there…he’s really on to something.
I have to ask too: Obviously, your second stand-up album came out recently. Did you learn anything in between albums?
It’s interesting. My first album, I recorded in a much smaller space. I did the second one in a theater, and it was also being taped for television, which changes the tone completely. I’m very proud of the second album, but I think my third album will go back to a small room feel just because there is a little more of that intimacy. That said, I’m still learning. I’m still tweaking and figuring out the perfect album. I loved the feel of Nice Try, The Devil, and I’m just kind of interesting in seeing what the middle ground between the first and second album might be. I guess that’s all of it. All of comedy is about admitting that you don’t quite have it figured out just yet, but every time you’re going to keep figuring it out.
So on that note, do you like doing the smaller clubs more than the big places?
Yeah. For the most part, I was just in Bloomington and I did a theater, and sometimes it’s really fun to do a theater. It can feel a little bit more like a show. I know it’s a theater space, but it also feels more theatrical. There’s a little bit more of a separation between you and the audience. It kind of has an overall different vibe. But I really like being in there and being really close to the audience and having that show be a unique thing that only could have occurred with that audience. Less of a presentation. I think that even though the space on Nice Try, The Devil was big, there’s still a lot of riffing. There’s still a lot of paying attention to the audience. I think we achieved an organic feel, even in the bigger space. When I go out on the road, I always like being in an intimate thing. I’m not the kind of comedian that makes fun of people or teases the shirt you’re wearing, but I do like to be close enough to the audience to really get a sense of their vibe and let it inform the performance.
You’re touring right now, right?
Yeah. I’m at an Enterprise waiting to drop my car off [laughs].
Are there any dates you want to promote?
Yeah. They’re all on peteholmes.com. I’m going to New Orleans, I’m going to Dallas. They’re all coming up and they’re all listed on peteholmes.com. The Pete Holmes Show is coming out in the fall. It’s going to be every night right after Conan. Check out the album. Everything else is on peteholmes.com
We’d like to thank Pete Holmes for taking time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @PeteHolmes and catch him this fall in late night!