COM­EDY

Sharp - - EDITOR’S LETTER - By Yang-yi Goh

Pete Holmes and Judd Apa­tow team up on the new HBO se­ries Crash­ing. We’re all in.

The lat­est en­try in the Sad Standup Sit­com genre is ac­tu­ally pretty damn heart­warm­ing

AQUARTER OF THE WAY through 2017, the year’s most ground­break­ing tele­vi­sion show is a half-hour, sin­gle-cam­era, pre­mium ca­ble sit­com star­ring a standup co­me­dian as a fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of him­self.

Be­fore you scoff: yes, we’re aware that Curb Your En­thu­si­asm first hit the air­waves nearly two decades ago. Yes, we’re big fans of Louie, and yes, we’ve read all the same mid­dling re­views of Maron, Lopez and Dice that you have. (Okay, we haven’t read any­thing about Dice.) This is not a new con­cept. It’s mostly an old, tired premise that’s been done to death by mostly old, tired per­son­al­i­ties. We know this.

But Crash­ing, the HBO sit­com led by co­me­dian Pete Holmes, is dif­fer­ent, be­cause Holmes is dif­fer­ent. He’s not a cyn­i­cal cur­mud­geon like Louis C.K. or Marc Maron, or a slick, post-fame charmer like Ge­orge Lopez. In­stead, Holmes rep­re­sents some­thing of an anom­aly in the sneer­ing world of mod­ern com­edy: he’s a pun-lov­ing goof­ball (his lat­est spe­cial, Faces and Sounds, is high­lighted by a joke that won­ders why uni­corns aren’t called “uni­horns”) who is openly fas­ci­nated with spir­i­tu­al­ity — he was raised deeply Chris­tian, and on his wildly pop­u­lar pod­cast You Made It Weird, he spends as much time dis­cussing the teach­ings of Be Here Now guru Ram Dass as he does riff­ing about singing chick­ens.

“The in­ter­est­ing thing about Pete is that he’s very pos­i­tive,” says Judd Apa­tow, who ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced Crash­ing. “So much of com­edy is neg­a­tive, it’s cyn­i­cal, there’s a lot of com­plain­ing — and that’s what’s great about it. So it’s rare to find some­one who can be hi­lar­i­ous while try­ing to be a good per­son.” On Crash­ing, Holmes takes that al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tive one step fur­ther. Loosely based on his ac­tual life, the show opens with Holmes in a com­fort­able malaise: he’s young and mar­ried in the sub­urbs, living off his wife’s teacher salary while strug­gling to turn com­edy into a vi­able ca­reer. By the end of the pi­lot, he’s lost ev­ery­thing — his mar­riage, his home, his dig­nity — and wan­ders the streets of New York painfully bomb­ing in front of silent open-mic au­di­ences and search­ing des­per­ately for a place to sleep.

That last part is where the ti­tle comes into play: the show’s con­ceit, for lack of a bet­ter term, is its heavy use of guest stars. In the pi­lot, Ar­tie Lange shows up to of­fer Pete his ad­vice and his couch, and then sticks around through the sec­ond episode un­til TJ Miller tags in. Sarah Sil­ver­man shows up later in the sea­son. None of these ap­pear­ances seem forced, though — in­stead, they man­age to re­veal a side of the com­edy scene we rarely get to see.

“It’s this group of mis­fits,” Holmes says of the real-life peers, Miller in­cluded, who took him in after his di­vorce. “A lot of co­me­di­ans are a lit­tle bit de­bauch­er­ous — they’re heavy drinkers or do drugs or see pros­ti­tutes or are pro­mis­cu­ous, what­ever. But I was able to find that grace and love and sup­port in an un­likely place.”

You might be winc­ing at how touchyfeely that all sounds, so al­low us to re­mind you that this is still a Judd Apa­tow joint. Min­ing hu­mour from pathos is what he does best, and there’s a steady stream of one-lin­ers and set pieces to keep things aloft. Throw that in a blender with Holmes’ win­ning earnest­ness, you wind up with some­thing en­tirely new: an off­beat show with out­sized heart, one that’s un­afraid to not just laugh in the face of over­whelm­ing dark­ness, but look it in the eye, smile and shake its hand.

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