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Pete Holmes and Jamie Lee were in the middle of their media blitz for the second season of their HBO series, CRASHING, when we met for a chat on January 17, 2018. The grind of the road did nothing to dampen their either exuberance or their whip-smart humor. Nor to their more cerebral sides, sides that include taking the long view of bad experiences, or pondering Pascal’s Wager as explored by Penn Gillette in season 2’s first episode.
As preparations for the post-screening party buzzed around us, I began our talk (with Holmes’ wife of two months sitting to one side) asking what I love to ask when people base a project on their own lives: the difference between factual truth and emotional truth when translating life to art.
From there the conversation turned to Jamie’s move from the writer’s room in season one to being in front of the camera in season two; why not hitting it big right away might be for the best; why Holmes wants his show to be more than just another comedy and why Lee is so happy that this season has a strong female stand-up as a character; choosing to eschew cynicism; daring to be philosophical; and why Judd Apatow is always right. Seriously.
We went on to cover the subtleties of vocabulary; the joys of compassionate listening; Pascal’s Wager (and why it’s so wrong); comedy in the Time of Trump; why Holmes felt bad for his pastor when growing up; where the second season of CRASHING will take the character of Pete and the new character, Ali (played by Lee); and the bond stand-ups have.
We finished with what Holmes has learned as a producer; what Lee learned as an actress working with ice cream; the magical properties of watermelon; and what it’s like in the CRASHING writer’s room.
CRASHING is the semi-autobiographical story of how Holmes, a devout Christian coming off a painful divorce (from the first woman he even dated) struggled to find his place in New York’s stand-up comedy scene. Lee, a writer during the first season, joins the cast in season two as a fellow stand-up whose relationship with Holmes is complicated. CRASHING is a very funny series, but it’s also surprisingly, even refreshingly, philosophical about success, religion, and relationships. It’s most valuable lesson? No one is great at what they do until they’ve honed their craft. Holmes is a writer and producer on the show, and his previous credits include THE PETE HOLMES SHOW and DON’T THINK TWICE.. Lee is also a veteran of THE PETE HOLMES SHOW, as well as LOVE’S A BITCH.