In these last few posts, I’ve described heroes of mine; people who’ve made a marked impact on my life and who recently I’ve gotten a chance to meet and personally thank for being who they are and doing what they do. Andrew McMahon and his music have been a part of me since around 2002; WheezyWaiter came into my life last June as I explored the YouTube community.
My experience with this third man happened much more suddenly, more recently, and I believe has had the greatest effect on my life in the time he’s been a part. This newfound hero of mine is Pete Holmes, stand-up comedian, (former) late night host, and prolific podcaster. To me, he appeared out of nowhere in October of last year, between Conan O’Brien advertising his show, Pete himself traveling the late night circuit, and random collaborations with my favorite YouTubers.
As I wrote previously, I had the opportunity to see a free taping of The Pete Holmes Show when I went to Burbank to see Conan last November. I couldn’t have cared less about it and I only decided to go for it when I heard Bill Burr was his guest that afternoon. Here’s a quick lesson about things: do them. If you have an opportunity, take it; you never know what it might lead to. While I found The Pete Holmes Show to be a fun time, the goofy charisma of its host stuck with me long after. I came home to the Bay Area with this guy in the back of my head.
And that’s when the real influence on me began. I came across, I don’t remember how, his podcast, You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. Maybe it’s the fact that my life coincidentally began to turn around at the same time as I started listening, maybe it’s the overwhelmingly positive attitude he exudes during every show combined with my desire to emulate that temperament, maybe both, but this simple, often two-hour long, weekly podcast has become appointment listening every Wednesday. It’s easily my favorite out of the ever-expanding sea of podcasts on the internet.
Like many others, every week it’s a long meandering conversation with a guest, usually another comedian. Except it’s different. It’s not an interview. There’s a loose structure based around the topics of comedy, sexuality, and religion, though more often than not it is not adhered to. Sometimes it gets very personal; Pete Holmes is a very empathetic guy and it seems to me that it makes his guests feel more comfortable and open around him. He has to be one of the most accepting, open-minded, friendly people out there. He holds a lot of beliefs I don’t necessarily agree with, but the way he accepts others points of view has been infecting me. His outlook and attitude are contagious and there’s a lot of wisdom in his words, much of which makes me feel like I’m growing wiser myself just from taking in his life experience and relating it to my own. Plus, he’s hilarious and who doesn’t love to laugh? Nothing else makes an hour-long commute in stop-and-go California traffic be more enjoyable. Not to mention I’ve been introduced to more incredible personalities through YMIW than anywhere else in the last year, some of which led me to podcasts of their own. Notably, The Nerdist, which I’d listened to a little but got more into after YMIW, and Professor Blastoff, where Tig Notaro et al. discuss science, comedy, and random things.
So when one day he posted on Twitter that he was doing four shows at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco in the middle of July, again I didn’t hesitate to snag myself a ticket. In contrast to that November day in Burbank when I didn’t care if I saw Pete or not that afternoon, this time I couldn’t wait to see him again. Between his show, digital shorts, and of course You Made It Weird, this was a much bigger deal to now. For me, he’d gone from non-existent to personal hero status in less than eight months. And it was eight months to the day since that taping that I would finally meet the man himself. But first, a little bit about Cobb’s and the show.
I’d never been to Cobb’s Comedy Club before. I was familiar with the name, but that was all. I made my way up to North Beach the night of the show. The stretch of Columbus Avenue between Broadway and Chestnut might be one of my favorite parts of the city; it’s always lively, conveniently accessible by BART (if you’re willing to walk 10 minutes), and it has a great collection of Italian restaurants, bars, bakeries, live music venues, and much more. This was my first real comedy show. I’d seen improv groups in college, random comedians at events like Relay for Life or the CollegeHumor Tour during GM Week, as well as Louis C.K. at the Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton, California in late 2011, but Cobb’s is a comedy club. It’s full of tables you sit at, order drinks (two drink minimum!) and watch the show from up close. You know, like a real comedy club. After a glass of white wine and a scotch, I was ready for the show to begin.
Before Pete came on, comedians Amy Miller and Chris Thayer each did twenty minutes. They were pretty good, though I found myself enjoying Chris’s material a lot more. He had a bit on Tinder that I found way too relatable, and I was perhaps too entertained by his slightly awkward/quirky persona. A good chunk of Amy’s material was about her experience being a thirty-something single woman. I couldn’t empathize, but it was still funny.
Pete Holmes came on to raucous applause. First off, the guy is huge. I was sitting at a table against the stage so my head was at his feet level; he’s 6’6″ and absolutely dominates the stage. He’s an energetic performer, constantly riffing back and forth with the crowd. He has such control over the room, we often break with laughter before he does, which is saying something. Pete’s always breaking and making himself laugh. Though some people find it off-putting, I totally get it; why say something as a comedian that you yourself don’t find funny? He played off some folks in the front of the crowd to hilarious results. In fact, and I don’t even remember the details or jokes of most of his set, a lot of it seemed to be improvised. And he did it so fluidly. Unlike Louis C.K.’s show in Stockton (which was 90% identical to his Live at the Beacon Theatre special from the same tour), very little of this seemed to be rehearsed, polished, or otherwise structured. Some of the bits felt familiar, which I attribute to having watched nearly all of his monologues from The Pete Holmes Show over the last eight months, yet that didn’t diminish the fun.
Oh! And I shouldn’t forget to mention this. As Pete wrapped up his set, he looked at his notes and said there was a special announcement from some random guy, who turned out to be an audience member. He was invited on stage, where, naturally, he ended up proposing to his girlfriend who was still there in the audience. The look on Pete’s face when he put together what was happening was priceless, he looked so happy!
As the show ended, Pete made his way to the entrance to meet fans. A short while in the queue and I was shaking hands and taking photos with the man himself. I only had thirty seconds with the guy and I made sure to make them count. I told him the brief story of how I discovered him and thanked him profusely for being such a positive influence on my life.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from Pete Holmes has been this: he often says to be a successful comedian, you must live a life worth commenting on. I’m not a comedian, but I am (kind of) a blogger. I’m always trying to put stuff on here, mostly for myself to look back on. If I didn’t have a life worth talking about, there’d be nothing here. In other words, this blog itself helps me be motivated to do things, have experiences, make memories, and try to be awesome in my own life. I’ve got a lot of growing to do still, but I can see that I’m starting to become the person I want to be. All of these people I’ve written about here have helped shaped me in that way and I’m so incredibly thankful to have had a chance to show them how important they’ve been to me from afar.
In the immortal closing words of every You Made It Weird, keep it crispy!
And as always, DFTBA. Don’t forget to be awesome.