It's been a banner year for Pete Holmes, whose podcast You Made It Weird took off right around the time the comedian was tapped by Conan O'Brien to host a late night show on TBS. The Midnight Show, as it is called, was picked up just before the release of new album Nice Try, The Devil. Holmes, a former television writer and New Yorker cartoonist, careens into his sets with maniac energy and frequent, hilarious crowdwork. Can we credit his improv background for his boundless energy for riffing and extreme interest in the lives of other comedians? Maybe - but he'd probably be like that even if he was a youth pastor, which he thinks he almost was. We exchanged emails last week about his new show and predictions for the end of Mad Men.
Holmes is one of four headliners headed to Limestone Comedy Festival in Bloomington this weekend.
NUVO: Pete! Congratulations on your new show. Did Conan purposefully hire another super tall dude with fluffy parted hair for his network domination? I look forward to watching you tower over guests as well.
Pete Holmes: Thank you! And of course height and hair had a lot to do with it, as with most things in showbiz. Conan and I often mock short, non-fluffy haired people, or as we call them, "reg non-fluffs."
NUVO: Last time I saw your act was in Bloomington at the Comedy Attic, and then I ran into you downstairs at The Bishop Bar. How do you like Bloomington? It's a tiny liberal oasis in the middle of great big red Indiana. Lots of tattoos and angst and harp players.
Holmes: Can I use your answer? I love it. In the middle of this big red state, it's nice to see a lot of tattoos and harp players. But like angsty harp players. Drinking Guinness. Because the pint has a harp on it. And because of their angst.
NUVO: I'm a loyal Weirdo - I've listened to every single episode, actually. I love that you interviewed Rob Bell, who's such an interesting dude. It quickly followed Vickram Ghandi's episode - seems like you're branching out from comedians into other creative, spiritual places. Will this continue? How is the experience of sitting down with guys like this different than sitting down with comedians?
Holmes: I sure hope so! Those were two of my favorite episodes. I'll always continue to have the people on who are inspiring me at the moment, whoever that is. Rob Bell was different from a comedian because he didn't say things like "balls" or "shit" or "shit on my balls." But other than that he was pretty much the same.
NUVO: You'll be in Bloomington at Limestone with Doug Benson. Are you going to go on his Doug Loves Movies podcast and make him crazy again?
Holmes: No, I'm going to ruin his Dining with Doug and Karen with my manic energy instead!
NUVO: A big component of YMIW is about repeating certain phrases (lazer, we're having fun here, the dick does the fucking, etc.) and thought experiments (what happens after we die; transcendental meditation, astral projection). The connection between delving into certain interesting subjects again and again on the podcast is so similar to me to the act of stand up - getting into a subject again and again on stage, perfecting and refining it. Do you think you'll ever retire YMIW "bits"? Or will the same things continue to be interesting to you?
Holmes: Yes, just like with standup I've already noticed some things on YMIW have ran their course. I don't have to try to do it, it happens naturally. Like when a boy becomes a man by killing a small puma.
NUVO: What are you going to do on a late night show that's just 30 minutes? You like to have 3-hour-long interviews on your podcast! Are you going to have mounds and mounds of deleted scenes or just make the guests and Katie go to Nerdmelt with you to keep talking?
Holmes: The show isn't going to be the TV version of the podcast; it's going to be it's own thing. People who like the podcast will like the show, I'm fairly certain, but we're not going to try and cram all that god-sex-comedy talk into a six minute interview. Altho there will be plenty of online extended interviews and whatnot. This is why my hope is to always do YMIW even after the show is on.
NUVO: Do you think Mad Men will end with Don killing himself? Will Peggy get the spin off she deserves?
Holmes: No and no and no she doesn't. I'm so sorry. When it comes to Mad Men I'm an opinionated monster and the show is Don and he would never kill himself and a Peggy spin off without Don is like a sandwich without bread or sexual tension.
NUVO: What is the one rejected New Yorker cartoon that you think should have absolutely made it in the magazine?
Holmes: Every single one of them, honestly. But my favorite was always these angels with huge wings in heaven and the guy is saying "I miss backrubs." Or the girl avocado yelling at the boy avocado: "What do you MEAN I'm 'the good kind of fat'?!"
NUVO: You've said some of the truly weird stuff comes out after the interview is over, maybe when you're getting coffee or something. Can you give us a few examples of that?
Holmes: Unfortunately it would be something the person didn't want to be public and I honestly forget immediately after they leave. So that's two reasons why I can't. Sorry!
NUVO: Has your therapist gotten an influx of business from your plugs on YMIW (do therapists "get business"?)?
Holmes: Yup! If you buy my CD on Amazon it suggests you'd like his book as well. And Maron's. And if Chelsea ever releases a line of hats or something.
NUVO: If you were, in an alternate timeline, a youth pastor, what would your first lesson be?
Holmes: Love something bigger than yourself and love your neighbor. Everything else is just bologna. Also, is it ethical to eat bologna?
NUVO: I think one of your qualities that continually draws me back to the podcast is how unafraid you seem. You're unafraid to say when you don't know something; you're unafraid to laugh at your own jokes; you're unafraid to be sincere; you're unafraid to ask questions that might make someone uncomfortable. What are you afraid of?
Holmes: I swap between nothing and everything.
NUVO: I kind of think of you as the male version of Amy Poehler - a beam of pure, comedic light. Who do you think your comedic alter-ego is?
Holmes: I'm a mix of my parents and John Ritter and a golden retriever that likes saying things like "shit on my balls."
"You Made It Weird with Zach Galifianakis"