Pete Holmes gets silly with stand up at the IMU

Comedian Pete Holmes

Iowa Memorial Union — Friday, Dec. 5 at 10 p.m.

Pete Holmes — a comedian who isn’t afraid to go neck-deep into silliness with his stand-up, yet never has to dumb down his material to get there — performs at the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Dec. 5.

Though he first made his mark in comedy with stand up, these days Holmes is best known for for his College Humor shorts, his former TBS talk show The Pete Holmes Show and his interview-based comedy podcast You Made It Weird (once dubbed by Holmes as “What The Heck” for how it seems to function as a gentler version of Marc Maron’s WTF).

Little Village recently emailed with Holmes about what sets stand up apart from other forms of comedy, why the Buddha was probably pretty hilarious and his vague but exciting aspirations to create a francophone friendly version of TV’s ALF.

A striking feature of your comedy is your ability to immediately go somewhere crazy and silly. And yet, the audience seems to always be right there with you. Was this something you’ve always done in your comedy?

No, it took a long time to get my comedy BACK to the place of childlike silliness — as counterintuitive as that sounds. But it took some growth before I could revert to that simpler, pure-foolishness state of an eight-year-old, and that’s what I’m going for.

Was there ever a time when you had to say “Ok, no one’s on board with this?”

Almost every show. But that’s why you see live comedy! I don’t want things to go perfect — this isn’t Microsoft. My favorite comedy moments are the unplanned and lovely disasters that are somewhat inevitable, thankfully. Especially if I’m full of cheap white wine. (I promise I won’t be at the show — 90 percent sure.)

You’ve branched out from stand-up into a lot of different avenues for comedy including television, online sketches and podcasting. Would you consider yourself primarily a stand-up or just an all around comedic performer/artist (acting, talk show host, writing)?

It’s all comedy, baby. I’m not a stand-up who does other types of comedy, I’m a comedian who does stand up primarily, because stand up is the cleanest and simplest relationship a performer can have with their audience.

Comedians often behave much differently offstage. Do you feel there is practice and cultivation that goes into your stage presence?

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Stage Pete is just a heightened version of Regular Pete. The name of the game is to have those two Petes merge into one Super Pete and then take over the northern hemisphere (I have no interest in ruling Australia).

An interview with Eric Andre on your podcast revealed a lot of shared mental and physical health habits (meditation, drinking wheat-grass, etc.). Does meditation play a specific role in your comedy? Are a lot of comedians secretly zen-seeking wheat-grass drinkers?

I can only speak for myself and say yes. Yes I am. Being present is always funnier than someone on stage saying one thing but thinking of something else. I bet Buddha was a hoot. Namaste.

Articles frequently describe you using terms you’d expect from life-coaches or personal trainers (“goal-oriented” and “endlessly optimistic”). What sort of goals do you set for yourself?

I don’t do a lot of reading outside of lists of goals where I write “read more.”

A lot of stand-ups end up on sitcoms or hosting talk shows. Was The Pete Holmes Show a goal of yours or an opportunity that came to you?

I won a radio call-in contest. Please don’t tell anyone I told you that. (No, I always wanted to host a talk show, yes, but it’s all comedy to me. I just want to do comedy in as many forms as I can, because comedy is the most fun thing ever. And cocaine!) (Just kidding. Comedy is very hard.)

You’ve written for some sitcoms in the past. Do you want to do more sitcom writing?

It’s a great job — ideally I’d be writing for my own show! Preferably a reboot of ALF where ALF is just a drunk French guy.

What are some up-and-coming comedians you are fond of?

Hannibal, Mulaney, Kroll, Kumail, Rory Scovel, T.J. Miller are favs of mine. Up-and-coming, I’d say Kate Berlant is a real treat.

Are you still involved in cartooning these days? Are there particular cartoonists you’re fond of or that informed your own approach to it?

I love Bruce Eric Kaplan and Leo Cullum so so much. I don’t cartoon anymore, but I do often brag about being in the New Yorker after people laugh when I mispronounce a word at a dinner party.

Pete Holmes performs stand up at the IMU on Dec. 5. -- Photo courtesy of Pete Holmes
Pete Holmes performs stand up at the IMU on Dec. 5. — Photo courtesy of Pete Holmes