Pete Holmes Plays a "Regressed" Version of Himself in 'Crashing'

The new HBO comedy inspired by Holms' life as a struggling comedian debuts in February.
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Pete Holmes

Pete Holmes is playing himself in his new HBO comedy Crashing — but not quite the person he is now.

During a panel for the Judd Apatow-produced series at the Television Critics' Association press tour Saturday, Holmes explained to critics that he's playing a 2007 version of himself.

"The only person in the show that’s regressed is me," he said, adding that most of the other comedians who makes appearances — Sarah Silverman, T.J. Miller and Artie Lange — are entirely themselves. However, a few of the lesser-known comedians who are seen in the series (Jermaine Fowler, for example) do play more of a character.

"We didn’t think about it consciously," said Apatow. He compared the setup to that of another comedy series featuring real-life comedians on which the prolific comedy film director got his start. "On The Larry Sanders Show, the celebrities were oftentimes making fun of perceptions of themselves so there was a little trick to it. It was almost the place you’d go to say, 'The thing you think about me isn’t true.' But with this, it's different."

For Holms' part, his friends who watched the pilot told him that he "really nailed the innocent thing." While he admits to still being a "sweet guy" and a little "Golden Retriever-ish," he used to be much more of what he calls a "Jack McBrayer-type." Acknowledges Holmes of his character in the series, "It's not a caricature but it's definitely a different person than I am right now."

Holms credits his Evangelical Christian upbringing for his innocent, genial demeanor. In fact, he wanted to be a youth pastor — that is, until he realized that he just likes being up in front of people and making them laugh. "I still have a fondness for that world. This isn’t a biting satire," he said, adding that he felt a certain safety during the time he spent in a "Christian bubble" earlier in his life. "But narratively speaking, something Judd and I both think is compelling is how do you keep your soul in a world that keeps trying to negotiate for pieces of it?"

The panel wrapped with a question about the importance of comedy given the current state of politics. Apatow noted that he'd hoped that the brilliant satire of Samatha Bee, John Oliver, Bill Maher and Seth Meyers throughout the campaign would have "woken people up" to certain things they should care about. "But I don’t know f they’re preaching to the converted or are helping a new generation," he said. "It’s hard to know the impact of comedy in this environment."

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