Winston Clark, Staff Writer

HBO’s Crashing is the semi-autobiographical sitcom about the life of comedian Pete Holmes, starting from his divorce and his embarking on the road to stand-up fame. Like a Kurt Vonnegut novel, you know the ending before you finish the first episode. 

But that is exactly the fun of this show. You are not watching to see if he really makes it and fulfills his dream, because you already know he does. Instead, you watch it to witness the journey and the detours of a stand-up career. 

You also watch it for the cameos and roles of comedians like Sarah Silverman, John Mulaney, Bill Burr, Emo Philips, and Artie Lange, to see how Pete Holmes was formed. And that it does well. 

The character of Pete Holmes is a naive and an accidentally-exploitative-of-his-wife-open-mic comedian, a Christian who catches his wife coveting a neighbor without his permission, a person wracked by the divorce of his spouse, trying to make it in comedy. 

The show follows Pete, as his Christian morals are continuously tested. There is a great exemplary episode early on in the series, where Pete needs to get people in the comedy club to perform, and the only way to do that is through handing out flyers. At one point, Korean businessmen ask him with drunken, drawn-out words where they can find a jazz club, and as Pete’s face contemplates lying, he tells the truth. Regardless, the episode finishes with them all showing up to watch him perform, making the most successful show he has ever had up to this point. In Crashing, Pete Holmes is an idiot, naive but genuine, a character you cannot help but love for the sake of wanting to see him succeed.

The series’ characters are fleshed out with such precision and vagueness, that they feel so real in an ordinary sense. Shots of Pete bombing, next to shots of him being unable to buy bodega food, next to shots of him laughing and happy, next to shots of him depressed on the subway, all add up to create a realistic person trying to be optimistic, while every small thing wants to fight him. 

His ex-wife (Lauren Lapkus) is at first indiscernible from any other villain, but as your hatred brews for her, she admits a truth about their marriage, and you gradually sympathize with her. If there was another show from her perspective, Pete would be the antagonist. And these scenes are realistic and spaced between comedy, avoiding most cliches. The simplicity of not overdoing the emotional scenes makes them more believable, helped by the thought-out rationalization of the characters.

The scenes of Pete in pursuit of his career are the best parts of the show, as we see him meet comedians, risk everything for his next gig, and do all that he can just for that next small step. To see his devotion, and to see other comedians cheer him on, is not only a delight for fans of comedy, but also for people devoted to Pete’s character. The satisfaction of seeing him grow as a performer, while emotionally dealing with all the conflicts in the story, makes it all worth it, even if you dislike the emotional parts. 

Crashing is not without its faults. Moderate to poor acting is everywhere, and sometimes the realistic dialogue has something missing. On many occasions, I was taken out of a conversation because of some terrible acting decision. However, given how poorly comedians have acted in the past, it is comparatively not that bad, seeing as most of the actors are comedians and not professionals. 

Additionally, some story lines are at times predictable and feel forced, but luckily the priority placed on realistic characters mostly resolves this issue. There is a point where Pete is able to get a warm-up job, but there is already a warm-up comedian, and he works fine until he breaks in anger and quits. Even within the circumstances, that is unrealistic. 

But on the flip side, when Pete’s comedian friend (Henry Zebrowski) gets a TV show set, Pete, being as nice as he is, is jealous and refrains from raising the tension. But at the last moment, he insults his friend in an offhand way, ruining his friend’s confidence. That is realistic given the prior exposition of the characters. 

Crashing, directed and written by Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow, is a good comedy-drama series, with a few cons but mostly pros. If you already have HBO Max, give it a try!