I had an “Alone Day” not long ago, the co-member of our household playing a professional “Away Game” in San Francisco.
Boredom sent me to the television, and unacceptable viewing options elsewhere led me to HBO.
And there, I found Crashing.
A young comedian with a devout Christian upbringing whose marriage just ended commits to a career as a standup comedian in New York. The leading character, Pete Holmes, is played by the actual Pete Holmes, in a show created by Pete Holmes.
So you can see it’s about him.
Judd Apatow is involved, as in “Pete Holmes took it to Judd Apatow and Judd’s (inestimable “muscle”) got the show on the air.
Judd’s comedic stock-in-trade is “Sexual Candor Mixed With Emotional Underpinnings.” The “Emotional Underpinnings”, he picked up from the mentoring Garry Shandling. The “Sexual Candor”, I think, is just him.
Anyway, the show liberally displays both of those qualities.
And I like it.
Or, “I like it ‘Marking on the Curve’”, the show being the best thing I could find on TV at that moment. It’s hard to tell about these things. There’s a – probably sexist – country song – although how many of them aren’t? – called “All The Girls Look Beautiful at Closing Time.” This was analogous to that. All the shows look interesting… when you are “this close” to turning off the television and taking a nap.
Crashing, it seems to me – and who else would be more authoritative on “It seems to me” – is genuinely enjoyable, as reflected by the fact that I watched numerous episodes of it. (Question: Is it still “streaming” if you don’t have to use three remotes to access it? I have never been clear about that.)
As a result of where I inadvertently dropped in on Crashing, I watched episodes from “Season Two” before I watched episodes from “Season One.” I actually liked the “Season Two” episodes better. Meaning I watched the show “coming into its own”…
I strongly identify with standup comedians. In my youth for, as they say in baseball when referring to an eye-blinkingly brief promotion to the Major Leagues “a cup of coffee”, I tried being a standup comedian myself.
That didn’t work out.
Thumbnail Explanation: I was not cut out to be a standup comedian. I was cut out to do comedy on the Internet, where, if the audience doesn’t laugh, we are in separate places, leaving me safely insulated from devastating rejection and personal abuse. I can imagine you like everything. And if I’m wrong, I will, relievedly, never find out.
To me, Crashing feels refreshingly “unwritten.” The stories are credible, chronicling the turbulent travails of a neophyte comedian, handing out flyers on street corners where nobody takes any – well, one passerby took one but they immediately deposited their gum in it and tossed it into a trashcan. Informing Crashing’s soul-crushing “Rites of Passage” experiences is the endearing innocence of the wannabe “Standup” protagonist.
Pete Holmes is likably sweet. While empathically “giving the time of day” to a young woman handing out food samples in a supermarket – a thankless undertaking if ever there was one – Pete considerately asks, “What’s your name?” To which she ruefully replies, “That’s okay.”
Not an actual “joke”, perhaps, but I appreciated its inclusion. (I intrinsically allot a show “points” for “Wow! You saw that!”)
One of the reasons I liked Crashing’s “Season Two” better than “Season One” was the addition of a cast member, comedian Jamie Lee, playing “Ali Reissen” a tentative “romantic entanglement.” Jamie’s inclusion is just what the show needed, “Ali’s” acerbic “Reality Check” balancing Pete’s “insufferable blandness.”
Adding an enhancing verisimilitude to the project, the bulk of Crashing’s characters are actual comedians playing themselves. Their offstage “edgy banter” feels evisceratingly “true to life.” The material they perform is actual material from their acts.
But with a sensitive distinction.
Mentioned during one of the informative “Extras” at the end of an episode, the “Start out” comedians perform material they did earlier in their careers, and you can intuit the qualitative difference.
The “All Reissen” character opens her standup routine saying,
“My boyfriend and I took our relationship to ‘The next level.’ We broke up.”
You know how you look at pictures of yourself when you were younger and go, “Was that ME!?!” That’s that joke, to a comedian who has maturingly “moved on.”
Y’know, I could say this about almost every post I have ever written. “How do you evaluate ‘judgment’?” Somebody says something you agree with – you think they’re a genius. But are they genuinely a genius? Or did they just say something you agree with?
It’s the same thing with comedy.
The comedy in Crashing, onstage and off, feels spontaneous, funny, intuitive and smart, the kind I imagine doing myself, if I had “toughed it out” and worked as a comedian.
I think Crashing is good.
Is it legitimately good?
I just shrugged.
Aside from the comedy, I can also relate to the situation. The comedians know they’re funny. Their palpable anxiety comes from wondering, “Is that going to be enough?”
Put it together – the show gets to me. And gets me inevitably pondering. I don’t know if I could have consistently mined “truthful” material from everyday experience, like the comedians on Crashing.
I never dared taking the chance.
There was going to be a subtly effective “Narrative Turn” here. But I waited too long.
Why don’t you come back?
And I’ll “turn” tomorrow.