MERCURY: The recorder is on. We're officially on the record.
PETE HOLMES: [Muffled.] Okay, I love it.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
I'm a tiny bit worried—
[More clearly.] I'm sorry, that whole—
No—let me apologize, Alison. I had an antibiotic in my mouth that whole time and I was panicking, and I was like, "How quickly do I need to swallow this, and why did I answer the phone when I had a pill in my mouth?" and I was looking for water, so if I seemed a little weird or off, I'm so sorry. And now I'm normal, I swallowed the antibiotic, I'm completely fine.
Most celebrity interviews are so mediated, pre-packaged, and generic that a single off-the-cuff exchange in the 15 minutes allotted an interviewer—Pete Holmes has a cough drop in his mouth!—becomes noteworthy. The exception, increasingly, is on podcasts, where comedians and musicians and writers sit down for lengthy, in-depth conversations about their lives and their work. Holmes' excellent podcast You Made It Weird is characterized by ranging conversations with the likes of Sarah Silverman, Jon Hamm, and Judd Apatow, who open up about sex, religion, their childhoods, and more.
Holmes is wickedly smart, but he's also goofy and game—in improv parlance, he's a "Yes, and" kind of a guy. And while his most high-profile colleague in the comedian-interview-podcast game is a famously bitter Jew, Holmes oozes "recovering Christian" from a mile away. In other words, he seems nice. But that doesn't mean he wants to have three-hour conversations with everyone he meets.
"I might be a letdown to people, in that I don't have an unquenchable curiosity for every single person I meet," he says. "I'm a regular guy. I find some people boring."
In the fall, TBS will begin airing The Midnight Show with Pete Holmes, a half-hour show produced by Conan O'Brien that promises to propel Holmes from comedy-nerd fame to regular ol' fame. I ask him what kind of famous person he's going to be.
"I know what I should do, to be self-effacing and humble and relatable, is I should scoff at the idea [that fame will change me]," he says. "But to be honest, in this phony-baloney stupid town, more and more of my friends are on TV and in films and stuff and getting a little bit famous, and the ones that I know that remain relatable and human are the ones that make an effort. And way before they're famous. So like, way before I was even on the precipice of doing a show, you start protecting yourself against becoming a huge asshole."
In addition to his podcast and TV work, Holmes is one of the most generous, unpredictable, and downright hilarious stand-ups working today, as anyone who saw his last Portland shows at Helium can attest. "I love Portland, it's one of my absolute favorite cities in the world," Holmes says. "I promise a silly, sleepover-esque tree-house fun night of nonthreatening comedy that's surprisingly dirty but won't offend you." We'll bring our jam-jams.