When Pete Holmes was in college, one of his career goals was to host his own late-night show, just like his hero Conan O’Brien. “Not that I told many people that was something I wanted,” he says. “It’s a very specific and preposterous dream.” But now The Pete Holmes Show is a reality. His Monday-through-Thursday half-hour show, which emphasizes comedy segments over celebrity interviews, premieres at 11 p.m. Monday on TBS after Conan. Holmes is a standup comedian and writer who is perhaps best known as the voice of the E*TRADE baby. If you’ve seen those TV commercials, or any of his video parodies of Batman on collegehumor.com, you know he lives up to the network’s “Very Funny” slogan. “Which is fortunate,” Holmes says. “It would be awkward to have to change it to ‘TBS Marginally Amusing’ or ‘TBS Uncomfortable Silence.’”
1 Is there a story behind how you got the job?
I wasn’t aware TBS was looking for a new late-night host. I did Conan’s show twice as a standup. A little after that, I got a call that Jeff Ross, Conan’s producer, wanted to meet. That happens a lot in L.A.: meetings that have no purpose and go nowhere. But you’ve got to fill your day with something. Later that week, I met with Conan. That was a thrill. He told me, ‘I think you’re a very funny guy. When I’m with you, my comedy tuning fork vibrates.’ But we didn’t talk one word about hosting a late-night show. That didn’t come up until another meeting. When Jeff and Conan said they were going to tell TBS they had found the guy, I wasn’t entirely sure that they meant me!
2 Who are your favorite late night hosts?
Conan is the one I watched all through college. David Letterman before that. I like what Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel are doing. Now I’m sound like I’m just dropping names, so I’ll stop.
3 Aside from making people laugh, what do you hope viewers take away from your show?
I’m a big believer that comedy has a ministering quality, that it can make people’s lives better. It’s a very cheap stance in comedy to be sarcastic and cynical all the time. So even if I’m being edgy or divisive or dirty, there’s still an undercurrent of ‘Life can be good.’”
4 Was there a pivotal moment when you realized you could be funny for a living?
I was kind of on track to becoming a youth pastor. I would get up at church and talk. I didn’t give sermons. But before church started, I would sing a silly song or tell jokes or do an impression of the pastor. And there were moments when people would tell me, ‘You could be a comedian.’
5 And you believed them?
It takes a lot of courage, or naivety, or arrogance, to believe that. But at some point in college, when people were gearing up for careers, I decided to take a run at this. And I’m very fortunate. Because I never feel more at home than when I’m creating comedy. I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life.
— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram