For the most part of Pete Holmes: I Am Not For Everyone, we couldn’t get a handle on the comedian. He had the energy and voice for a rude stand-up special, but on the other hand, his material was about everything nice and safe. The one time he tried to be risky, it was via the most vanilla route, and though he tried to assure us multiple times that he was not trying to offend but just pushing boundaries, we couldn’t help but think that neither of those things had really been achieved.
We just couldn’t understand why the material on the stand-up set did not work. It is natural to not always laugh out loud when watching comedy on a screen, but we know the material is good when we have a smile on our face or, at least, when we stay engaged because the punchlines or the storytelling have caught our attention. I Am Not For Everyone did not lack effort, but there is nothing to be done sometimes when the material just does not hit. Or perhaps, true to the title, this was not for us?
Pete Holmes said a lot of the right things, and we will agree that in a normal conversation, he might have been amusing. He talks about fatherhood, gay people, some homophobia, and just getting old in general. These are very relatable topics that should have gotten an easy laugh out of us. But relatability has become akin to walking on a tightrope of late because of its predictability. Everything that needed to be said has been said, rephrased, reworked, and commented upon in multiple contexts. Despite that, relatable comedy still remains a great pot to borrow from, as long as one can maintain the element of surprise. The audience likes to think that they know what is going to come. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t, but only the comedian knows how he is going to surprise them. We don’t know about others, but whenever we see a male comedian talking about fatherhood and other topics that he considers NSFW, we almost always know the pattern. Yet, we keep watching simply because we have the fear of missing out. Not all of it is bad, though. Like we said, there is always a different style, an unexpected comparison, or a punchline that makes it worth it. And most times, that is all we want.
The relationship between the audience and the comedian is a rather funny one. A sense of humor is one of the most coveted qualities in any human being. It is what most people look for in their friends, partners, and colleagues, and most friendships are formed through a good joke on a relatable topic. That means that when we like a comedian, we start believing in it as an unspoken friendship. The line that ‘comedy is a conversation’ may be a tired one, but it is true, and you would not laugh and talk with someone if you did not consider them your friend. It is up to the comedian to work with this feeling. Some are acquired tastes, some are instant hits, and some become the love of your life.
Either way, we always try to emulate something about the people we like, whether they are friends or people on the internet, and the thing about comedians that everyone aspires to is their way of talking. In fact, someone did say that the successful comedian is the one who has people trying to talk and think like him in their everyday lives. That is also why we seek out artists (comedians included) who share our values and talk about things we are interested in. If you like talking about your everyday life, then there will be artists giving you what you want. That is why we believe that Pete Holmes chose alright with his material, and he seemed to understand that this is what his audience expected from him. But we still cannot accept that he could not catch the pulse of the audience even once. People in the audience seemed to laugh, and we were not just talking about the laugh tracks. But we find it hard to believe that it was because the joke was that good. It seemed more like the effect of being in the presence of his energy, his targeted eye contacts, and some of the material, which may not have been funny but ended up getting a reaction nonetheless. To each his own, and perhaps if we had spent the hour being in the actual audience rather than behind a screen, we may have had a more decent time, but even then, we refuse to believe that this was funny.
We don’t hate the comedian, and we are open to giving him another chance despite our feelings about Pete Holmes: I Am Not For Everybody because we could see that he cared. We will always love an artist who cares. He had the energy, he made the right connections, and he tried his very best to engage the audience. But sometimes, it just doesn’t work, but that is okay because Pete Holmes proved something. Even though this is the only time we have seen him perform, we can tell that he must have had better days and funnier jokes. We were charming enough that we were intrigued, but we cannot, in good faith, recommend this special to anyone. I Am Not For Everyone has been called a ‘feel-good’ set-up. He was unfiltered, and we have to admit that he showed his capability as a good storyteller. But he just needed a better story. But for what it was, the set was well-connected, and we agree with his idea about the New Year.
For what it is worth, the audience seemed to love Pete Holmes, despite his set. We could feel the ‘golden retriever’ energy from him and understand what makes him so easy to like. We just have to hold our breath for a more deserving set.