Pete Holmes Is An Unapologetic Dork In ‘I Am Not for Everyone’
It’s hard to remember a popular stand-up comic more aggressively uncool than Pete Holmes. He even taped his new (and first) Netflix special, I Am Not For Everyone in gosh-darn Minnesota. That’s no diss on Minnesota — love the lakes, guys — but it’s also not Dodger Stadium or a smoky venue in Brooklyn, to name two venues I’ve seen in recent specials. Even an audience full of Midwest-nice comedy fans seems to get that this guy in the paunchy jean jacket isn’t getting elected Homecoming King anytime soon.
But just as John Mulaney believes that freedom from “needing to be liked” is a road to more interesting laughs, Holmes has an uninhabited joie de comedy that stems from not needing to be hip. He’s the kind of guy who randomly calls out “I love being married!” Let’s call it “refreshingly goofy.”
If anything, Holmes celebrates his lack of cool. He admires the pandemic-powered buff body of his pal Kumail Nanjiani but has no desire for a swole frame of his own. One of his best bits in Not For Everyone extols the virtues of Holmes’s own soft torso. Holmes is a guy who breathes heavily while taking video of other people doing physical activity, but his lack of fitness gives him the perfect hug bod.
“You ever hugged someone who’s jacked? I’ve hugged Kumail. There’s no healing, there’s no catharsis,” he complains. But if you hug Holmes’ Tempur-Pedic mattress body? “There’s memory foam coating over every inch of my body. You hug me, there’s a sink and a sizzle.” A hug with Holmes, he says, is like the unexpected pleasure of sitting on a padded toilet seat.
It’s not all milk and cookies. Holmes is known as a clean comic, but somehow he works more dick jokes into an hour of stand-up than others with much filthier reputations. Turns out it’s possible to talk about the mysteries of newlywed sex and motorboating one’s wife (with a pause to explain the whole motorboating concept) while still delivering a profanity-free show. He also does an extended rant on his desire to buy a dildo — based on the assumption that everyone’s phones are listening and will start serving up embarrassing Instagram ads for fake phalluses.
Holmes’ belief in a higher power has been part of previous comedy specials, and like politics, religion is a topic that can easily divide an audience. But Holmes has a way of exploring the underpinnings of atheism that withholds judgment while finding common ground about the mysteries of the universe, all while citing the wisdom of Joseph Campbell and the road manager for AC/DC. For those of you about to rock, Pete Holmes salutes you.
There are a lot of comics out there who are smart. Plenty that one could describe as cynical. But how many of today’s funny people are downright silly? Holmes's good-natured goofiness is a fun respite from the comedians who feel the need to give us their hot take on social issues or complain about cancel culture. In a comedy world full of cutting-edge clowns, it doesn’t hurt to have a good-natured dork along for the ride.