For many students, college is about stepping outside the box and trying something new and maybe a little out of the ordinary. For 28-year-old comedian Pete Holmes, college was the time when he gave comedy a shot. And that shot paid off.
“My whole life people encouraged me to try [comedy], but it wasn’t until college that I felt like I had a real shot at it,” Holmes said. “Then, you give it a try and it’s very addictive and wonderful.”
Holmes, who makes regular appearances on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and Comedy Central, will make his second trip to NMU on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. in Jamrich 102. His appearance is part of Primetime Production’s winter semester lineup.
His first appearance on campus was part of the “Best Week Ever Live!” lineup last February.
Holmes said being part of VH1 is an amusing and fun experience that gives him the opportunity to use his creativity and improvise.
“It’s pretty relaxed,” he said. “You just flap your gums for a while, try and be funny, try and stay on topic and hope you make it on the air. You get the questions you’re going to be asked a couple days ahead of time, so you can prepare, but I usually don’t do too much — then it’d feel like a real job.”
But before making it big on television, the comedian’s career got off to a humble yet exciting start while he was still hitting the books and attending lectures.
“My first comedy job was doing cartoons for my school paper, which was a big thrill,” Holmes said. “Back then, it was $20 a pop, which I thought was incredible.”
Holmes took his comedic training to a new level when he studied at the Boston Improv Asylum, a comedy center that offers courses and teaches aspiring comedians everything from public speaking to thinking on your feet and tapping into your comedic voice.
Although improv may seem nerve-wracking to some, Holmes said performing regular standup comedy was what really got his heart racing.
“Standup made me a lot more nervous than improv ever did,” he said. “There’s a weird comfort in thinking ‘I don’t have to prepare, I just have to listen, respond and make scenes.’ It’s all off the cuff so you just go out there and have fun, what’s to remember? If you’re doing an hour of standup, you have to concentrate in a different way.”
Now, as a comedian with some experience behind him, Holmes has branched out into other avenues, while still keeping the most important thing-comedy-in mind. He currently works for “The New Yorker” as a cartoonist and at the popular Web site CollegeHumor.com. Holmes said the atmosphere at CollegeHumor is predictably laid back and relaxed.
“It’s almost exactly what you’d think,” he said. “Everyone’s wearing flip-flops and T-shirts in an incredible expensive downtown Manhattan office.”
And while pitching T-shirt ideas to CollegeHumor and flooding “The New Yorker” office with cartoons can keep some people rather busy, Holmes finds time to perform for college audiences — a crowd he favors.
“Colleges are smart, attentive, young crowds,” he said. “I love them. They tend to have good taste in comedy, too, as a lot of schools bring in a lot of comics.”
Kate Sartori, a senior outdoor recreation and leadership and management major and member of Primetime Productions, said she’s eager for Holmes’ performance and to see students laugh.
Sartori said Holmes was chosen to perform at Northern after members of Primetime Productions attended a National Association of Campus Activities conference. At the conference, student organizations can view acts and book them for the following year.
“I’ve watched some of Pete’s standup acts and he’s a very funny guy,” she said. “I’m excited to see what he’ll do here at NMU. I love comedy acts, seeing the students excited and happy when we bring a comedian is totally worth it.”
And although Holmes has only visited Marquette once, that one visit was all he needed to prepare himself for his upcoming trip.
“I was there about a year ago to do a ‘Best Week Ever Live!’ show, so I know what to expect. Namely, snow.”