HBO has been knocking it out of the park with a stream of indie comedies, and the latest is no exception, from the comedian and host of the You Made It Weird podcast. Is Crashing based on Pete Holmes' real life? The series, about a fledging comedian whose wife cheats on him and leaves him to crash on the couches of fellow comedy folk, has a basis in personal suffering.
According to HBO, the show is inspired by Holmes' early stand-up career, drawing from his own experiences. In an official HBO Q&A, Holmes says that Crashing "is loosely based on my real-life events, so every scene we shot had some sort of true emotional touchstone for me, which made keeping the show authentic much easier. I grew up religious and married the first person I dated when I was 22, and she left me when I was 28, so there’s definitely a parallel there."
While the characters are different, his own divorce and entry into the NYC comedy scene is real — even though it happened 10 years ago, when he was much younger. "Everything we wrote or shot has something real that inspired it," says Holmes, "even though by the end, things had changed so much that it was a new story for the most part."
In an interview with Vulture, Holmes and Apatow discussed other elements of real life that made it into the show. When asked about religion, a topic that the comedian openly and often discusses in his work, Holmes said "if I get to sneak in something about having a fuller understanding of the divine, that’s a bonus, but I don’t think that’s the agenda of the show." At the end of the day, "the show is a tip of the hat to suffering," he says.
A recent Vanity Fair piece mentions that Holmes pitched the series to Judd Apatow, who is an EP on Crashing, on an episode of the TBS series The Pete Holmes Show. Back in 2014 Apatow rejected the idea, saying that it was far too sad. Look where they are now!
So while several elements are made up, and guest comedians like Sarah Silverman, T.J. Miller, Lauren Lapkus, and Steve Agee are not exactly playing themselves — this show has a lot of truth and takes the classic "comedian starring in a sitcom about his standup career" to a different, humble, and even darker place.