Why I love Pete Holmes’ new Comedy Central special, “Nice Try, The Devil”

Confession: I have come a little late to Pete Holmes’ Comedy Central special. It aired a few days ago, which in Internet time makes me the LSD-ruined guy still hiding out in the in brush outside Saigon in 1985, unaware that the Vietnam War has been over for a decade. I’m late on account of how I couldn’t get my cable to work the night of the show, figured Time Warner was up to its old tricks, and tried to fix things by yelling “FUCK!” a few times and then just going to bed. A day later? Saw the unplugged power cord. Anyway, Pete’s special is now available both on iTunes and for purchase, in case you missed it the first time like I did.

To say that Pete Holmes is perhaps THE (thee) rising star of comedy wouldn’t be an overstatement at all. A stand-up, sitcom writer, cartoonist, voice actor, and proprietor of the beloved podcast “You Made it Weird,” Sir Holmes will move to late night in the fall as the host of a post-“Conan” series called “The Midnight Show.” I saw one of the three “Midnight” pilots Pete taped a few months back, and it was outright terrific. All of this means that my expectations for “Nice Try, The Devil” were high. How high? Guy in a bamboo forest hiding out from Charlie high.

First of all, how great is that title? I suppose I feel a certain fondness for it because I have a large tattoo across my arm that reads, “Devil L’Amour,” which is my childhood wrestling name given to me by my little brother/promotor Boney Maroney, and what of it?, my god, relax, it’s not that dumb. Anyway, great title. It’s taken from a joke Pete delivers near the end of his set, which I won’t ruin for you no matter how hard you beg, you unrepentant masochists.

Watching Pete tell jokes is refreshing, and that isn’t simply because he looks as wholesome as a loaf of Wonderbread or because he epitomizes the idiom “a tall drink of water.” It’s mostly because he manages to deliver a stream of sharp and cutting comedy that’s super engaging and even elicits genuine belly laughs all without ever becoming mean-spirited. Not only that, Pete often manages to be the opposite of mean-spirited, a term I can’t even think of because it’s so rare. Watch the clip above — it’s funny and insightful and downright life-affirming. And jokes like that don’t come around too often in the cesspool of misery the serves as the breeding ground for so much of stand-up comedy.

But Pete’s stuff is full of it. Even when he’s negative, or self-deprecating, he never actually gets mean. When Pete talks about Febrezing his bed before going to a party on the off-chance he might bring a girl home only to end up masturbating to the scent of stale Meadows and Rain all alone, it comes across not as pathetic, but as kinda charming. It’s the potential excitement of the night that ends up being most vivid in the joke, which just makes you imagine the scenario happening over and over again. And that’s so much funnier than the simple “I’m a loser” punchline! The whole special is full of little surprises like that, and I think Pete’s wholly-unshitty outlook is ultimately what’s going to keep his star a-rising. Personally, I can’t get enough of Pete’s brand of comedy — even though I’m a tired old grumpy wrestler named Devil L’Amour whose best fighting days are behind her.