For the past few episodes, Pete has taken it in the shins. His wife left him for another man. He got kicked out of his home. He’s been sleeping on strangers’ couches. He has faced one humiliating experience after another. Sure, that group of Japanese tourists saved his ego that one time, but that was a minor victory, something to keep him going until the next day’s batch of embarrassment. In this week’s episode, Pete finally succeeds — and all he needed was a small push from a kind soul.
“Warm-Up” isn’t a great episode of television, let alone a great episode of Crashing, but it features the best scene in the series so far. Here’s the setup: Sarah Silverman offers Pete a place to stay in her enormous home after she learns that Pete is de facto homeless and makes no income. She gets him a potential job as a warm-up comic — a.k.a. the guy who pumps up the crowd at live tapings — at The Rachael Ray Show, but Pete quickly learns that he’ll basically be an understudy for their main guy (played by Allan Havey, whom you might recognize as Lou Avery on Mad Men). It’s not a great job, and it doesn’t guarantee employment, but because Pete is Pete, he’s excited about the opportunity anyway.
Except the main warm-up guy is a bitter, intense maniac who’s done the job for way too long and takes his rage out on anyone around him. He’s furious before he even knows why Pete is in the studio, and then when he finds out, he goes ballistic, talking about how he’s digging his own grave and threatening Pete not to steal any of his material. “Nobody owns, ‘Who’s from far away?’” Pete counters. “Nobody owns, ‘Any birthdays here?’ These are free for everyone!”
A long-time comic and character actor, Havey excels in this role and steals every moment he’s onscreen. Kudos to Holmes for basically getting out of the way any time Havey goes on a rant. However, his small bursts of fury about the Rachael Ray crowd or Pete’s presence on set are nothing compared to his full-blown meltdown at the crowd. After being asked to do five more minutes of time as the crew fixes some technical difficulties, Havey just unleashes years of pent-up bile at the unsuspecting audience, turning it into a rant about lazy Americans, parental responsibilities, and consumerism. It’s a specific type of comedian’s rant that Crashing absolutely nails and there may not be a better person to perform such a tirade than Havey, whose character builds from a place of disappointment to full-blown rage. “You know when I said you’re a great audience?” he says before he’s carted off-set by security. “I lied. You’re a shitty audience. And Gwen? Nobody gives a fuck about your birthday.”
Now, it’s Pete’s time to shine. He’s basically shoved in front of the crowd to win back the audience, and it comes as no surprise that he kills. With his winning, nonconfrontational personality and generally silly charm, he’s a perfect match for a daytime cooking-show audience that just wants free Kit Kat bars and a chance to mildly dance to a well-worn beat. He briefly comments on Havey’s rant (“I feel like Dad just yelled at us on the way to Disneyland!”) before pushing good vibes onto the audience, who quickly accepts him as the lovable guy he is. As a result of his efforts, he acquires the job and finally has a steady source of income.
It’s a shame that the rest of the episode never rises above the level of filler. As tight and specific as that great Rachael Ray scene is, every other scene in “Warm-Up” feels humdrum and dull — not actively terrible or anything, but never compelling either. Though Silverman does a damn good job playing her charming self, and her housemates Steve Agee and Dave Juskow are occasionally delightful, there are still too many throwaway moments in an episode that’s a mere 28 minutes long. It’s sweet to see Sarah encourage Pete to leave her home and treat himself to a hotel room with an actual bed, and the podcast scene with Lange had some good wisecracks (“You were thinking about centerpieces while you were getting a blow job?”), but other than that, the episode leaves a lot to be desired.
Six episodes into Crashing, it still remains a frequently frustrating watch. Not because it hasn’t reached its potential, but because it has shown that potential and still falls back on lazy scenes that don’t accomplish much. Give me a well-constructed episode like “Barking” that has a clear beginning, middle, and end rather than an episode like “Warm-Up” that has one phenomenal scene and a bunch of others that don’t match up. It’s tough, but as Silverman says while she’s teaching Pete how to smoke pot, you eventually need to stop talking about the high and just exist. Crashing needs to just exist.
• Jermaine Fowler’s character kicks Pete out of his apartment at the beginning of the episode, telling him that his cousin is coming to town. When his other roommate asks if Pete bought his lie, Fowler responds simply, “I do not care.”
• When Sarah asks if Pete is homeless, he says, “Not all those who wander are lost,” which is both a great response and a definitive answer to that question.
• Havey screams at the Rachael Ray stage manager to tell him if there are any surprises in the crowd: “Copy this down: Tell me when there are people in the crowd who have a disability or are from fuckin’ Spain!”
• “What are you doing here? Learning about secrets of cinnamon?! Go home! Read a goddamn book. Spend some time with your children!”