“Julie” is the best episode of Crashing to date simply because it synthesizes the two sides of the series — the professional and the personal — very well. It tells a cohesive, funny story that engages with both Pete’s life in comedy and his struggle with his divorce, all while featuring its patented Apatowian digressions, Holmes’ brand of “fun dad” comedy, and even a vulgar “reveal.” Crashing has had an uneven debut season often because Holmes and Apatow have had trouble balancing its two sides, especially because the inside look into the stand-up scene is so much more interesting than Pete’s divorce, but here, everything lines up wonderfully.
The first half of the episode features Pete riding high on his new job doing warm-up for The Rachael Ray Show. By all accounts, he’s a great fit for the job, largely because his personality fits the daytime TV audience. However, he’s not receiving a uniformly positive reaction from fellow comedians or club owners. When he tells an emcee at an open mic to announce his “credit” before he goes on stage, the guy rolls his eyes and plays it as a joke to the audience (“Warm-up, where comedians go to die”).
Are Pete’s fellow comics being kind of dickish to him about his new gig? Yes. Doing warm-up for a daytime talk show is still a paying gig, and it’s not necessarily where comics go to die. However, Pete’s arrogance still rankles, especially when he believes that the job gives him the permission to cut the line in front of working comics who’ve been at it much longer. Pete believes that he’s paid his dues, but the truth is that he hasn’t, and acting like he’s better than club comics because he does his job in a glitzy studio doesn’t help. Holmes portrays his character’s frustration and his naiveté honestly, and he doesn’t allow one to overwhelm the other. It’s understandable that he thinks a credit gives him some leverage, but he also overplays his hand with one of the many gatekeepers in the business.
The second half moves into slightly more farcical territory before backing out of it completely. Pete receives a call from Leif’s wife, Julie (Jenn Lyon), who isn’t aware that he already knows about Leif’s relationship with Jess. She meets with him for lunch, and essentially wants him to help her prove infidelity so she doesn’t have to pay Leif half of her fortune. Uncomfortable with her Shania Twain-influenced sexuality and his potential involvement in a complicated divorce suit involving his wife’s new lover, Pete tries to back out of it any way that he can, even ignoring Leif when he finds him on the street and begs him not to blow his cover.
Unfortunately, things go south at the Rachael Ray taping when Pete sees Vanessa Bayer (played by herself) discuss her experience of infidelity in high school and how it helped her discover new reservoirs of self-esteem. Pete, moved by her confession, tells the Rachael Ray audience about his divorce and how his ex-wife cheated on him, not knowing that Julie is sitting in the audience.
At this point, there’s a certain direction this story typically goes: Julie, furious at Pete’s lies, makes a scene during the taping and gets him fired from his job. But Holmes neatly goes in a different direction, and instead his own behavior gets him canned from a plum gig. After Julie abruptly leaves the taping, Pete has an awkward time finding his footing and quickly tries to do some crowd work by singling out Elsa, a woman who has been married for 52 years and believes the secret to making a relationship last is love. Then, Pete finds a guy in the audience who proclaims that the secret is oral sex, prompting Pete to riff on blowjobs for like three minutes, all while implicating the increasingly uncomfortable Elsa. Unfortunately for Pete, he finds out later that Elsa is Rachael’s mother and that he’s fired. Cut to him barking on the street corner, begging strangers to come see “great live comedy.”
It’s a nice structural choice, considering the clean vs. dirty debate that Pete had with Jason earlier in the episode. Though Pete’s “dirty” material, which is still fairly clean, goes over well with the majority of the Rachael Ray crowd, it still ends up biting him in the ass by the end. Was it bad luck or was he playacting as someone he’s not? Holmes plays it close to the chest, but I’d wager it’s a little bit of both. Pete was thrown by Julie’s appearance at the taping, and because he wasn’t confident, he leaned into rougher material to get him through and ignored Elsa’s discomfort. However, he also had no idea whether Elsa was just a regular dissatisfied patron or the mother of a prominent talk show host who employs him. Show business doesn’t get better than a cushy warm-up gig, as Dave Attell told Pete earlier, but it’s still a cruel mistress.
-The Chicken Wing guy counsels Pete on sending dick pics. His rules are 1) It’s courteous to reply to a “clam pic” with a dick pic, and 2) You don’t have to use your own dick for dick pics, but the picture has to be similar because “you don’t want your dick pic to cash a check that your real dick can’t cash.”
-Attell has a great joke at Artie’s expense: “The guy always looks like he just got divorced but he’s never been married.”
-Pete’s best line when talking about Leif to the Rachael Ray audience: “He’s named after foliage that people drive to Vermont to see him in the fall.”
-Pete comes down hard on “rock ‘n’ roll” comics with Jason: “Vagina’s are weird. Get over it!”