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Having both Comedy Central and The New Yorker on your resume says something about range, or maybe it’s versatility. And that’s not even all there is to Pete Holmes’s work history: he’s written for sitcoms including Outsourced and hosts a podcast, “You Make It Weird,” while the second season of late-night TV’s “The Pete Holmes Show” starts February 24 on TBS.
What was the catalyst for your going veg?
I wish I had a great answer for this, like a cow-saved-my-family-from-a-flood story. I mean, how cool would that be? “Finally ashore safely, I vowed my people would forever be a friend to the cow.” But the truth is pretty simple: I feel better when I eat plants, and animals are sentient co-inhabitants on this planet that would prefer to live. Even if they didn’t save you from a flood.
You’ve called yourself a “flegan.” What is that, exactly?
Flexible vegan! It’s catching on. (Not really.) It means I’m not a vegan, just most of my food is. If I go to a big family-style dinner with my friends and they’ve made pasta with a smidge of Parmesan cheese in the sauce, I’ll eat it. I’m there to share some community with my friends; I put experiences and laughs over technicalities.
Once you hear “I’m a vegan,” you start to think of what the person doesn’t eat—like a big “no-no” list hanging over their head. I like to keep it positive and talk about what I do eat. Like screaming, “Get into these tomatoes!!” at picnics. Also, I’m into all that superfood-raw-plant-nut-berry-cacao stuff that if we’re being honest is popular because it gets you high. Not “drug” high, but a clean, happy, energetic, positive high that is good for you and sometimes tells you screaming about tomatoes at a picnic is a good idea.
How did “The Pete Holmes Show” audience react to last November’s episode on vegetarianism?
People got it! We did a monologue about how eating animals is messed up and had Deepak Chopra as the guest to discuss diet. I never, ever want to come off preachy, but sometimes comedy can be a nice way to sneak in some positive ideas like, “Pigs are very intelligent.”
What did you learn about comedy from studying improv?
Being present, listening, cooperating, and building on what’s given. The same principles of good improv are good for life in general.