I had the pleasure of attending American comedian Pete Holmes‘ set at this years Just For Laughs Vancouver, with opening acts Canadian comedian Malik Elassal. The show was an absolute blast, with each comedian bringing their unique perspective to the stage.
The night started with Malik Elassal, a rising star in the comedy scene. Elassal’s set was full of witty observations and hilarious anecdotes about his life as a Lebanese person living in Canada. One particularly memorable bit was about his friend named Jihad, and how his name caused some awkward situations at the airport, which had me howling with laughter. Malik also spoke about his former-heroin-addict uncle, who was notorious for giving out less than helpful advice. His astute and unexpected punchlines kept the audience in stitches throughout his set.
Next up was the man of the hour, Pete Holmes. The energy in the room immediately shifted as the crowd erupted in applause. From the moment he took the stage, it was clear that Holmes was in complete control of the room. His set touched on a range of topics, from the joys and challenges of being a father to a toddler to his relationship with his Boston-born hard-ass dad. He also spoke candidly about getting fat during the pandemic, which led to some hilarious self-deprecating jokes many us can align with.
Holmes’ material was brilliantly crafted, blending clever wordplay and absurd scenarios with an unparalleled ability to riff off the audience. He joked about jerking off, being a husband, and his mom’s struggles with technology. Each joke was carefully constructed to make you think, and then it would quickly take a sharp turn to leave you laughing abruptly.
What really stood out about Holmes’ set was his ability to balance the silly with the smart. His jokes were mostly playful and jovial and even when he was delving into more outrageous territory, he managed to do it with a sharp wit radiating from his writing. Don’t get it wrong, Mr. Holmes doesn’t steer clear of dick and fart jokes, but he serves them up with purposeful intent. It was clear that Holmes had put in a tremendous amount of work to perfect his material, and the payoff was a set that had the entire room in stitches.
All in all, the show was a fantastic night of comedy that had the audience begging for more. Both comedians brought their own unique perspective to the stage, and the result was a showcase of some of the best talent in the industry. Pete Holmes in particular was a standout, putting on an absolute clinic and showing why he’s considered one of the best in the business. As a huge fan of the stand-up comedy world for several decades, and having the chance to see some of the best to ever grace the stage, I will say Mr. Holmes is a rare breed. He is a perfect blend of three main characteristics that many other stand-ups do not commonly possess at the same time; he’s an outstanding writer, he’s naturally funny, and he is highly intelligent. If you have the chance to see him live, I highly recommend you jump at the opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.
Check out the remaining dates for this years Just For Laughs Vancouver 2023, which runs until February 25th.