Nine years ago, I met Pete Holmes at a comedy show in lower Manhattan. I remember him laughing at this goofy bit I did about my Texan dad pronouncing fajitas “frojitos.” From the stage, I thought, Well, that guy likes my comedy. I was new to stand-up and thankful for the validation, especially from a more seasoned performer. I’m a freshman, and a senior dug my joke! Cool!
Months later, we ran into each other at a mutual friend’s holiday party. Full of whiskey and holiday cheer, Pete and I started doing bits like we had been friends for years. At one point in the night, we even called my mom. She had seen him perform a few months before and had enjoyed his set, so the gist of the convo was, “Mom, I’m with that guy from that show. Here, talk to him.” Needless to say, a few weeks later, we started dating. Clicking with a person’s sense of humor works like a drug in that way. When Pete and I met, we doped each other up, so becoming a unit seemed like the logical next step.
One struggle we faced in the relationship stemmed from the fact that some of my comedy peers assumed Pete was “helping me” with my career. That’s why when Pete asked me to be on the dais for his 30th-birthday roast, I hesitated to accept. See, the roast took place during Whiplash, arguably the most prestigious show in the city. As a baby comedian, I hadn’t been booked on it yet, and I wasn’t sure this was the best way to break that seal. Sure enough, during the roast, a more veteran comedian on the dais made a joke about how this was the only way I could get booked. It legitimately made me howl with laughter, until one of my peers stood up in the middle of the otherwise-seated audience and started slow-clapping, like, Finally! Someone is calling Jamie out! Bravo! He even locked eyes with me while applauding the joke, to turn the knife in my stomach just a bit more.
When Pete recommended me to a show in Brooklyn a few weeks later, I completely lost my shit on him. “Do you know what this looks like? I don’t need you to elevate me! I have to go at my own pace!” He only did it because he believed in me and thought the booker should know who I was, but I didn’t see it that way. I didn’t have enough faith in myself at that point to think, Oh, maybe I am good enough to do the show. I just cared about the Slow-Clapper, his cohorts, and their opinion of me.
A few months later, Pete and I broke up over the phone. He was in Los Angeles, and I was in Brooklyn, so I couldn’t engage in a cathartic in-person yell-a-thon. I just had to accept it, which meant tearfully schlepping my broke ass through the snow every day to write breakup jokes at a coffee shop. I did not envision a future that included Pete in any real way, except maybe a polite exchange of “hellos” if we happened to be on the same show.
Three months passed, and I was thriving, in that way you do when you are newly single and refocused on yourself. I had made it to the semifinals of Last Comic Standing and started touring colleges, and I was ten pounds lighter because um hi, breakup diet of cappuccinos and man-loathing. I felt strong and empowered. My independence had been reclaimed!