Dec 12, 2022
They Deserve ALL the Damn Attention
I watch a lot of content. A whole lot of content. Someone has to, right? Otherwise, how would you people know what good stuff and quality talent is out there, especially in these days of everything-overload?
And, I love comedy, whether it be stand-up, movies, sitcoms, friends making me laugh—it doesn’t matter. I just love to laugh, often at myself, and that’s precisely what drew me into to the authentically talented and very down-to-Earth, candid queer comedian, improviser, actor, and writer Holmes Holmes (sometimes billed as just Holmes), the hysterically funny star (and I do mean STAR) of FOX’s new mockumentary sitcom Welcome to Flatch.
When Holmes and I spoke, we bonded over toes … broken toes. No, really—I’m serious. We hopped on Zoom to rap about who they are underneath the comedy and talent, their thoughts and opinions on life as it is today, the projects they’re working on, and, of course, the show, but the first place we went was to swapping toe stories, because they were home nursing a broken pinky.
“I broke it literally waking up out of my bed, and then I just walked into a weight that was in my room. I have these 10-pound weights that I try to keep … in my room because then when I pass them, I’ll do a rep, because that’s how my brain works, and I just ran into them with my pinky toe and, like, broke her,” Holmes says, right before asking me if I’d ever broken a toe, to which I was honest and said yes. Two of 'em.
After hearing about how I embarrassingly broke one of my toes, Holmes started giggling and said I had to include our stories in the article, and because I admire and respect them so much, this Dude shall abide.
“I broke it as a teenager at the beach," I started. "I had on this hot little bikini number, and I’d gotten up to try that Baywatch-style run into the water when my foot planted deep in the sand and got stuck, I tripped, and my body went one way and my toes--a particular toe--went the other."
It was an epic embarrassment. We laughed and talked more toes before getting back to the interview.
Holmes were born in Texas, then lived in Florida, mostly grew up in Omaha, then went back to Florida for college, then (as an adult) Chicago until the pandemic, then on to Kansas City to be with family, and now they’re out in Los Angeles for work.
“[T]he pandemic was horrible and obviously I would never choose for it to happen, but something positive that came out of it was people realizing they can live in different places and still work remotely,” they said. “This industry is also so look-based and shallow, and I’m not like that … it’s not that I hate what I look like … but I like to think about it the least of everything about me. I’d rather spend time thinking about my actions or what I’m creating so I definitely think that living somewhere else will be helpful with that because … you hear so many look-based things when you’re in this city.”
As star of the new FOX mockumentary sitcom Welcome to Flatch, which also airs on Hulu and stars Seann William Scott (American Pie) and Jaime Pressly (My Name is Earl), Holmes plays the lead role of Kelly Mallet. The show follows a documentary crew exploring the lives, dreams, and concerns of residents with eccentric personalities in the small (fictional) American town of Flatch, Ohio. The crew finds more-than-worthy subjects in cousins and best friends Kelly Mallet and Lloyd “Shrub” Mallet, played by the very talented and handsome Sam Straley (The Dropout). Ironically enough, Straley’s character’s last name on The Dropout was Holmes, so I find it magically fitting that his co-star in Flatch is literally named Holmes; they were absolutely meant to be. Kelly and Shrub spend their days hatching schemes and being themselves, and that’s the best part of the show: watching their organic shenanigans unfold.
Don’t get me wrong—the entire show and its cast are hilariously funny and worth multiple watches, but there’s something special about the energy oscillating between Kelly and Shrub that just sucks you right in as a viewer.
Flatch is Holmes’s first acting role, which is probably shocking to those who watch the show, because they operate with such a high level of comedic talent, you feel like you’re watching a veteran artist, minus the delightfully fresh and youthful appearance. Holmes isn’t just gifted in acting but also has some of the best, most organic improv skills on today’s scene. Not too much trips them up, short of a certain hot-tub scene with her co-stars Sam Straley and Jaime Pressly, and they’re constantly flowing within their own energy and being themselves. Watching them perform is like peering through a glass window into a family home full of hijinks. And love.
They. Are. Genius.
And, everything coming out of their mouth is effortless—so effortless, in fact, it’s easy for a viewer to forget they’re watching a TV show. While Flatch itself is scripted, Holmes says they are allowed some room for improvisation but, honestly, everything Holmes does in the show makes it seem like all of their lines are improvised. That’s how much of a natural they are.
And it doesn’t hurt that co-star Sam Straley (Shrub Mallet) is just as golden with comedic timing as Holmes is, so watching them together, feeding off of each other, is pure, unadulterated gut-bursting magic.
“I feel so grateful to work with Sam,” Holmes said, “because we both will let ourselves play, and we’re so tired at certain points and we get to places where we play, and I just wouldn’t want there to be anyone else to work with … yeah.”
They continued, “It took us a second, [but] now we’re really close. He’s one of my best friends in the whole world. I love him so much. When we first met, I think there was a learning curve for both of us, because I came from improv and it was my second audition, and he came from the acting world very intensely, [and] he did have some improv experience, but all the actor stuff had just sort of really hammered a different style into him.”
When asked what filming with Sam is like, they replied, “At first, I was adding lines left and right, and he was like, ‘Whoa,’ and I’d go, ‘Whoa,’ and I was like, ‘Why do you hate me? I’m funny!’ (laughs). But then, we’re both good communicators and we talked about it, and then what happened is that he’s made me a much better actor and he was already a good improviser, but I inspired him to remember he can play [around with improv because] Flatch isn’t like most shows. It’s a place where you can play. And now I really love him. He’s one of my best friends in the world.”
They didn’t stop there with their love for Sam: “He’s the best actor I know. He’s so talented. He can play Shrub so well, but it’s wild. When I do self-tapes with him, he can do anything … he can be scary, he can be a hot dick, and then he goes into Shrub, and it’s amazing.”
Don’t let Holmes’s humility fool you, though; they are just as amazing to watch and equally as talented, especially for the kind of turn-around time on which the show operates. Holmes says they switch directors every couple of episodes and they film so fast (3-3.5 days/episode), they are constantly learning lines at all times, and that can get intense. But there is room for their improv.
“We always get a script … and I’ll always give a take that is the script, but then I go back and add in some Holmes. If they say to take it back, I will, but sometimes they don’t say anything, so I keep doing it that way. Sam and I try to improvise and change it quite a bit.”
There’s a fantastic scene in Episode 3 that showcases Holmes’s improv skills, and it’s so hysterically funny, one can’t help but develop an appreciation for their talent and how it carries the rest of the show. If you watch it, it’s the scene where Kelly is making a pitch to Barb (Jaime Pressly) to hire her as an assistant in Barb’s real estate business.
The show just aired its second season, which somehow was even funnier than the first, so I had to know how Holmes holds it together on set with Shrub when filming and if people are always breaking character and, respectively, losing their shit.
“Well, we don’t hold it together great,” Holmes said through laughter. “I don’t make Sam break. I’ve probably only made him break twice, ever. [Episode 7] was the hardest in the whole entire time of working on the show not to break. When we were in the hot tub and stuff … I’m the worst at breaking of everyone. Sam does not break, really, whereas I really can’t struggle a lot. [In that scene], we were so tired at that point [during filming], and I could barely get through [one take in the hot tub]. I kept laughing because of Shrub’s persona with Barb. Every time I’d talk to him, he’s, like, kissing her ear or something and [that would make me break.]”
Holmes went on to tell me a little about what they think is so cool about the show, aside from their co-workers.
“I think one of the coolest parts of the entire experience is that all of the camera people are all women, so that is unheard of. It has to do with [Show Creator] Jenny Bicks and [Executive Producer] Paul [Feig] in a lot of ways. He really does care about having things be more equal in the industry than they are.”
I have to say it was refreshing to hear that some out there in the industry are fighting for equal rights because they see the importance in it. Holmes landed their role on the show after being discovered on Twitter a few years back. They posted a video that Paul Feig’s assistant saw and from that, Feig’s people reached out to a place where Holmes used to improv in Chicago and asked them to audition. It was only Holmes’s second audition ever.
While we aren't certain which video the assistant saw, Holmes's Instagram page has a ton of reels that'll have you closing your eyes from laughing so hard. You're gonna want to bring a bucket of popcorn for your stay.
“I was just doing improv every night and working a normal day job … at a gym selling memberships. I think it’s one of those things where it’s easy to get caught up in the life and find new things to get upset about, because that’s just how life works, but, I mean, I definitely really try to always remember how fortunate and lucky I am and how hard I worked to get to this place so I could be creative for my job,” they said.
Something most may not know about Holmes is that they operate daily with both A.D.D. and Anxiety, and they’re very open about it, which is very courageous and inspiring, because more people out there who struggle should feel safe enough to voice their thoughts and feelings. It’s how we heal … one way, at least.
“I think it makes me good at my job. I can hyper-focus, and now that I’ve learned about it, for me, moving outside and walking is helpful in controlling my A.D.D. It’s easier for me to think. I like to be moving. And now, because of my toe and not being able to walk, I’ve noticed a lot of my energy ruminating on negative thoughts. Now that I have this knowledge about [my issues], I’m able to realize I’m not in that bad of a place and this is only temporary.”
Anxiety can make doing anything in life tough for anybody, even with basic functions like getting out of bed each morning or going out in public, let alone doing improv in front of a room full of people or playing a character on screen. I had to know how Holmes’s anxiety affected them in their career.
“When I first started doing stand-up, because I was alone up there, I’d feel scared for a while [before I’d go on]. In the beginning of anything, I get nervous when I’d first start with art, but I don’t really have that now. I feel my anxiety is the worst within interpersonal relationships in my life. So, if I’m romantically interested in someone, or if I think a friend is mad at me, or I think I’ve disappointed someone close to me, that’s where my anxiety lies, whereas with performing in front of 300 people [who are] strangers, I kind of don’t feel scared. That’s where I love A.D.D.,” they said.
“At first, having A.D.D. and Anxiety together was really hard, because they both fight each other. And because we live under capitalism, they cared about the A.D.D. first. So, when I was first getting mental health help, they addressed the A.D.D. and put me on medicine … that makes your heart rate high, and so I’m having these heart palpitations and panic attacks because they were trying to make me focus with the anxiety untreated.”
When Holmes got to a stable place with their anxiety, they started looking at their A.D.D. from a different perspective, from someone who wasn’t trying to medicate them for it but instead was trying to teach them about it, and Holmes that really changed their life.
“Now I’m able to understand my hyper-focus is a skill, and with A.D.D. specifically, I almost need the anxiety sometimes. I need the pressure to come alive. … For me, to write new material, I normally sign myself up for a bunch of shows or reach out to people, because then I know I have the show coming, so now I have to get it done, so I use A.D.D. and Anxiety together [now], where [before] it used to be a thing I felt so paralyzed by both that I couldn’t do anything.”
Holmes has a solid network of support around them though, from friends, to family, to co-workers, to fellow comedians, and though Holmes loves acting, their heart lies deep in improvisation and they credit long-form improv with saving their life.
“Being able to be so free with my energy for years on stage in Chicago allowed me to release feelings through characters, and that saved me,” they said. “Laughter saves my life … and I feel ok right now, because I think I have such an amazing community [with comedians] and not just actors. I think if it was just actors all the time, it would feel harder, and it’s not their fault, because they’re getting self-taped in ways that describe them that aren’t true. I say no to a lot of self-tapes, because I’d rather spend time creating stuff, because it’s hard knowing you can create amazing and do amazing, but they see you in this box. That’s why I’m grateful to be a comedian, you know, because my comedian community doesn’t do that. It feels like we’re all making each other laugh and supporting each other.”
Some of their favorite comedians and influences include Kate Berlant and John Early. Holmes recalls seeing their videos in college and remembering they were some of the first people they saw who made Holmes feel like they could make their weirdness mainstream. They’re also “super-inspired” by Issa Rae.
“Not only is she so funny, but she’s groundbreaking,” Holmes said. “She changed TV for Black people completely. I look up to her both as a comedic influence and an icon.”
Then there’s Maria Banford.
“I look up to her because she talked about mental health so much in such a hilarious way, that I remember seeing when I was younger that meant the world to me. I really recommend her special on Netflix called The Special Special Special. She does it just for her parents. It’s just so weird and funny, and she’s so honest about it.”
Michaela Coel also made a huge impression on Holmes. Coel made the show I May Destroy You on HBO. Holmes says she’s such an influence on them, because she takes time away from the public eye between projects and encourages others to make self-care a priority and do the same.
“She has two shows: Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You, and both of them she took a break between and went offline, then came back with the best product ever and … she encouraged people not to be afraid to take time away. I just love her. I need to remember that because on purpose, this industry just wants to make money all the time, and every industry in America wants you to keep making money for them, so they don’t care about the quality of the art, and I just need to have people I can remember saying [that self-care is important].”
Holmes also credits her friend Molly Kearney with being a favorite and an influence. You might best recognize Kearney as the newest cast member on Saturday Night Live and the first openly nonbinary cast member. Woohoo! And, like Holmes, she is brilliantly fun to watch.
In discussing gender identity and commenting on seeing the world in terms of gray vs. black and white, and in terms of identifying as only male or female or this way or that, Holmes had this to say:
“I feel like every day is a different energy I try to listen to, and it’s also a good reminder because before you have words for things, you can’t explain them, and that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and so for me, as I get older, I want to be cautious and conscious about learning new stuff younger people are telling me about because I don’t want to be fighting change.”
They continued, “I just feel so fortunate to be a comedian. Some days I feel funny, and some days I want to create other types of art, so I see myself as an artist more than a comedian but being a comedian does save my life because of the community. When I’m not in the mood to do stand-up, I’ll continue having it as part of my career, always, because of the community and because of getting to be around people multiple times a week, who are just the funniest people alive right now. I’m part of an alternative scene, so I do get to be around queer people [and] I get to be around people who aren’t just the nightmares in stand-up. I get to be around the boys in stand-up. … Life is just so dark in many ways, and I think getting to be around funny people is just so healing.”
As far as what the role of Kelly Mallet means to them, Holmes paused then offered, “My siblings say that Kelly [has] always lived inside of me. I … had similarities to [her] in middle school, but [she] is a lot more confident than me, [but] it’s really nice to play her because she’s more masculine and more easily satisfied, and her resilience amazes me because she bounces back really fast.”
Holmes said playing Kelly is really fun and really freeing, but they noted there are differences.
“… I think I knew who she was at [my] core, so that’s how I was able to play her for auditions and improvise with her … I wish more people were like her, honestly. She totally changed my life … and she’ll always be a part of me.”
Holmes added they are truly grateful for FOX and Hulu and the show’s creators, as well as fellow mega co-stars Seann William Scott and Jaime Pressly, who’ve both given great industry advice when it was most needed.
Currently, the naturally gifted improv genius just wrapped up a benefit show in Kansas City with dear friend and improv collaborator Caleb Hearon to raise money for Kansas City residents who are unhoused. Holmes is also working on another KC-based project with Caleb, Jax Media, and Our Lady J, and they’re also working on an hour-long stand-up special for a tour.
Wherever you can find Holmes online, on TV, in a club, or randomly doing humble, cool shit to help those in need, I strongly encourage you to sit still and engage in soaking up their talent and positive energy. It’s genuinely one of the funniest, most natural, and relatable experiences you’ll ever have.
This comedic badass is one worth noting, following, madly supporting, and telling all your friends to watch. I know it sounds like I’m totally crushing on them and, I’ll be honest, I kind of am, but you will, too, as soon as you watch their stand-up, TikTok videos, Instagram videos, movie shorts, and, of course, Welcome to Flatch, then get sucked into what they’re doing simply because they’re just being who they are. And that, my friends, is genuine talent that is beyond refreshing.
So, come with me and jump all up on their bandwagon. The party’s just getting started.
For more information on Holmes, you can find them online at www.HolmesHome.me, on Instagram @_holmes_holmes, and on TikTok @_holmes_holmes. And if you haven’t seen Welcome to Flatch, you can catch that on FOX NOW, Hulu, Spectrum TV, Vudu, Prime Video, or Apple TV.
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