Stepping onto the set of HBO’s “Crashing,” you’ll find yourself standing in the center of what looks and feels like The Boston Comedy Club, but is actually just a really, really good replica.
The Judd Apatow-produced series, now filming its second season at Cine Magic East River Studios in Greenpoint, has found its niche breathing new life into the city’s shuttered comedy venues, most notably The Boston. Formerly at 82 W. 3rd St., the venue shut its doors in 2005 but remains a regular spot for the series’ frontman, Pete Holmes, thanks to a little on-set magic.
“It’s so crazy to see this place where we are now, The Boston. Even now it creeps me out. This place was so scary and it still is,” Holmes says, leaning into a worn leather seat cushion held together by strips of duct tape. The comedian chatted about his memories of The Boston inside the club stand-in on Stage A Tuesday in between filming the new season’s fifth episode, which resurrects another closed NYC favorite, Rififi.
From burned-out candles to dim mood lighting and tables lined with Yankees and Red Sox baseball cards, the on-set recreation of The Boston doesn’t skimp on the details, leaving Holmes to refer to the experience as otherworldly.
“Being here for the first time, I felt like I had seen a ghost, and now it is more pleasant,” Holmes says. “I’m a little bit more comfortable [now], especially more than in the first season.”
Holmes got his start in the city as a struggling comedian “barking,” or handing out club flyers without pay, at the former West Village club a decade ago. The series’ plot, loosely based on Holmes’ 2007 divorce and journey to stand-up stardom, sees his self-named character standing on street corners with yellow flyers in the hopes of bringing in enough customers to score his own set. “Barking” is a struggle Holmes says most New York comedians have endured.
Oren Brimer, who produces and directs the show alongside Holmes and Apatow, says he’s seen other comics experience the same wave of nostalgia when they see the set. “It’s that sort of ‘I’m seeing a ghost’ thing,” he says. “A ghost I’m scared of but also have fond memories of.”
Perhaps it’s the little details — like the strategically placed staples in the walls or the drink menus leading us to believe we can still order a $14 Boston Club Punch — that help the replica feel spot-on.
Holmes says comedians, including Dave Chappelle, have reached out to him after seeing the recreation on TV.
“When the show aired [Chappelle] got in touch with me and was like, ‘I can’t believe you built The Boston!’ So, that was a huge thrill, obviously,” Holmes says, adding that Chappelle has not yet had the chance to see the set in person. “I think he would get a kick outta seeing it because he used to sit up here and smoke,” he adds, motioning toward the small stage only a few feet away.
Holmes and Brimer talked us through a just how realistic a few key parts of onset recreation are.