Comedian Pete Holmes told Malia Obama to ‘please shut the [expletive] up’ while performing in Somerville

Lexington native and comedian Pete Holmes performed at a show in New York City in 2013.
Lexington native and comedian Pete Holmes performed at a show in New York City in 2013.Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Lexington native Pete Holmes was set to perform stand-up comedy in Somerville recently when he noticed two women in the front row whispering throughout the show before he took the stage — and he didn’t take well to the distraction.

“Like it’s worse than heckling,” Holmes told late-night host Conan O’Brien on Thursday. “What a Black Mirror nightmare to be doing stand up, and there’s two attractive girls — which is what made every nerd into a comedian — in the front row whispering and laughing at people on the stage, but in a bad way.”

The pair turned out to be former President Obama’s oldest daughter Malia Obama — a student at Harvard University in Cambridge — and her friend. But Holmes didn’t know that.


So when it was finally Holmes’s turn to deliver his set at the Comedy Studio, where he first got his start, he took action.

“And then I go on last, and I tell a joke, and they’re whispering and laughing and giggling, and I’m just like, ‘What’s going on? I can see you,’ ” Holmes said. “They were in the front row. They were in the light. Like the spotlight was on them as well. And I just go, ‘What’s going on? I can see you, please stop.’ ”

He told another joke — but Obama and her friend didn’t stop, and Holmes said he grew increasingly irate. When he tried asking them to ‘please cut it out’ again, and that didn’t work either, the niceties were over.

“Then I get a little more like, ‘Shut up. Look at my face. I’m here to help,’ ” he said to O’Brien, a Brookline native. “But you know, you push Petey too far. I’m like, ‘Please, shut the [expletive] up.’ ”

At a certain point, Holmes said he went so far as taking the curtain and wrapping it around them.


“And I go, ′I don’t care. Enjoy the show however you want. I just don’t want to see you,’ and I cover them with the curtain,” he said. “I thought this would get a big laugh. Nothing. The whole audience turns on me.”

Much to his chagrin, it was after the show that Holmes said he found out it was Malia Obama.

Conan interjected and asked, “Who let you put a curtain around President Obama’s daughter? Why weren’t you shot?”

Holmes said he was wondering the same thing.

“I’ve never gotten off stage and been like, ‘Why wasn’t I shot?’ Or at least a little laser beam like you’re trying to entertain a cat on my face,” he said. “I covered them. I was like, ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up. You should vanish.' "