Joe Pera Talks with Revue

Most comedians might take offense at knowing that their material helps people fall asleep. Then again, Joe Pera isn’t most comedians.

Perhaps best-known for his slow, soft-spoken style, and his beloved live-action TV series “Joe Pera Talks With You” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Pera has found humor in embracing the simplest of pleasures in life.

He first broke through with the animated short, “Joe Pera Talks You To Sleep,” which premiered on Adult Swim in 2016. That was followed by “Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree,” filmed in Marquette, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which went on to become the setting of his series.

Talking with REVUE via phone while driving in the UP after a show in Marquette last month, Pera, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, shared how he came to find a second home in our state.

“We were looking for somewhere in the Midwest where it was most likely to snow in October because Adult Swim said we could do whatever we wanted with the special as long as we had it finished by November to air in December,” he said of first coming to Marquette. “So we looked around and they were supposed to get snow the earliest in all of the parts in the Midwest, and also in a place that produces a lot of Christmas trees. So we ended up going up there. We didn’t get any snow, but through that process, realized that it was just the perfect place to set the show for the character. And the nature and the culture, it was like how a lot of stuff overlapped with how I grew up in Buffalo, but it allowed for some creativity and I was able to see a place with new eyes, which inspired a lot of ideas.”

For the three seasons “Joe Pera Talks With You” aired, before getting canceled in 2021, Pera stars as a fictional version of himself who works as a middle school choir teacher. In real life, Pera went to New York City to pursue comedy after graduating from Ithaca College, where he studied film, and also won the college’s stand-up competition three times.

“There’s a lot of personal stuff in the show and the character,” Pera said when asked about the widespread speculation regarding how close he is to the show’s character. “But I didn’t want to do another show about a comedian. So I chose a career that a lot of friends went into, music education. And I thought that was a possibility for me. Like, a road I didn’t take. And the show was kind of an exploration of that. So, I think it’s more interesting. The music teacher me is more interesting than comedian me.”

Last October he released his first-ever stand up comedy special, “Joe Pera: Slow and Steady,” independently on YouTube. It was a culmination of over a year and a half on the road, and well over a decade of doing stand up.

“I’ve been doing stand up since I was 18 years old, and I’ve never been able to tape the special, in part because of the show, which, it was great to make the show, but it kind of made me focus on the show for a while and not touring,” Pera said. “So I’ve had material and ideas that I wanted to shape into a special, and it was a dream to be able to do, even though it took a lot of the tour money from the last go around. It was a relief in a way. I did the best standup special I possibly could, based on a standard that I’ve been doing thus far. And now I can kind of make a fresh start with new material and new ideas, and I don’t know where that will go.”

With new fans discovering “Joe Pera Talks With You” on the streaming service Max, especially during the pandemic, when the gentle calmness of the show’s comedy felt quite needed, Pera said he would possibly like to do a film version of the show.

“There’s definitely more,” he said. “I have an ending in mind… I feel lucky we got three seasons on the air. But I do feel like Adult Swim didn’t realize how many people found it during the pandemic.”

Currently he hosts a monthly podcast, “Joe Pera Helps You Drift Off,” where he fully embraces helping people fall asleep as part of his comedy with his musical collaborator Ryan Dann and other guests.

“I’ve been wanting to do more sleep stuff,” he said. “We did an episode each season that’s especially relaxing but not sleep-based... I have been wanting to do a podcast, and when the show was cancelled, it was neat to do it without time restrictions, or really any creative boundaries. The podcast opened up so many more possibilities.”

Joe Pera
The PERAs Tour
Kalamazoo State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick, Kalamazoo
March 29, 7 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (show), $38-48 Reserved Seating, $43-53 Day of Show,

Story written by Eric Mitts.