Even though violence, gore, and sex fill Adult Swim’s airwaves, there are still wholesome rays of positivity that shine through the nihilism. Joe Pera Talks With You is almost anti-comedy in how simple and genuine it is. Spun off from his popular infomercial specials, Joe Pera’s series looks at his various mundane passions as he tries to give the audience a brief education on these topics of his choosing. Pera’s unique, gentle personality and the unusual comedic sensibilities of the show’s creative team, Conner O’Malley and Jo Firestone, result in a program that is truly like no other.
The first season of Joe Pera Talks With You made a strong impression. Season 2 only continues that goodwill and pushes Joe to more unexpected places.
With the show returning on December 6th at midnight, we had the opportunity to talk with Joe Pera about what’s ahead, the powerful majesty of lighthouses, and what his dream episode would look like. You can read our spoiler-free review of season 2 here, and the full audio of the interview is available as part of The Fourth Wall podcast, included below.
DEN OF GEEK: In what ways were you trying to push yourself with the show’s second season and go even further than what you did in the first year?
JOE PERA: We wanted to make sure that every episode felt different and that out subject matter was varied enough. We wanted to maintain the same tone as the first season, but still be able to have this stand on its own and give more time to other characters that we hadn’t gotten to spend enough time with in the first season. We also did an episode about lighthouses, which I think was pushing our boundaries in a lot of ways. We got to shoot at a lighthouse, too! I’ve got to say that was kind of the highlight. Oh yeah, we also shot in Milwaukee in an art gallery! That’s probably our version of going big.
It’s always good to film stuff inside because it’s an easy production, but part of the fun of this show if just how it follows whatever I’m interested in and where that takes things. Last season I got to ride a snowmobile, which was great. It’s kind of neat the way that we broke this lighthouse story this season and then you find yourself at a lighthouse. We also do an episode where I take the audience on a hike, so we got to shoot in the woods, which was really a lot of fun. Shooting outside can be tough, but it’s a lot of fun and often more interesting.
You touched on how this season kind of shares the spotlight with the show’s various supporting characters. Was it satisfying to get to deepen Joe’s relationship with them this year?
Definitely. It was so enjoyable to come up with ideas for other characters and expand the show in various ways. Jo Scott, who plays Sue Melsky, is such a fantastic actress that it’s fun to give her more to do. I help edit the show with the director and often I don’t want to be watching myself for all of that time on camera, so it’s better when other people can fill up an episode. I’d rather watch somebody else.
Along those lines, things get closer between Joe and Sarah this year as they enter into a relationship together. Was it nice to expand on their dynamic and share the spotlight with her a little?
Yeah, she’s certainly a much funnier and better performer than I am. She’s the best. So to be able to write more for her has been great. Last season we kind of grew closer together, but this year we’re officially in a relationship and it’s really sweet.
Similarly, this season has more of a serialized vibe than the first one. Events from previous episodes are definitely referenced more and there’s a sense of progression.
Yeah, I hope so. I mean the goal is always to be able to turn on an episode and be able to just enjoy the subject matter or story. I think it’s more enjoyable to watch if you see things continue to grow. To have continuity, not just story-wise, but with characters from previous episodes who can have storylines of their own, it’s great.
Have you been shocked by the reception and fandom that the show has received? It’s really nice that something so wholesome can foster such a passionate online community.
That’s really nice that people like the show. We did a tour last year and it was just nice that people came out to it. People who like the show seem to have a nice kind of people and they’re fun to talk to and mild. We just want to create something nice that you can fall asleep to at night and come away from with a sweet feeling. It’s just a nice straightforward show where maybe you learn a little bit. There are no tricks or cheats. So the fact that people can enjoy this show and its slower pace is really, really neat. It’s the same with my standup. You hope people get on board with the slower stuff and it’s great when they do.
Is there a certain episode from the first season that you held up as a benchmark and do you think you’ve topped it this year?
There was a bunch of stuff to be proud of in every episode. We really wanted to make everything feel different or for there to even be a set model for how to do a new episode. I was particularly proud of the fall drive episode. I just like how it connects its story and has this very complete feeling to it. It was a bit of a big swing, but I think it worked out.
The breakfast episode is another favorite of mine and the grocery shopping episode from this season is kind of similar in scope to that one. In both I kind of continue on with a monologue but still encounter new characters and get into their space. They’re still very different, but Conner O’Malley wrote both of those ones. We wanted every new episode to feel like something that the audience hadn’t seen before.
Are there any topics that you wanted to touch on this year, but couldn’t for whatever reason?
Yeah, we had a storyline where Gene gets a penguin as a pet, but that unfortunately didn’t make it in. There was also a canoe trip episode where Gene and I would go canoeing, and kind of a do a riff on this peaceful documentary called Waterwalker. So it would have been this two-part episode where Gene and I go out on a canoe in Lake Superior. I’m kind of glad that we didn’t do it because to film in a canoe would have been a real challenge.
That’s a really cool idea though. Maybe you could figure out how to make that work for the future.
Yeah, maybe we’ll make a movie someday.
You’ve mentioned Gene a bunch and he’s a character that viewers have really responded positively to and it feels like there’s a real connection between you two.
Gene is a great actor. He hasn’t done strictly acting before, but he’s so funny. Later on in the season he has many episodes that feature him and I’m really excited for them because he does such a good job. We shot 12-hour days, five days a week, but he held in there. We were in a hot car with no air conditioning at like 2 AM or we’d be in a hotel hot tub shooting and he really just goes for it. He’s such a good sport and just trust the director. He’s learned to have fun with it now. At first I think it was kind of stressful for him, so I’m glad that he’s grown into it.
Overall, I think this season will be a little different than the first, but I hope that audiences can still enjoy it just as much. I hope they’ll be excited by the risks that we take rather than being upset at me. If they don’t like it, then maybe I can just go back to doing long monologues about corn.
The second season of Joe Pera Talks With You premieres December 6th at midnight on Adult Swim.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and that Hannibal is the greatest love story ever told. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.