There’s something so fascinating about “cringe humor.” For some weird reason, people like to feel uncomfortable. Certain comedies, such as Nathan For You or Jon Glaser Loves Gear, thrive using this type of humor. With this niche becoming more prominent, Adult Swim’s Joe Pera certainly fits the mold, but he is always completely genuine. The results are some of the most memorable, unusual comedy that you’ll ever come across. While it may not be for everyone, Pera definitely puts out a performance that is uniquely hilarious.
Pera has popped up a few times on Adult Swim already via his two specials, Joe Pera Talks You To Sleep and Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree. Now Pera has a full series at his disposal and the wholesome, bashful comedy carries over into Joe Pera Talks With You. Pera tackles mundane topics like breakfast, dancing, or rocks with his trademark awkward modesty. Pera’s series is refreshingly chill and is more concerned about being itself than impressing anyone. It sort of revels in these low stakes human moments between individuals and how everyone connects and relates. It’s an unusual beast that almost feels antithetical to some of Adult Swim’s louder programs, but it’s absolutely something that should be checked out. With Pera’s series about to hit Adult Swim, we chatted with the sincere comedian about finding this show’s delicate balance, what makes him laugh, and surprisingly, Dragon Ball Super.
DEN OF GEEK: You and your comedy have such a specific style and I see shades of series like Look Around You and Nathan For You in this show. Do you have any specific inspirations or series that you looked to when putting this together?
The only show that I watched while making this was Dragon Ball Super, but I like Look Around You quite a bit and I enjoy what I’ve seen from Nathan For You. It’s mostly a Dragon Ball Super influence on this show though.
I’m a big fan of the two previous specials that you did for Adult Swim. Did you sort of look at those as a guide or did you consider any wildly different ideas for this show?
I learned a lot from doing both of those. A lot of our characters get established in the Christmas Special and then a lot of the formatting and style comes from the Sleep Special. I guess just the whole attitude of the show comes across in those specials, too. So each of the episodes in our series is me showing you how to do something. There’s “Joe Pera Takes You to Breakfast” where I show you how to get breakfast and hang out with your breakfast crew on a Saturday morning. There’s “Joe Pera Shows You How to Dance” which can help you out if you’re alone at a co-worker’s wedding. So they all kind of have a simple logline and go down a path that at least begins on topic. Sometimes we veer off task, sometimes we don’t. It’s roots definitely go back to those specials though.
How did you figure out what topics you wanted to do for the season? Were there any good ones that didn’t make the cut?
Yeah, I can’t remember them at the moment, but we did cut a good number of them. I’m interested in a lot of things so I could talk about all sorts of stuff for episodes, but unfortunately we only get nine episodes so we have to choose. I think one of my problems is that I try to squeeze too many subjects or facts into an episode and it might get boring for some people. I need to step back a little and try to insert more jokes, but it can be hard at 11 minutes.
They’re all such broad topics too, that obviously there’s still a ton that you don’t touch on in each episode.
I could have done an hour-long episode all on breakfast.
You juggle a few different types of humor in your show, but what would you say is your favorite variety of humor from the program? What aspect of the program makes you laugh the most?
Honestly, I try to embrace the mistakes that we make, like when somebody mispronounces something, screws up a line, or bumps into something. That makes me laugh. One of my favorite gags is just a moment where myself and Jo Firestone are walking into a bar and at one point she turns around and bumps into the doorway. Just watching her bump still makes me laugh. I could work on a joke for months and then she just walks into a door frame and it’s better.
On the topic of Jo Firestone, I’m a big fan of her and Conner O’Malley, who are just the best. Is it satisfying that they can both be apart of the show with you, both in front of and behind the camera?
Yeah, they’re both involved in a big way. They both wrote two episodes each and appear in several episodes as well. We all have senses of humor that compliment each other so it’s nice when we can all work together. They were both very helpful in terms of making this work as a series and figuring out what to do.
How do you go about constructing a typical episode and mixing these topic ideas with random chaos?
I think we figured a lot out from the first two specials, but with this show the story process was a little more important. It can be tough to figure out how to feature each topic and go off on our tangents, but also keep the episode’s story moving forward. It’s different. Every episode was a little different to narratively figure out. The whole thing was a learning experience and I’ve certainly never worked on a project of this size before.
I think it’s so funny to see you teaching music to a big class of rambunctious kids. Why did you want that to be your character’s job here?
I think music is important, but it just seemed like a good fit. Kids are also funny so it’s nice to feature them a little, too.
Do you have a favorite episode or set piece from the season?
To be honest, I don’t want to watch any of it. I’m very proud of the final episode though. I think it’s very different than anything else that I’ve done before. That was a big one. Also there’s a scene in the pumpkin where Gene is dressed up like he’s from The Matrix and I love that.
Personally, that Breakfast Crew rundown is probably my favorite bit from what I’ve seen so far.
Oh, cool. That kind of comes from the fact that my dad will go to the same place to pick up bagels every Saturday morning and his one friend has a breakfast crew that meets there. My dad’s got a bit of a community there, but I think he wishes he had more of a committed breakfast crew. So we just wanted to turn that into a part of an episode.
Have you ever had a perfect egg bite, or is that still just a pipe dream for now?
Oh I’ve never had the pleasure, but that is a true bit that Conner does. He’s a big fan of eggs for breakfast. He eats two omelets a day, most of the time. But when he gets fried eggs he’ll actually do that and try to balance out all the food in one bite and it’s really funny to watch. So that had to go in an episode, too. If you go to breakfast with Conner O’Malley, you’ll see me.
I know that it’s a difficult question, but rank the Five Great Lakes from best to worst.
Hmm, well I don’t want to offend anyone here. Lake Superior is the most beautiful and also the most interesting, so it’s number one. Next is a tie for second place between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. I love Erie because I grew up on it in Buffalo, but Lake Michigan is less polluted and also bigger, so they’re tied. Number four is Lake Ontario and then five is Lake Huron.
I think those are very respectable answers. I’ve seen a bunch of interviewers who like to ask the people that they’re talking to that whole “Fuck, Marry, Kill” thing. I think that’s a rather vulgar, violent list of options for a game though! What three things would you change “Fuck, Marry, Kill” to instead?
Get a cup of coffee, get a cup of cocoa, or get a cup of water.
Joe Pera Talks With You airs with back-to-back episodes on Sundays at midnight (ET) on Adult Swim.