Home / News / Joe Pera, the comedian who tries to put you to sleep (and that's a good thing)

Joe Pera, the comedian who tries to put you to sleep (and that's a good thing)

Dec 04, 2023Dec 04, 2023

Comedian Joe Pera is set to perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Colonial Theatre in Laconia. (Courtesy photo)

LACONIA — Inflation. Flooding. Hunter Biden’s laptop. Heat waves. The big, hairy spider you caught a glimpse of before it ran back under the dishwasher. Tensions with China and Russia. Alien congressional hearings. Global pandemics. Demagogues. Accidentally liking your ex's photo from 2015.

There's a lot in the world to worry about, but Joe Pera has made a career out of helping you relax. He’s here to help — even if extraterrestrials take over Earth and you're still hung up on what's-her-name.

So pack away those fears Saturday night as Pera visits the Colonial Theatre for an evening of comedy designed to ease worldly tensions as part of his “Tour in the Midwest & Rustbelt Pt VI: Places I Wanted to Visit in August.” While many of his contemporaries riff on political events or bellow about injustices and inadequacies, perceived or actual, Pera takes the road less traveled by. It's not just stand-up comedy; it's stand-down comedy, where the intensity of daily life is replaced by the perfect bite of breakfast, when the bean arch starts sprouting, or the first time you hear “Baba O’Riley.”

“I think maybe a lot of the material that I have is about missing that alternate life that I could have had if I had stayed in Buffalo, and the things I appreciate about it and miss,” said Pera, who was raised in upstate New York but relocated to the Big Apple, a mecca for stand-up comedians and aspiring talents alike.

Pera’s unique approach to comedy is perfectly encapsulated in his television series "Joe Pera Talks with You,” which ran for three seasons on Adult Swim and HBO Max. In the show, he plays a semi-fictionalized version of himself, gently guiding viewers through life's quirks and quandaries, from random thoughts experienced during a firework show to the wonder of grocery store conveyor belts. In his “Relaxing Old Footage” pandemic-era special, Pera pays homage to tree and waterfall B-roll while appreciating the rigidity of baseball chalk lines “giving boundaries to the boundary-less.”

“I’d rather use natural references to help prove a point in a joke than, say, a pop culture reference,” Pera said. “It’s longer lasting; not to use a pun, but it keeps the jokes evergreen.”

He expressed his excitement for exploring Lakes Region hiking opportunities, scoring a bottle of authentic maple syrup and rubbing corduroy-patched elbows with New England characters, like the so-called North Pond Hermit who played Pokemon on Gameboy and stole supplies from camping cabins in the backwoods of Maine for decades before being detected.

Pera’s act — and how much of his grandfatherly persona is truly an “act” is not readily apparent — gained traction in 2016 with “Joe Pera Talks You To Sleep,” part of Adult Swim’s "Infomercials" series, which featured various parody standalone episodes. His soothing narration over gentle animations provided a uniquely calming viewing experience, distinguishing it from other comedic content on the channel. If the “Sleepy Joe” moniker was up for grabs, Pera could have laid a legitimate claim.

Getting a good night’s rest is obviously important to Pera, who said he once spent nearly three days in a row awake finishing a project in film school, and began to hear the call of the void.

“Somebody told me after 72 hours, you can murder somebody and plead temporary insanity. I didn't quite make it to that point,” Pera said, clarifying with emphasis: “I didn’t murder anybody.”

He rejects the idea his content is intentionally "wholesome." For Pera, it's not about serving up comedy with a side of warm milk and cookies; it's about finding laughs in the everyday and offering a pat on the back rather than a slap in the face.

“The whole spirit is trying to create something and make people feel good and relax and have a laugh before they fall asleep,” Pera said. "'Wholesome’ in the way that it's tossed around feels corny and childish or shallow.

"[‘Talks With You’] hopefully is more nuanced than that.”

Pera’s approach never comes across as heavy-handed, or like a dancing, purple dinosaur promising that everything in life will be OK. Are there things that make him angry? “Sure,” he said almost curtly, as if that question might have been one of them. But rather, his material focuses on observing the joy that can be found even in mundane tasks and items — in the banal — if only we pay attention. Jokes that may not leave you doubled over in stitches, but with something to ponder on the drive home.

“I take my time onstage. In the television shows, we left space for the audience to kind of think along, too, and that way they could participate instead of cramming our own thoughts and jokes,” Pera said. “Same with going back to the sleep origins of the show, kind of creating something that they could drift in and out of, and just leave space for their own thoughts. Because I think that to be able to participate, mentally, in a show is a fun thing.”

The world of stand-up comedy may seem like a far cry from the gentle explorations of “Talks With You," but for Pera, it's a transition as smooth as a well-ironed flannel shirt. Onstage, he takes his soft-spoken wisdom and crafts a unique experience that's both immersive and introspective.

“I just thought that some ways people were doing stand-up was like, I don't know — there are shortcuts a to laugh, using certain words or talking about certain subjects,” Pera said. “But after a while, I wanted to figure out new ways to get laughs, and I guess you could call that ‘wholesome’ too if I'm not talking about the dating apps, or using swear words.

"Those boundaries have been pushed years ago. To this day, what fascinates me about comedy is trying to find new, interesting stuff that gets laughs that nobody’s thought of before, or it’s stumbling into new ideas or discovery or approach that fascinates me about it. And that's what I try and do.”

In addition to his stand-up shows, Pera has been filling his time hosting a monthly podcast, “Drifting Off With Joe Pera,” about — you guessed it — answering machines, soup and a history of clock chimes. It’s not quite ASMR, the phenomenon many internet denizens have turned to in seek of a sleep aid involving soft-spoken roleplays, chiropractic cracks or the tapping of fingernails on various materials.

“No, I feel it's definitely a cousin of the stuff that I try and do, stuff that people use to fall asleep, but there's no whispering. Ryan [Dann] does a complex sound science sometimes, and his music is very gentle,” Pera said. “But it's more about having a conversation with the audience or just keep talking so they can't have those 2-3 a.m. spirals that will keep you up at night, kind of keep you on a track of stuff that won't freak you out. And there's no mouth noises or anything like that.”

Listen to enough of Pera’s content, and you might start reading and thinking in his cadence, feeling the rhythm of his wisdom and — I don't know — it gives you the comfort and security of a weighted blanket, minus all the weight, with an added layer of warmth that only his perspective can provide.

For more information about the show and tickets, visit

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