Joe Pera and the Surprising Pleasures of Gentle Humor

He displays an exuberance and astonishment that most people lose by the time they are in their thirties.

You might be tempted to view his persona as a type of performance art ruse a la Andy Kaufman. His work is probably adored by certain fans as a satirical spoof on comedy.


Joe Pera and the Surprising Pleasures of Gentle Humor

He probably understands this, which is why he frequently returns to singing about how delicious apple pie is in the fall or how sorry he is for using profanity. On the other side, Joe Pera doesn’t seek for slapstick humour. You won’t ever encounter a subtly winked or nodded gesture.

He doesn’t want to make people laugh at what they’re witnessing; instead, he wants to give them a sense of calmness so they can take pleasure in life’s smaller pleasures.

I fought against it for a while. I rarely look to art for inspiration, and when I do, it comes from unexpected sources like horror movies or Stephen A. Smith’s essays (yes, he makes N.B.A. punditry into an art). These are merely my personal choices, though.

And while though his aesthetic appears to be wholesome Americana on the outside, it actually hides an avant-garde obscureness. There is some work required. We should limit participation in this adventure activity to the most daring among us.

Pera can take us back to a period when playing imaginary games, like racing raindrops on windshields or spotting shapes in the sky, was the finest way to pass the time when we were bored.

In many of his concerts, commonplace items—like groceries or a Who song—are reverently handled to the point where they seem almost spiritual. By stretching the idea to its logical conclusion, he sometimes seems to be able to find the funny quirk in mundane daily life.

In the first episode, a senior stranger who passes Pera asks for his phone. The man takes a selfie with the phone, then gives it to Pera.

Last Words

What may have been an offensive joke in another programme is now regarded as an impromptu gesture of kindness and mystery. I chuckled. You could end up not doing it. But it would be wiser to ignore it.