Comedian Joe Pera is not from Marquette. But the version of himself he plays in the television series Joe Pera Talks With You is recognizable to anyone familiar with the Upper Peninsula.
The show has become a runaway hit on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim nighttime block. Pera's oddball observations on subjects like beans and grocery stores are weirdly hilarious. But what really makes the series is that Pera is not just being funny.
Each episode presents a charming tribute to small-town living. Whether Pera is waiting for his nana to finish up at the salon, embarking on a scenic fall drive, or reading the announcements at his church, his sincere appreciation for life’s simple pleasures is as apparent as his sense of humor.
Check out a few excerpts from our conversation with the comedian below.
Choosing Marquette over his hometown of Buffalo, NY
“People love hockey and beer in both places, and it’s cold, although Marquette is much colder and outdoes Buffalo in snow by a lot...I was very inspired when I visited it. When you make a show or a movie, you can write things that you want to do, so I figured I’d like to keep going back to Marquette and [the show provided] an excuse to do that.”
Casting local Yoopers for the series
“This season, we were looking for the perfect beauty parlor. We finally found one, and the owner Yvonne was such an interesting person that we ended up casting her as one of my grandmother’s friends on the show. Actors can be interesting, but this is a person who’s run a beauty shop her entire life. She talks to the customers and knows their secrets and you can just feel that when she’s onscreen and doing the role. It’s exciting when you cast non-actors. They bring excitement to it ‘cause it’s a new process to them, and it’s fun to just let people be themselves. I think that’s one of the best ways to create an interesting show.”
His worst standup performance
“I was offered a hundred bucks to perform in a casino outside of Buffalo. There’s nobody really watching, and on top of that, you had all the noise from the casino machines. It was kind of a disaster.”
If you aren’t able to catch Joe Pera Talks with You at the odd hours that it airs on Adult Swim, you can watch full episodes online.
Correction: A previous headline on this post incorrectly stated that the series was shot mostly in the Upper Peninsula. While it's set in the U.P., the bulk of the filming took place in Milwaukee. The error has been corrected above.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Lia Baldori.
Support for arts and culture coverage on Stateside comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.