Joe Pera Talks With You is one of the most unique comedies on television at the moment, and it’s a show like nearly no other as it’s extremely warm, gentle, oddly relaxing and wise. The closest thing I could compare it to is Mackenzie Crook’s wonderful Detectorists, but this if anything has even less of a plot and just follows the mild and meek Joe Pera around as he lives his life in a small town in America and talks to us about his favourite subjects.
Now back for a second season it begins with a quiet, unassuming episode picking up a few months down the line from the previous season, with Joe and Sarah (Jo Firestone) now a couple. Little else has changed though, and in the first episode it’s all just about Joe’s love of beans, and his attempts at growing them using an arc. Which may not sound thrilling, and story wise perhaps it isn’t, but it is all kinds of blood lovely and genuinely affecting comedy.
It’s the language that impresses the most, Pera (and his team of writers) have a real knack for capturing the minutiae of life in gorgeously sweet ways, while never mocking it’s softly spoken subject, and so while Joe may chastise himself for getting carried away over the amount of money you’ll save growing your own beans the series never does. The humble, unassuming element is beautifully funny as well, from Joe commenting “I’m not trying to outdo my grandfather, he was a much better Joe Pera than me” to his joy at undertaking mundane tasks, all of it is heart warming, funny and even rather poignant too.
The latter definitely applies to the second episode of the season where Joe and Sarah’s relationship is explored in more detail, as Joe wants to go public with it but Sarah has her reservations. Initially supposedly about taking a hike, like many of the best episodes it goes slightly off topic at times, though that said it has some great thoughts about the subject, like how Joe enjoys hiking because “Other than leave no trace and stay alive there are no rules”.
Joe and Sarah’s relationship is strangely exhilarating because they’re so perfect for each other, with the way they open up to each other in this episode being stirring stuff indeed, and yet also incredibly amusing as they reveal their little foibles, and even if Sarah is a little confused she’s still supportive, telling Joe “It takes guts for you to tell me that, and I don’t fully understand it but I can respect it”, and wouldn’t it be a better world if more people could say such a thing?
At one point in the first episode Joe’s friend Gene says, “I like how there’s no twist, beans are straightforward” and that’s also one of the best things about the show as well. It’s a laid back, uncomplicated affair, yes they could be considered by some to be slightly odd people but the main thing is just how pure and kindhearted they are, and it’s a rare example of a comedy that will not only make you laugh but also feel good about life too.
I do slightly worry that by talking about how smart and perceptive the show is it may sound like it’s only intermittently funny but that’s definitely not the case, it’s a programme which will make you laugh hard time and again, be it just a cute facial expression from Joe or Sarah or a line from another character that reveals more about the couple than they may be aware of themselves, and it’s rather unusual sense of humour will definitely make you grin constantly when you’re not laughing.
If you’re based in the US you can watch the show on Adult Swim’s website here.
And if you’re in the UK it will be on Channel 4’s All4 website sometime soon, and in the meantime you can see all of season one here.