"Hello, my name is Joe Pera." That's how every episode of Joe Pera Talks With You begins, followed by Pera's explanation of some acute topic in a clear, simple manner, delivered in the calm, steady tone of a Mister Rogers–incarnate. Each episode runs around 11 minutes long, airing on Adult Swim, and channels a child–like innocence with an edge of comedy that feels almost accidental, like when your teacher says "fuck."
The show grew out of Joe Pera's special, "Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep," where an animated Pera ponders ideas like fireworks and Stephen Hawking's infidelity, which itself spun out of his stand–up persona, an awkward and unhurried Midwesterner one critic once dubbed "the cozy sweater of comedy." On Joe Pera Talks To You, Joe Pera does just that, elaborating on topics such as iron, breakfast foods, and The Who's seminal hit "Baba O'Riley"—all pieces that come together to form the introspective and charming world in which he lives.
But that does little to capture the sheer joy the show emits, reveling in little wonders and deep connections to others. Joe's circle of friends includes his neighbors, his Nana, and the children to whom he teaches choir. Early in the series, Joe meets another teacher, Sarah Conner, played by Jo Firestone (Shrill, The Tonight Show w/ Jimmy Fallon) and begin a slow, awkward flirtation. Although attracted to each other, the two begin to realize their fundamentally distinct views of the world, Sarah being the glass–half–empty to Joe's glass–half–full. In the first season, Joe learns Sarah is a hardcore survivalist, and in the second season, Joe worries about his abilities to keep up with her anxiety and need for security. The couple's romance is beyond adorable, despite Sarah's constant fears of the future and Joe's navel–gazing nature.
As far as plot goes, little else actually happens. The show comprises primarily of trips to the grocery store and fall drives through the woods. Joe ruminates on trivial topics in these quiet moments. What makes the show compelling is how sparse it is, the kind of show designed for falling asleep to (at times literally). It's a breath of fresh air from programs like Bojack Horseman and The Good Place, which rely on mile–a–minute jokes. Instead, when there are laughs, they're the kind that take a second to settle in, and while they may not always get you rolling on the floor, they stick with you well past an episode's end.
In that way, Joe Pera Talks With You is an anomaly in the world of television, seemingly trapped somewhere between the 1950s and now, less focused on pushing a narrative or cramming in every than it is focused on the experience. Pera's pleasures are simple, like breakfast pancakes or hearing your favorite song on the radio. Within the show, even, he's a bit of an oddity, which his neighbors and co–workers comment on frequently. But Joe's heart is the driving force behind the show, and his view on the world offers a charming respite from reality. Take 11 minutes to catch an episode—it's guaranteed you'll feel better after.
Joe Pera Talks With You is available to watch for free on Adult Swim's website.