Last week Adult Swim announced that Joe Pera Talks With You would be returning for a third season later this year. That news has sent me back down the rabbit hole of Joe Pera YouTube videos, a rabbit hole I willingly crawl through every year or so, and always enjoy immensely. Pera’s had a large amount of work make it onto YouTube over the last decade, from web series like How to Make It in USA, to his instructional basketball series, to his Adult Swim specials. Through it all he’s very much the Joe Pera we know and love from his series.
There’s another side to Pera, though, that’s well-documented on YouTube. Stand-up has always been part of his comedy, and you can stream a handful of great examples of his work right now. Again, his stand-up persona is very much in line with what you’ve seen in his other shows and videos; he doesn’t whip out props or turn into some vulgar shock comic when he hits the stage. It’s just more Joe Pera, in a different setting, and with a live audience.
If you want to take the same trip through Joe Pera’s world of stand-up that I just finished, here’s a little guide to help you out. Here are some of the best Joe Pera stand-up clips you can find on YouTube right now. I hope they mean something to you, too.
Let’s start with what is probably Pera’s most famous stand-up routine, which attained a bit of viral notoriety among sports fans a few years ago. His good-natured belief that the Buffalo Bills are historically bad not because they suck at football but because they’re intentionally losing so families will be able to spend more time together throughout Fall and the holidays sums up what makes Pera so special. His calm demeanor and earnest optimism aren’t just charming, and they aren’t just a refreshing change of pace from the typically cynical and mean-spirited world of stand-up; they’re downright healing in this absurd and depressing time that we’re currently living in.
Pera has a deep understanding of the nostalgic power of food. From his pancake breakfast videos for MTV, to the Walks With You episode about the perfect breakfast crew, Pera has long found comedy in the comfort and warmth of diners and fast food joints. This clip from Official Standup’s page (?) sees Joe looking back fondly on the burgers he ate as a child, while also revealing his own private secret McDonald’s menu. (Also, I hope you like that Valentine’s Day joke at the start; you’ll hear it once or twice more before this piece is done.)
Pera gets certifiably crazy during this short clip from one of the most legendary comedy clubs in the world. To say anymore would give it away. Just know that this probably made me laugh harder (not longer, but harder) than any other video in this piece.
Pera has some personal insights into the nature of unpaid internships, and they’ll probably feel pretty familiar to you if you’ve ever done one yourself. (If you work in media, I think that’s pretty much a given.) We’ve all wanted to add avocado to our salad for a dollar at one point or another. Comparing an internship to a child fostering situation might be the closest Pera gets to “traditional” stand-up; it absolutely feels like setup for a bit, and although it is, it quickly becomes the kind of low key bit with an unexpected point-of-view that you’d expect from Pera and not most comedians.
It might seem out of character for Pera to openly talk about his sex life, but don’t worry: this story very quickly takes a Pera-esque turn. I don’t want to spoil it, but this is probably the sweetest, most fundamentally decent joke ever told about somebody’s favorite sex move.
Pera had already had two specials on Adult Swim when he appeared on Conan on March 28, 2017. He wasn’t an unknown quantity to comedy fans, then, but this was his highest profile TV spot at the time, so it’s safe to assume most people in the audience weren’t familiar with him or his style. He almost immediately wins them over, though, starting with that Valentine’s Day joke, and then talking about his mastery of parkour. This clip proves how easily Pera can control a crowd; despite his feigned nervousness and hesitancy, the crowd is completely with him when he asks them how tall they think his sons will be, and the interaction between Pera and his audience gives this clip a very different energy than the other videos we’ve shared today. And there’s one amazing gag near the end that feels like a Pera version of a Derek DelGaudio show
Finally, this isn’t stand-up, per se, but I find this video of Pera and writer/comedian Dan Licata (he played the radio DJ in the “Baba O’Riley” episode of Joe Pera Talks With You) singing “Harvest Moon” and breaking a bunch of plates to be shockingly funny. Dada’s best when it’s just absolutely dumb as hell.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.