With his spectacled face, cozy sweaters, and dry, endearingly sincere style of delivery, comedian Joe Pera is a bit of an enigma in the modern stand-up scene.
So much so, in fact, that fans can’t quite place the up-and-coming stand-up’s age. Which is why he gives them a chance to guess how old he is with a form on his website.
“I just think it’s funny to see what people guess,” Pera says, adding that the oldest guesses are in the “upper 30s [or] lower 40s.” We, of course, know Pera’s actual time on this Earth, but he asked that we not publish it “so it’s still fun sport for everybody else.”
Philadelphians, however, will get a chance to levy their own guesses to Pera personally this weekend, when he comes to town for a couple of shows at Good Good Comedy Theatre with stand-up pals Dan Licata and Charles Gould.
An Ithaca College grad based out of New York City by way of Buffalo, Pera’s style is something of a mixture of your grandfather’s elderly, more wholesome values and the offbeat comedic sensibilities of Andy Kaufman. The result is an often heartfelt, always clean set with a focus on families and small-town life, all twinged with a healthy dose of non-sequitur madness (his Instagram account, for example, consists mostly of photos of tomatoes).
That sweet, post-modern style has earned Pera hit appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers and Conan, as well as two short Adult Swim specials last year: Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep (yes, that’s the special’s actual goal) and Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree (another literal title). Viral video lovers make also recognize Pera’s slow-paced, gentle style from web series like Pancake Breakfast Critic and How to Make It In USA.
Some of those projects last year led to Pera’s first Philadelphia show, which was also done through Good Good Comedy. Pera, who claims he spent much of that trip mugging for photos around town with a Monster Energy Drink he was given after he got off the train, says he was pleased with how Philly crowds — not usually known for their politeness — accepted his unusually well-mannered act. A good thing, considering Philly’s proximity to Pera’s home base in New York.
“It’s just a two-hour bus ride, and the crowd is so good,” he says. “You get little vacation out of it almost.”
Pera, however, has performed in Pennsylvania several times before, hitting places like Lancaster, Allentown, and Bethlehem over the last few years. Those trips provided some inspiration for the Talks You to Sleep special; Pera discussed Central Pennsylvania’s “Snack Belt” (so named for the plethora of snack companies headquartered there) as part of the program.
His favorite Pennsylvania snack? Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels, followed by offerings from Utz, a company that Pera says “makes a unique potato chip.” Though, he does seem to be happy to leave the issue of the “best” snack up to his fans.
“I’m not sure,” Pera says. “Maybe I’ll ask around at the show on Saturday.”
And, honestly, that might not be a joke. As his appearance on Conan shows, Pera loves to do a little crowd work, with the comedian spending about 90 seconds on-air asking audience members about the potential height of his unborn son during that appearance. That interactive element of his act, Pera says, has come with experience.
“I’m thinking about these things, developing bits about what I’m asking about, and just genuinely want to know,” Pera says. “I find that fascinating, and it leads to more interesting parts of the show that I wasn’t experienced enough to do before.”
Aside from his stand-up, Pera most recently worked on TruthHunters.com, a pilot Pera filmed with fellow comedian and friend Connor O’Malley that lampoons President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. The pilot, which was not ordered to series, features O’Malley running amok in character at President Trump’s inauguration, among other tense situations.
The project is something of a departure for Pera, whose act tends to be apolitical. However, Pera says he appreciates the “nerve-wracking” situations O’Malley got himself into during filming. But, really, it seems like the attraction is one particular comedic possibility.
“I just want to help him, and maybe eventually watch him get beat up,” Pera says. “I want to be there when it happens, yeah.”
Polite or not, this guy is going to fit in around Philadelphia just fine.
Joe Pera, Dan Licata and Charles Gould, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., Saturday, June 17, Good Good Comedy Theatre, 215 N. 11th St., $12, 215-399-1279, goodgoodcomedy.com.