The beauty of the mundane

Slice-of-life comedy heals the soul

Elliot Adams

More stories from Elliot Adams

The Tator
May 9, 2023

Photo by AdultSwim

“Joe Pera Talks with You,” is a celebration of the everyday.

Laughter is the best medicine. This common adage is often repeated and can certainly be reflected in popular media. 

According to Collider, comedies make up the five most profitable television shows of all time.

Comedy is a diverse genre too, from stand-up comedians, slapstick, parodies, dark humor and absurdism, how people prefer to consume their comedy is exhaustive. 

One common unifying theme is that most comedians or comedy shows make jokes at the expense of others. This is neither good nor bad, it’s fun to laugh at people. Some of the most well-renowned comedians are known for how expertly they elicit humor at the expense of others. 

One genre that doesn’t take this approach is slice-of-life comedy. According to Merriam-Webster, slice-of-life is “something (such as a story or movie) that shows what ordinary life is like.”

This type of approach to comedy lends itself to relatability to the audience and a more wholesome experience. 

A strong example of this particular type of comedy working excellently is “Joe Pera Talks with You.” The series follows comedian Joe Pera playing a fictional version of himself living in Marquette, Michigan as a choir teacher and talking to the audience about random, seemingly mundane things. 

Pera’s demeanor is genial and kind — while he’s only in his 30s, he has the demeanor of a grandpa, but in the best way possible. 

In each episode, he takes a unique topic and makes an attempt at explaining it, but usually gets distracted by the lives of other average community members in Marquette. 

One of my favorite episodes is “Joe Pera Reads You The Church Announcements.” The episode, which starts at the end of mass, follows Pera as he starts to read the church announcements but then transitions to him sharing his newfound passion for “Baba O’Reilly.” 

Pera’s soft-spoken voice reads the usual small-town news until he can’t contain his excitement anymore. 

“Have you heard of The Who?” They rock! They’re fantastic,” Pera said. “I first heard them last Thursday and I haven’t slept since!” 

The scene transitions to him in his house two nights earlier, doing the dishes, when suddenly the song, “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who comes on the radio. Pera, who has never heard the song before, becomes instantly entranced. 

What follows is Pera spending the rest of the night calling every radio station to request “Baba O’Reilly.” His excitement and giddiness doesn’t necessarily draw uproarious laughter from me, but rather more of a small smile and a feeling of warmth. 

This small smile and feeling of warmth is similar to eating soup on a cold day, or being told by an older person that “you’re doing great, kid” or finding an old beloved toy in your parent’s basement. 

It’s the kind of small joy in life that makes many of life’s huge problems seem small and insignificant. 

As the episode progresses, the church’s audience grows from confused at Pera’s rambling story of his newfound obsession with “Baba O’Reilly” to bemusement to finally sharing in Pera’s excitement. 

In a world of cynicism and division perpetuated endlessly by politicians and figures on Fox News, Pera reminds viewers of the beauty of the mundane, whether it’s a fall drive through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a trip to the metropolis of Milwaukee or even a trip to the grocery store. 

Pera does this masterfully, and it’s what sets his show apart from other offerings in the genre of comedy. 

“Joe Pera Talks with You” can be streamed on HBO MaxAdams can be reached at [email protected].