IRON MAN

First episode of new Adult Swim series pays tribute to U.P., mining history

Joe Pera with the Presque Isle Power Plant in the background. (Photo courtesy of Adult Swim)

MARQUETTE — This weekend, Joe Pera’s going to talk about iron in the debut episode of his new Cartoon Network Adult Swim series “Joe Pera Talks With You.”

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Pera has become a little bit enamored with the Upper Peninsula.

Hence, in the teaser clip for the series, his school teacher screen persona talks about the Marquette Iron Range and the importance of iron to our nation.

How did this happen?

“Last year, we made a Christmas special about how to pick out the perfect Christmas tree that was based on a standup bit of mine about Michigan christmas trees,” Pera wrote in an email. “We had to shoot in October but thought it’d be a shame to make a Christmas special without any snow so we went to where early snowfall was most likely and ended up at Anderson’s Twin Lakes Tree farm in Newberry.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t snow but through the process of making the special, I read a lot about the U.P. and Marquette and visited a number of times so when we got the opportunity to make the series, I realized that it was the ideal place for the story we were trying to tell.”

Well, maybe not sometimes for his crew.

“A couple times when we were shooting outside this winter, crew members would ask why I didn’t set the show in Miami,” Pera said. “I guess that’s a good question when it’s 20 degrees but Marquette has a lot in common with where I grew up in Buffalo — long winters, lots of snow, an industrial history, location on a Great Lake, hockey, fish fries — but is also very unique.

“And in writing the first episode, iron seemed like a good place to begin because it explains so much of the region’s history.”

His fictional Joe Pera is a choir teacher, but the real Joe Pera is, among other things, a stand up comedian who has appeared on “Conan” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

“I was 18 years old when I did standup for the first time but I had been writing jokes and making videos before that with my friend Dan Licata,” Pera said. “Dan actually wrote some episodes of this show but the two of us did standup in Buffalo and Ithaca, New York, where we went to college before moving to New York, New York, in 2010.

“I’ve got a long way to go but any ability I have has just been through working at it,” Pera said of standup. “writing and performing as much as possible, every night if I can.”

Those who watch his series will get to meet some of his real-life family.

“I grew up about 15 minutes outside of (Buffalo) and it was a good place to grow up. Both sets of grandparents lived five minutes away and all four of them were around til I was 21. It was very fortunate.

“My parents (who have cameos in the show) have a scaffolding company that they started together almost 20 years ago when my Dad got laid off,” Pera said. “They are doing well now but they share an office with desks facing each other and I don’t think my Mom is crazy about that.”

“Joe Pera Talks with You,” directed by Marty Schousboe also features Conner O’Malley and Jo Firestone who both also wrote and produced, Pera said.

“It premieres this Sunday at midnight. I’m sorry it’s late at night but the first season has nine 11-minute episodes, each with its own title and specific subject matter,” he said. “For example, Episode 3, ‘Joe Pera Takes You for a Fall Drive’ in which I show viewers how to properly bury their pumpkins after Halloween. Or Episode 4, ‘Joe Pera Shows You How To Dance’, in which I help viewers figure out what to do if they are alone at a coworker’s wedding.

“There are also episodes about reading the church announcements and falling back to sleep after being woken by a thunderstorm — I know it kind of sounds boring but perhaps the network is airing them late so people can fall asleep to them. They’ll air two each Sunday for the next five weeks — the last one is a 22-minute finale and I think they’ll be available online on Mondays.”

What comes next in his career path?

“I don’t know. Getting to make a show with friends who I think are very funny is all I ever hoped for and with this series, I got to do it,” Pera said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to make more but it kinda feels wrong to ask for anything else right now.”

Pera hopes people in the area like the show.

“I just really hope that if anyone in Marquette watches the show, they’ll enjoy it or at least not hate it,” he said. “We really appreciated being able to shoot in the city and the help of those who made it possible including the Police Department, St. Paul’s Church, Crossroads Restaurant, and Meyer Yamaha, amongst many others.”

For anyone who’d like to watch his take on the ideal Christmas tree, that special is available online: www.adult swim.com/videos/specials/joe-pera-helps-you-find-the-perfect-christmas-tree/

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal.net.