What Joe Pera Is Listening to Right Now

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The soft-spoken comedian discusses the music that guided the new season of his Adult Swim series Joe Pera Talks With You.

Joe Pera
Graphic by Callum Abbott

The record player in Joe Pera’s apartment is a giant piece of furniture, more antique cabinet than stereo. It’s the same one his grandparents had in their living room, and Pera remembers listening to it with his family while they decorated the Christmas tree. It’s a deeply sentimental object, but at this point, its core functionality has become something of an issue. “It damages all the records that it plays,” Pera says, “and I can’t get anybody to fix it.” He avoids buying old, expensive vinyl for that reason, but notes that he’s been rolling the dice whenever he puts on the latest immersive piano record by German composer Nils Frahm.

Pera is on the phone from the Brooklyn office where he recently completed the third season of his poignant and earnest show Joe Pera Talks With You, in which he plays a Midwestern middle school choir teacher who meditates on the essentials: gardening, hiking, waiting, sitting. As he tells it, the show’s workplace culture is fittingly relaxed and kind. On Fridays, post-production supervisor Benjamin Craig would bake cookies for everyone. One day, Pera found Ryan Dann, the show’s composer, in the basement watching the 1992 dog-mischief comedy Beethoven—inspiration for an episode entitled “​​Joe Pera Discusses School-Appropriate Entertainment With You.”

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Dann is behind Talks With You’s calming instrumental score, and Pera says establishing the overall vibe of a given episode is a collaborative effort. “Ryan will sometimes hand us a piece before we start to edit, and I’m like, ‘Oh crap, I’ve got to make this live up to the music that he wrote.’” Another bit of Dann’s score led Pera to write one of the show’s signature voiceover monologues. “I listened to it and the words just came out,” he recalls.

Much of the music he’s been listening to while working on the show as of late came from a collaborative playlist with Dann, as he explains below.

Hour: Tiny Houses

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Joe Pera: This album is all instrumental; I can’t listen to stuff with lyrics while writing. They’re just very beautiful, quiet songs. There were a few in particular that I put on and looped while writing, especially when I had to deal with some of the heavier parts of this season.

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