What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
Joe Pera‘s resume says he was the three-time winner of Ithaca College’s Stand-Up Competition, which doesn’t mean near as much to me as does the more interesting and perhaps relevant fact that he attended the upstate New York college on the Rod Serling Communications Scholarship. You see. Or rather, you hear something delightfully subversive and twisted coming from Pera’s voice onstage — despite its tone and timbre, which suggests a down-home folksiness akin to the storytelling of Adam Wade. But Pera is more Twilight Zone than Moth. More Andy Kaufman than Chris Gethard. In fact, Pera was called in at the last-minute to replace Gethard as host of a Kaufman celebration last month at the UCBeast, where Pera also co-hosts a Thursday-night showcase — “The Dan + Joe + Charles Show” — featuring stand-up, one-act plays and jazz. Except this Thursday, since it’s pre-empted by New York Comedy Festival shenanigans. So you’ll just have to make do with seeing him on the TV when he performs on Adam Devine’s House Party on Comedy Central.
Here are the first two minutes of that appearance, wherein Pera jokes about his past internship experiences and how his love of maple syrup can be your love, too.
Pera has the kind of oddly unique voice that breathes fresh air into most comedy showcases around New York City. Let’s get to know more about him.
Name: Joe Pera
Arrival date: September 2010
Arrived from: Buffalo, NY
When and where did you start performing comedy? Ithaca, NY in 2006.
What was your best credit before moving here? While at school, I hosted a public access show on the student television network. When I first moved to New York however, no one seemed to care. So I quickly learned that I should specify that it broadcast to all of Tompkins County.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else?
I decided to move to New York City because its a $69 JetBlue flight away from Buffalo where my family is. I like going home to see them and my grandparents. My 90 year-old Grandfather Gerry just moved to Florida last month so I’ll have to start going there too now. I haven’t checked ticket prices yet though. But New York just seemed like the place to go to get as good at stand-up as possible.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here?
About a year and a half in, I did a show at the Karma Lounge and the host, Jay Welch, gave every performer $20 and a thank you note. It really meant a lot to me. I spent $9 on dinner, $2 on an ice cream, and put the other $9 in savings.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from?
While Ithaca was a nice place to start, it was hard to find regular performance opportunities. The Buffalo scene is great, too, but there were only mics a few nights a week. It has grown quite a bit recently, though, and there are a lot more opportunities now including the new Helium Club that opened. I met Matt Wayne when we were both performing in Buffalo though, so I am grateful for that.
Can you describe an “only in New York City” moment from your experience here?
The $1 pizza shops on my walk from the train to my weekly show are perfectly spaced. I’ll get one slice at 1st and 14th and then eat it while walking to the other $1 pizza place on Avenue A and 9th. I’ll get another slice there and by the time I finish that, I’ll be at the venue. Its a $2 dinner and you only have to carry around one piece of pizza at a time. Every time I’m able to that, I feel very lucky to be here.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
That they should buy a comfortable pair of shoes.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Five years from now, I think I would be very happy if I were still in New York, doing stand-up but better than I am now.
That said, I think I’d be even happier if five years from now, I didn’t do standup but just owned an apple orchard with my wife.
You can see Joe Pera co-host The Dan + Joe + Charles Show with Dan Licata and Charles Gould most Thursday nights at the UCB East Village theater.
At the end of this summer, while performing in Boston as part of Comedy Central’s UpNext competition, Pera stood in front of thousands of Patriots fans and told this bit about his hometown Buffalo Bills. Now halfway through the NFL season, so far, so good?
Pera also co-produced and starred in a webseries for MTV Other called “Pancake Breakfast Critic,” in which he says: “Basically, I go travel pancake breakfasts and other charity food events and review them.” Check out all three episodes now!
Episode 1 (Wallkill, NY Fire Dept):
Episode 2 (Intercourse, PA Rhubarb Festival):
Episode 3 (Delaware):
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com