Animation is generally thought of as a frantic, sensory-assaulting medium marked by slapstick action and wild, over-the-top sight gags. Cartoon characters tend to do a lot of shouting, and their shows often feature loud music and exaggerated sound effects. The intention is to get viewers amped up. This is especially true for the shows traditionally featured during Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim programming block, including such nerve-jangling favorites as Metalocalypse and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But what if there were an Adult Swim show that were designed to put viewers’ minds at ease, allowing them to get some much-needed sleep after a stressful day? That is the odd but compelling premise of Joe Pera Talks You To Sleep, an extremely laid-back animated showcase (billed as an “infomercial”) for laconic, Buffalo-based stand-up comic Joseph Pera. Adult Swim is scheduling the series at 4am all this week, exactly the time of day when insomniacs might need some extra help.
In the show, Pera sits in a comfortable chair in a cozy-looking den, his dog Gus curled up by a crackling fire nearby as snow gently falls outside. The comedian addresses the viewer directly: “I’m sorry that you’re having trouble dozing off. That’s why I’ve made you this show.” His strategy, he explains, is to talk about “mildly interesting subjects.” Pera gently philosophizes about voicemail messages, popular dog names, dilapidated barns, Stephen Hawking’s infidelity, the Buffalo Bills, and Bernie Madoff. The host maintains an incredibly even keel throughout the program. The mood is only briefly disturbed when he is reminded of a romantic relationship that didn’t work out the way he planned. But he has a solution for that, too: “I went to the batting cages. It’s tough to worry about women when you’re focused on fastballs. And also, it feels good to hit stuff with a bat.” This is the audio-visual equivalent of a glass of warm milk. Jokes aside, Joe Pera Talks You To Sleep might actually make good on its title promise.