We’ve reached another December 25, which means it’s the 12th Day of Christmas Episodes. Every year, I like to end with an episode that’s special to me. And this year, I’m going to check in with a fellow Michigander. So just sit back as Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree.
Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree
Original airdate: December 9, 2016
This is one of two specials that aired in advance of the ongoing Joe Pera Talks With You. In the event you’re not familiar with one of my favorite shows, it’s a series where Joe, a comedian from Northern Michigan, attempts to educate the audience or share an experience. Joe speaks in a halting monotone that you’ll think is a bit until you realize that it isn’t. He’s a pleasant man who wants to share his enthusiasm for beans or collecting sheet music. And while there’s more worldbuilding as the series goes on, the heart of it is this pleasant, odd man bringing you into his life.
It’s gentle and funny and I absolutely love it. Also, a recent Season Two episode was maybe the thing I found most relatable in all of entertainment. Which is good because that previous title was held by an episode of Louie. I don’t usually try to sell you on the shows I cover here, but this is a legitimately wonderful show that I would urge you to check out.
This special here doesn’t have the supporting cast of the ongoing series, but it’s the same tone and style, with Joe teaching us about the different kinds of Christmas trees while also sharing a little bit of his life with us.
The approach doesn’t lend itself to a huge amount of plot to cover, but I’ll do my best. Joe opens by telling us “Finding a tree in Michigan is not hard. In fact, I would say that it is easy.” But it’s finding the perfect Christmas tree that’s hard. As hard as kicking a field goal into the wind against Michigan State in the annual U of M / MSU game. Joe is on the right side of this rivalry, by the way.
Christmas is coming and Joe hasn’t found the perfect tree yet. He tells us about the different types of pines and visits his grandmother. Joe confesses he’s worried about the school program he’s putting on because the kids might confuse the song “Snow, Snow, Snow” with “Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow”. And yes, hearing Joe say “snow” that many times is the funniest thing in the world.
Cut to choir practice. Choir Teacher Joe is dealing with confused kids and also a brat named Mason throwing stuff at him. (Mason can have Red Bulls in class if he promises not to throw things.)
Spruces. Joe visits his neighbors, and while wife Sue is pleasant and indulgent of Joe’s tree fascination, husband Mike is surprisingly mean. Another cut to choir has Joe telling the kids they have a special guest and then disappearing behind a blackboard to put on a John Denver wig. (“Mason, give John Denver the Red Bull.”) Mike mocks him for thinking kids would care about John Denver. Man, Mike is a bummer.
Firs. They’re the official White House Christmas tree. Joe meets his friend at a bar for a fish dinner. This scene is hysterical – Gene talks about how it’s hard to enjoy Christmas after losing a loved one (his car was stolen) and then talks about how rivers make America great. (JOE: “Do you think rivers will solve our social problems like police brutality?” GENE: “River people don’t hurt other river people”.)
Back at home, Joe’s starting to worry that he won’t find a tree this year. (“My life is falling apart.”) He admits that it’s people who can make or break Christmas and then imagines a fantasy scenario where he has a wife and three kids and they’re all looking for a tree together. Joe provides all the voices and it’s so offbeat and sad.
It’s time for the choir concert! This is a long scene that’s largely free of jokes, but it’s so evocative of my own childhood. The kids perform a number of songs and some of them fidget or refuse to sing and these kids are either the best actors ever or they’re not acting at all. It’s kind of spellbinding. When it’s over, a bunch of kids run off stage to bring Joe his gift – the perfect Balsam Fir. And as people leave the auditorium, Mason’s mom comes and finds him and she’s the wife from his dream family. She says she got upset with Mason for throwing things at him (“It’s mostly soft stuff”), and she invites him to come out to the bar where she works. (“Monday is $1 Sliders Night. Cheese is extra, but I won’t say anything if you bring your own.”)
Back home, Joe celebrates his tree, realizes it’s not important to kick the winning field goal just as long as you have fun, and then reminds us that Guantanamo Bay is still open.
That’s the show and it’s perfect.
Best Line: “I don’t like fake trees. They take business away from the farmers in Michigan. I have more to say on the subject, but can’t, because this is a family show.” — Joe Pera
“Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I mean, a tree can’t make or break Christmas. Only people can do that. A tree’s never stood me up for Shakespeare in the Park. A tree’s never told me my coupon is no good. A tree’s never catfished me eleven times in two days.” — Joe Pera
Christmas Trees – This could not possibly be more about Christmas trees.
Christmas Decorations – Just about every location is decked out for Christmas, with Joe’s house particularly festooned with lights and Santa figurines.
Christmas Carols – The kids perform a bunch of songs beyond “Snow, Snow, Snow” and “Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow” but I’m not really familiar with them. We just hear snippets but they’re definitely not A-list Christmas songs.
Hanukkah Shout-Out – They sing the same “O Hanukkah” song that appeared in the Power Rangers episode I watched this year. Which is a weird parallel, let’s be honest.
Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – As usual, I’m going to sit and talk for a bit about my own experiences to wrap this up. I know I’ve talked about this in the past, but I do so much Christmas build-up between the Christmas episodes and writing a story for my friends and end-of-year stuff for this website. But the actual Christmas day has been kind of nothing for years now. Everybody is far off with their families and I’m going to have lunch with my mom and then probably see a movie. And some years this depression gets in and I can see it all over this episode.
Joe needs to have the perfect Christmas tree because that’s a ritual he can complete and have a sense of accomplishment. It’s like reviewing 12 Christmas episodes. And when it looks like he won’t get that tree, everything feels like it’s falling apart. Man, do I ever get that. Even when he imagines having a family and for most people that’s the easiest thing in the world, but to somebody like Joe or I, it’s this unattainable dream world. But if you have something else that’s important to you for the holidays, you can not think about that for another year.
So this episode hits me pretty hard, but also, the kids not only give him that tree, but they know why it’s the perfect Christmas tree. And that’s beautiful. They get him. And sometimes when you’re an awkward guy who’s alone on Christmas, that’s what means the most. This is what lets Joe have a merry Christmas despite the sadness lingering at the edges of his life. If there’s anything I can take from TV as I wrap up another year of this nonsense, I think that’s the most important thing. Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree helped me find the metaphorical perfect tree and on any scale, that’s a 10.
Happy holidays, you goofs!