Whether you’ve seen him on Conan, on the Nerdist Channel’s Write Now, or heard him on his ‘Pardcast’ Never Not Funny, I’m certain that Jimmy Pardo made you laugh.
Armed with his lightning wit and razor sharp tongue, Jimmy Pardo has been making fans laugh since the 80’s. In 2006, after hosting various shows such as AMC’s Movies at Our House, and GSN’s Funny Money, Pardo decided to take a chance on a new format called a podcast. A comedy podcast was all but unheard of at the time, but it caught on quick. Now, into its seventh year, there are still no signs of slowing down for the comedian. As if running his own podcast was not time consuming enough, Jimmy is also the warm-up comic for Conan and has his own web segment for the show called The Pardo Patrol which is absolutely hilarious. Jimmy took some time out from his ever growing schedule to sit down and talk with me about sports, Conan, and how much he loves his job.
Pop-Break: You have had a pretty expansive career. You have been a standup comedian, game show host, you warm-up the crowd for Conan, and I think the first time I remember seeing you was on a show called Movies at Our House.
Jimmy Pardo: Wow, the fact that you watched Movies at Our House is great. I think you’re the fourth person I’ve ever met that watched it. You know, we pissed a lot of people off with that show. It was during the transition when AMC was going from not having commercials to having commercials, and in addition to adding commercials, they now had me and Rachel Quaintance interrupting the movie. It was just really bad timing for that show. But, luckily, I got the call two weeks before my wedding that it was cancelled. So that was great. Definitely the wedding gift you want, is to find out you’re unemployed.
PB: You are currently warming up the audience for Conan O’Brien on his show. How did that come about? Did you know Conan before that, or did you have to audition?
JP: I knew Andy Richter a little bit from doing shows at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. I was, at that time, doing a live version of The Match Game, that Andy appeared on. I sort of knew him and didn’t know him. So, out of the blue, when Conan was moving from New York to Los Angeles, my manager got a phone call saying that they wanted to meet with me to be the warm up comic for the Tonight Show. I was very hesitant, because this was something I tried to do, like fifteen years ago, and hated every second I was there, but on the other side of it, I still had to take this meeting. I took the meeting and met Conan for the first time, and I met the head writer Mike Sweeney for the first time, and Jeff Ross the executive producer. They really could not have been any nicer to me. They could not have made me feel more wanted. Then they told me the story of how they chose me. They used to have a writer warming up the audience and they decided to hire a comedian whose job would be solely to warm up the audience, and get the crowd ready for what we’re doing. Andy Richter said “The guy with the same sensibilities as this show, who can do five minutes or an hour off the top of his head, is Jimmy Pardo.” I guess they looked at a couple clips of me online and decided I was their guy. I went in and they told me all of this, and I said “Alright, let’s do it.” For the first three months I prayed to God every day that I don’t get fired, because I was horrible at it. I would go home to my wife and tell her “They’re going to realize I suck any day now, and get rid of me.” But they didn’t, then the whole Leno debacle happened with the Tonight Show and Conan moved to TBS, and they were nice enough to rehire me. It’s really an honor to get to go to work every day and be funny on that stage, and to work with Conan O’Brien who is brilliant and the writers, who are all brilliant. And not only are they great, they are all good people. I’m really, really lucky to have this gig. I know this all sounds really ass-kissy, but I promise you it’s all true. It’s the first time in my life where I’m not in my car saying “Ahh dammit I’ve got to go to work.” I actually enjoy going.
PB: So, do you think if Conan ever had an off night, do you think the crowd would ask for you to come back out?
JP: HAHAHAHAHA! Let me tell you, I could be the funniest I’ve ever been in life, and they could be chanting my name, but the second that Conan comes on, they won’t even remember I was there. They are there to see Conan, and I know that. He’s been on for twenty years.
PB: Are there any plans to do any more webisodes of Write Now?
JP: Not at the moment. The Nerdist was nice enough to put the initial six episodes out. We had a nice amount of hits and people seemed to respond really well to them, but I think they may have been a little too long for the internet crowd. Some people are very concerned keeping internet clips to about seven or eight minutes and these were coming in around fifteen. Between that and budgets, and other stuff. I just don’t see it happening at the moment.
PB: How do you even find people to come on under the premise that they are going to do their routine, then you guys are going to rip it apart?
JP: You know, we’ve been doing that show for years at the UCB Theatre, and it was always done with friends, or people that requested to be on it, because the found it funny. All the people we got for the Nerdist shows were people that had done it before and knew what they were getting into. It is all in good fun, and only once did we ever have someone get upset because they misunderstood what the show was about.
PB: It seems like it could also serve as a good testing ground for some of your material, because if the joke is bad, everyone will let you know it.
JP: We had one comic was doing a joke that for years I thought was the hackiest joke in the world, and I thought to myself “Why is he doing this joke? He’s a better comic than that.” So, he did the joke on the show one night and every comic laid into him about how awful the joke was. After that he said it was a wake up call and that he never realized that it was that hacky. The truth is nobody is ever going to tell another comic that the bit they just did was hacky. You’d be a dick if you did that. But he dropped the joke from his act and I think he’s a better comic for it.
PB: You’re style of comedy is very direct, and sarcastic, and usually at the expense of someone else. Did you try other approaches first or was that always you’re style?
JP: When I was doing open mic, I was very similar to the way I am today. I was very fly by the seat of my pants and I interacted with the audience a lot. The second I started getting paid, I started working very hard to be average. I was just a white guy talking. I was the stereotypical comic with the skinny ties and the rolled up sport coat sleeves. I wasn’t very original or any good. Everyone started telling me how much funnier I was off stage, so eventually I just had enough and went back to being me and not trying so hard. I just tried to improvise as much as I could and find my bits that way. Granted, I would bomb a lot, and there were some growing pains. Now, to make this answer maybe the longest answer in history [laughing], I then went through an angry phase in about ’93-’94, and everybody in the audience was dumb as far as I was concerned. People could have been yelling out that I was the funniest person ever and I would tell them to shut up. It was a necessary growing pain though, because it landed me where I am today where I can tell an audience member to shut up, but now everybody knows that I’m kidding, instead of just being mean. My mom actually came to a show and I was not having my best show. I bombed pretty badly. When it was over my mom said “You’re just too mean on stage. What happened to the happy-go-lucky sarcastic guy?” Of course she was an idiot and didn’t understand comedy. “You don’t get it mom. You don’t understand my art.” But in retrospect, it was the greatest advice I was ever given, and she was a hundred percent right. I can be sarcastic without being a prick.
PB: Who are your comedic idols? The reasons you are in comedy?
JP: Early on it was guys like Johnny Carson , Groucho Marx, and Don Rickles. As I started to understand comedy more and got to see more of it on television, it started to include guys like Richard Lewis and Paul Reiser.
PB: I remember in the 1980’s watching Rodney Dangerfield’s young comics specials, and all of a sudden comedians were rocketing into stardom, and there were standup specials on TV all the time. A ton of huge stars came out of those specials like Kinison, Seinfeld, Louie Anderson, and the list goes on and on. Then I feel like standup comedy hit a lull and it doesn’t seem to be as prominent as it once was. Do you see any signs of it turning around and getting back to where it once was?
JP: Comedy Central really tried for a few years with Premium Blend. They also did a bunch of the half hour specials. I think there was a backlash as far as comedy on television goes. There was a ton of it in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Every network became scared to show standup again, because the market was so saturated. I think it’s ok now. To channel Jaws, I think it’s safe to go back in the water. I think there are a couple new standup specials coming out. There’s one that Adam DeVine is hosting and there’s another one called Meltdown that Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani are going to host. I think those might be the ones that awaken the Comedy Central audience to the fact that there is still great comedy happening right now.
PB: Your podcast Never Not Funny has been on since 2006, and there weren’t a lot of podcast in general back then, never mind comedy podcasts. What was it like back then for you?
JP: It was bananas. I know there’s a lot of podcasts now, but there was really only a handful back then. There were a lot of nerd podcasts and tech podcasts, but there weren’t a lot of comedy podcasts. You know what’s funny? Our core audience initially were a bunch of nerd and tech guys because they appreciated that we were doing this show and it wasn’t just a few guys talking into their computers. We had professional equipment and treated it like a radio show. I wanted it to be good. So we zoomed up the iTunes charts immediately. Back then, it was always us and the Onion fighting it out for the top spot.
PB: They really were uncommon back then, so how did it come about for you to start one?
JP: I had been doing a live talk show once a month at the UCB Theatre, and Matt Belknap, who is now one of my best friends and my co-host, was a big fan of that show. He would come to my show every month, and one day he came up to me after the show and said “We should turn this into a podcast.” I really only knew what a podcast was because of Ricky Gervais’ podcast. I didn’t really know what it was and I really wasn’t sure that I could do one, but I’ve been guilty in my career of being way behind on things. I was the last guy on Myspace and the last guy on Facebook. So, I decided when he suggested the podcast “Yeah, I’m going to be one of the first guys to do this.” I didn’t want to be pissed off in three months that I had missed the boat. So I did it.
PB: You’ve had great guests over the years. Your show is really a who’s who of comedy.
JP: You know guys like Adam Carolla and Chris Hardwick are always booking celebrities for their shows. My goal was always to have my funny friends on. Just by coincidence, some of my funny friends are famous.
PB: Who are some of the people that you get a little more excited when they come on? The people that you know it’s going to be a good show.
JP: Andy Daly is definitely one of those people. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. Pat Francis, who is a really close friend of mine and a really funny guy. He may not be a household name, but I know when he comes on, I know it’s going to be a great show. Rachel Quaintance is always a great show. And of course, when my wife Danielle comes on, it’s going to be a great show. Then there’s the people that I turned into a total fanboy when they came on. When I was finally able to get Paul Reiser and Richard Lewis onto the show, I got giddy.
PB: Is there anybody out there that you haven’t booked on your show yet that you would love to get?
JP: The holy grail for all of us in podcast, I think, is Albert Brooks. We would all love to have Albert Brooks on our shows. Mel Brooks would be another one that I would love to have, and Dick Van Dyke would be great.
PB: You mentioned your wife Danielle, who is also a comedian. Is it hard being married and living with a fellow comedian?
JP: Actually it makes things a little easier. We have completely different skill sets. She is a terrific writer and I am a terrific performer. Please understand that I am not bragging. I’m not trying to sound like an asshole. What I mean is that I am a better performer than I am a writer. She and I have never had to compete for anything. It makes it easier though, because if I have a tough audition or a terrible show, she understands. She knows what it’s like.
PB: Her dad is Walter Koenig, Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek series. What’s it like having a sci-fi icon as a father-in-law?
JP: The only time I ever saw a Star Trek movie, was when I had to watch it for Movies at Our House. I only saw the show a handful of times. To me, he was always just my girlfriend’s dad, then obviously my wife’s dad. It’s not that weird to me, since I’m not really a big Trekkie or sci-fi guy. I do think that it is completely amazing that he has his prints in front of the Chinese Theater down on Hollywood Boulevard. Only the most iconic people have that. I think it’s amazing. I got to be there with him last summer when he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was an amazing day and it was great to just be a part of it with him. So on one hand it’s really great to have this iconic guy as my father-in-law, but on the other hand, to me he’s just my father-in-law.
PB: I’ve noticed that you reference baseball a lot in your work. Are you a big baseball fan?
JP: I know baseball in terms of the White Sox. If you were to ask me right now who plays second base for, woo I almost said the Yankees, but if I didn’t know who Robinson Cano was, then this conversation should be over. I know the White Sox very well, and I tend to get the rest of my knowledge from fantasy basbeball.
PB: So what’s next for Jimmy Pardo?
JP: You know, I’ve always got something going on. At the moment, I’m working on something with TBS. Everything is in the preliminary stages, and hopefully it will all work out and we’ll be able to get something on the air real soon. And of course, my podcast. I’m having more fun with it now more than ever.