Jimmy Pardo is a comedian’s comedian — which is to say he’s better known by other stand-ups than he is the general public. Of course, anyone who’s seen a “Conan” taping has watched Pardo warm up the crowd, and he’s steadily becoming more visible these days thanks to another invaluable tool for contemporary stand-ups: the podcast.
Praised by festivals and critics, Pardo’s “Never Not Funny” podcast is up there with Marc Maron’s “WTF” and Paul F. Tompkins’ “Tompkast” as an example of how to do a comedy podcast right. Smart, conversational and, mostly importantly, always funny.
We chatted with Pardo via e-mail from his home in L.A. in advance of his “Never Not Funny” taping at the Gothic Theatre on Saturday.
Podcasts have obviously been a boon to comedians over the past few years. Do you think it has helped stand-up across the board, or have there been some drawbacks?
I think it has helped more than hurt. It’s given comics a way to reach more people by doing what they do best — perform. In the past, it was either get on TV or just start posting videos on MySpace… and we see where that’s led us. MySpace is dead because of it. Yes, I blame bad comedy videos for the demise of MySpace. That said, we are now at a place, not unlike the ’80s comedy boom, where every open mic’er thinks a podcast is a jump to getting noticed.
What are your favorite things about podcasting? And what are your favorite podcasts outside of your own?
I enjoy the freedom it allows… restraints are only self imposed: concept, language, length of show, etc. No exec telling you that you need to change this or that to make the 17-17 1/2-year-olds happy. As crazy as it is, I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts. Other than the obvious ones like The Sound of Young America, WTF, Comedy Bang Bang or Paul F. Tompkins’ show, I’m really enjoying Paul Gilmartin’s show about mental help. I think it’s entertaining as well as helpful.
Who are your favorite guests so far?
My stock answer here is Conan O’Brien, so I don’t lose my job on “Conan.” I can honestly say I don’t have a favorite guest, I enjoy the different energies and vibes that each individual person brings to that particular show. What I really like is being able to have people on that maybe nobody had ever heard before and introducing them to their work.
What’s the hardest thing about warming up audiences for “Conan”? How did you get that gig and how long have you been doing it?
I started the week before we went on the air with “The Tonight Show.” Legend has it that they were looking for a guy to open the show that wasn’t a typical “warm-up” act… you know, the guy who throws out mini candy bars and has TV theme song sing-alongs. They wanted a guy to do comedy with the same comedy sensibilities as the show. Andy Richter suggested me, I had a meeting and was offered the job. I’ve been doing it ever since and it’s great fun. I get to work with some of the greatest comedy minds in TV today. There is not really a “hardest part” of warming-up the crowd. They are good crowds looking to laugh.
Now for some standard “Why So Serious” column questions: When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
I said something really inappropriate to my wife and she heard the funny rather than the mean and we laughed like jackasses for hours. I’m sad to say language does not allow me to share the story’s details. BUT, it was about a month ago. Also, the movie “Bridesmaids.”
What’s a joke you used to love to tell but now can’t stand?
Uhg, you’d have to include a supplement for this edition of the paper in order for me to answer this question. There’s a gazillion of them.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing about?
While I make a lot of jokes about 9/11, I feel bad about every one of them a second after I say them.
What’s your favorite joke of the moment (yours or someone else’s)?
David Letterman’s joke the other night and I’m paraphrasing: “Jay Leno just celebrated his birthday. I’m told he cut the cake with the same knife he put in Conan’s back.” Just a perfect piece of comedy.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of random song titles and band names.