Jimmy Pardo is a class act. After all, anyone who has seen him perform would testify that it’s only natural that the quick-witted Pardo was plucked from the comedy club circuit to be the warm-up comedian for the newly-minted The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. But reigning in the studio audience for the gold standard of late night television is only Pardo’s day job: fans of alternative comedy know him as the host of the award-winning Never Not Funny (available at Pardcast.com). Pardo also has made a name for himself with a long resume of hosting gigs, both live (at the Upright Citizen Brigade Theater in LA, where he performs frequently) and on television, in addition to featured stand-up spots on the late-night circuit. The Travesty had the pleasure of sitting down with Jimmy after a show at Cap City to discuss life on the road, his performance style, and why not everyone should be allowed to have a podcast.
Texas Travesty: You’re the second big-time interview that we’ve had since we got Doug Benson a few months ago. Since not many comics stop by UT, that means you have 100% more exposure on campus than almost any other comic in the world. So congratulations.
Jimmy Pardo: Thank you? Is that a question?
TT: That’s a congratulations.
JP: Oh! Thank you! I don’t know how to respond to that. I’ll take it as a win.
TT: You lived in Chicago for a long time.
JP: I grew up there.
TT: Was it a tough decision to leave your hometown?
JP: No. Not at all. I did a showcase for CBS Television, and a talent scout saw me who then went into management, and said, “I will manage you if you move out to L.A.” And six months later, after I had a horrible breakup with a girl, I moved out to L.A. And then that guy had a nervous breakdown a month after I moved there. So then it was a hard time to move there. But you gotta move. So, no, it was not a hard decision.
TT: You pretty much have to move out to L.A.
JP: If you want to be in show business, you do. I don’t want to take anything away from comics who work the road exclusively, because these are hard-working guys, and very talented as well, but if your aspiration is to be on television, then you gotta move there, or New York.
TT: Speaking of being on the road, your normal gig is the warm-up comedian on The Tonight Show. This is the first club that you’ve done since you started that.
JP: It is. First club on the road since I’ve started on Conan.
TT: Do you miss the road?
JP: Nope. Not at all. But it’s going to make me appreciate it more. The stress is gone. Not that I had it at all in the last ten years, but there used to be the stress of the club liking you and wanting you back. “Oh, I hope I got along with everybody and I hope they want me!” The road comics, that’s how they live their lives: they hope the club likes them, and they get rebooked the next year. But now I don’t have that. They can say, “You suck, we’re never having you back.” “Okay, see ya later!”
TT: Your act is a throwback to the nightclub comedians of the ‘60s. How did that come about? How did you develop that style?
JP: I guess probably just growing up in a house where my parents watched a lot of Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live. That’s not the ‘60s, certainly, but watching comedy as a kid, and idolizing Johnny Carson when I was nine… When the other kids were idolizing baseball players, I wanted to put on a suit and talk. I would imagine that’s where it’s from. I like that whole era to begin with. I think my natural cadence sounds that way, so maybe I adapted around the cadence, I don’t really know. Other comics think out their character onstage, and I never really thought out anything. It all came naturally. So I can’t really pinpoint.
TT: Since most of your act is crowd work, do you do anything to stay fresh?
JP: Well, that is staying fresh. Every show is different, and obviously some of the stuff is done every night, but I try to find fun stuff every night, like [in tonight’s show], the guy with the bicycle, and the gay couple, and finding the humor in [them]. Not just making fun of people: if you’re watching my show, it’s a fine line of what I do. Some would go, “Oh, he just insults people, he just makes fun of them.” But not really. If you wait one second longer, you realize that nobody’s getting hurt, it’s all in fun. And it’s just silliness. It’s just comedy.
TT: Then let’s talk about the medium that fits your talent, your podcast Never Not Funny. You riff on everyday minutiae in a very casual tone. Do you have any ground rules? Or is it just an extension of your act?
JP: It’s just an extension. I grew up idolizing these guys in Chicago named Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. They were Howard Stern before Howard Stern was Howard Stern. They were groundbreaking in radio, and I loved it. I always thought if I had the opportunity to do something like that, I would emulate them. Because they just talked. [Bartender nearby shakes a cocktail.] Looks like someone is ready to do some spray painting. So… there are no real ground rules. We joke on there a lot that we don’t like to talk about politics, because we do get a lot of listeners upset when we talk politics.
TT: Seems bizarre.
JP: Especially the way I talk about it. What do I talk about? I talk about what he’s wearing. I don’t even talk about his policies. They say, “You guys are just a bunch of Obama lovers.” Well, yes, but so what? We’re not talking about his policies. So there are no real ground rules. I just want it to be fun. And light. And entertaining.
TT: How do you feel about being on the forefront of a medium that didn’t even exist five years ago? How do you feel about being the “cool kid” who gets to set the rules for this new thing?
JP: Well, I’ve been passed up by Adam Carolla, and everyone’s giving him credit for having started podcasting. But Adam is a terrific broadcaster and a very funny guy. And if it brings more attention to podcasting, great. If more people listen to him and get turned onto podcasting, then they might click on my thing and listen to mine. [Pauses.] But I don’t know the answer to that. It’s a great question, and if I was an adult, I could answer it. I think… Anything I say is going to sound either cocky or childish, so I don’t really know how to answer it. It’s neat? It’s really… I like it.
TT: It’s a fun position to be in.
JP: It’s a fun position, but I get a little… Because I am one of the first to have done it, and we do this particular format, everybody feels the need to come up to me and say, “I’m going to start my own podcast! And it’s gonna be me and my two buddies talking!” And that’s not just what this is. So in that regard, it’s weird to be first, because then everybody wants to do what you’re doing, when in reality, all I’m doing is morning radio without commercials and a bell.
TT: You already answered this a little, but how is hosting a podcast different than doing stand-up or hosting a game show?
JP: Well, [the format is more] free. You talk about whatever you want. I’ve learned a little bit, and maybe I need to learn a little bit more, of watching what I say when it comes to fellow performers who may listen to it and I don’t know that. I’m just trying to be funny, but if I put down another comedian, it comes off really petty. And that’s the one thing I need to watch. That’s one way it’s different than stand-up. It’s not just going out to the atmosphere. If I was to crap on someone tonight, who heard it? Sixty people and it’s over. But if I do it on a podcast, it’s there. “Hey, I heard you badmouthed me!” “No I didn’t! Click.” “Yes you did! I can play it!” That’s the one thing I have to learn as far as that goes. And maybe not being honest and open is a good call. Wow. Long answer. Windbag. I’m a long-winded windbag.
TT: If you could change one thing about the comedy business now that was in place when you first started, what would it be?
JP: No women. [Interviewer laughs.] I would get rid of the Internet.
TT: What is it about the Internet?
JP: I think that comics—and many people disagree with me—I think that young comics do themselves a disservice by putting their sets on the Internet too early. It goes back to the thing where it’s always out there. Like I talked about earlier, if a young comic is so excited to say, “Go to my Facebook page! Go to my MySpace page! Go to YouTube and look at my stand-up!” you’re not ready to be seen by people. You’re supposed to be learning and failing. And learning in a vacuum. They keep putting these sets up there, and in their mind, they don’t think they suck. And I didn’t either. I thought I was great too. And when you look back at tapes, it’s like, oh sweet Jesus, I can’t believe people laughed and paid money to see that. God bless my girlfriends at the time and my parents for sitting through it and lying and telling me I was good. But these people are putting it on the Internet for the world to see! So I would do away with that.
TT: Do you think it stunts new performers from becoming better? Or do you think it ruins the experience of going to a comedy club?
JP: I think it ruins the experience of going to a comedy club. I also think… well, those are two different questions. What would you get rid of, I would get rid of [the Internet] so they can learn in a vacuum and be listening to themselves and watching themselves privately. And again, other people disagree with me.
TT: But you would change that.
JP: If Jimmy Pardo could change it, I would get rid of the ability to put up stand-up comedy clips until you’ve been doing it at least five years. In fairness, I was on Caroline’s Comedy Hour after doing comedy three years, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Let’s keep that in mind. I don’t know what I’m talking about.