Stand-up comic Jimmy Pardo fell backwards into being a pioneer of the comedy podcast-o-sphere, and the world is all the better for it.
Since 2006, Pardo has been shooting the shit with funny people and along-the-way created one of the defining catalogues of interview with members of the “alternative comedy” scene that has essentially devoured mainstream American stand-up.
And now Pardo is bringing a night of both stand-up and podcasting to Houston’s White Oak Music Hall. “It’s the podcast and then stand-up [as separate shows],” the funny man explains. “Podcast gets you ready for the big guns! And I’ve been to Houston before: I recorded my second album Pompous Clown at the Laff Stop. I saw some Astros games, I lost 49 pounds as I walked from my hotel to the club one night, because of the humidity. I’m very familiar with Houston!”
But podcasting was essentially a foreign language when Pardo agreed to a one-off appearance at UCB’s LA Theatre with the manager of the website A Special Thing, comedy super fan Matt Belknap. “Matt would come to my shows and we were doing a dry interview, a really nuts and bolts comedy podcast,” Pardo reflects at his trademark break-neck speed. “He really was very supportive, and him and his wife would come to all of my shows. He was interested in doing a podcast with me, and even though we had just done one, I was being cordial… I didn’t really know what it meant, other than Ricky Gervais had one!”
From humble beginnings, Never Not Funny launched when the Apple podcasting store was mainly barren. “It started on my dinning room table, and the goal was to do one every other week for a half hour. Turns out that was not enough time, then it was every week and now they’re… well people say LONG. It’s one of those things where as long as you’re there, you’re doing this, it feels weird to put all this effort into it, show up and record for only 44 minutes and put commercials into it and hey, see you again next week. It’s grown, time-wise.”
When praised about his skills as host and how he gets the best from his guests, Pardo is modest. “I think initially that was because NOBODY knew what a podcast was and it really, really felt like we’re just talking here at my dinning room table. People kind of forgot they were talking to the world! I do have a genuine interest in people and because I’m kind of DUMB, so I might ask a question an experienced journalist may not. But I’m good at it and its what I should be doing, in addition to stand-up. It fits my, you know, my skillset… to use a generic-executive-corporate term.”
But with all these years of sit-down microphone practice under his belt, Pardo is the first to recognize the podcasting game has changed… and expanded significantly since he began. “I’m sure you’ve heard my ranting about this,” he laughs. “Now all these famous people have podcasts and the good news is we built up an audience early. We’ll get new people every now and then, but with all these new faces… it can be hard to be heard. We were earlier and better. We’ll see what happens!”
For those brand-new to the show, Pardo kindly offers a suggested listening run-down of some of this season’s highlights (Never Not Funny is produced through Scott Aukerman’s Earwolf Network and past “seasons” shift behind a paywall after six months).”The list is ever changing, but a few this past season really tick all the boxes, and capture that silliness as well as [being] a decent interview. I think the Chris Elliot one, the Paul F. Tomkins one, and the Rob Reiner one, if you’re not offended by a little bit of political talk. The Andrew Daly one we did a few years ago where we kept going over to the 711 and someone could say ‘harassing’ them. I don’t think we did, they weren’t on to us! One more that really nailed it was Jameela Jamil episode, the lady from The Good Place. Those are the ones that really hit what we do.”
Beyond his podcasting empire, many audiences first got acquainted with Jimmy Pardo as Conan O’Brien’s warm-up man from 2009 to 2015. “I did it for Conan starting on The Tonight Show, and it took me a little bit of time to get my footing on The Tonight Show, and by the time I got it – we’d moved on over to TBS,” he laughs. “TBS was easier because now there was the folk legend of Conan with Team Coco –people were really psyched to be there. And then as time went on, there would be some audiences that stunk, and you gotta adjust - Conan had to too! If they’re not good for warm-up, they’re not gonna be for Conan and that’s really what mattered. But I’m fascinated how a whole group of people can just decide mentally, ‘You know I’m not going to enjoy this today!’ These are good jokes, we are funny people, why are you not enjoying this. And the shows are free and more often than not, you’re on vacation, you should be enjoying this. But those were few and far between.”
(Even Pardo admits that not every warm-up gig is as magical as Conan – the comic did two episodes on Craig Kilborn’s Late Late Show that “went horrible.”)
Most recently, Pardo re-emerged as the warm-up man for Sarah Silverman’s Hulu talk show I Love You
America. “I swore I’d never do warm-up again, until my friend Sarah Silverman asked me. I did season 2 because my ego didn’t allow me to do Season 1! I was being a moron, claiming I’ll NEVER do warm up for anyone but Conan O’Brien! But why would I not love to be around funny people? That was a much smaller audience, only 50 – where everyone was like-minded politically and it was a piece of cake, man. That played into a much more laid back podcast vibe, to be honest with you!”
And you know, life is funny. By pouring himself into podcasting and the talk show circuit, Pardo seems to have made his day-job as a stand-up all the more enjoyable. “The difference with having a successful podcast is people in the audience now know who I am! I see Never Not Funny shirts or somebody brought an album, [which means] there are already fans in the audience. Stand-up is a lot of prove it, which is bizarre to me. So instead of having to convince an audience that I’M FUNNY, a lot of that is bypassed by already having a fan base!”
Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 North Main. For information, call 713-237-0370 or visit whiteoakmusichall.com. $20-35.