By CHRIS HUMPHREYS
You might have caught a glimpse of Jimmy Pardo performing stand-up on shows like “The Tonight Show with Jay Lenoâ€ or “The Late Late Show with Craig Fergusonâ€ or maybe â€œConan,â€ where he currently warms up the crowd and has also filled in for Oâ€™Brienâ€™s partner, Andy Richter on occasion. Heâ€™s even had his own half-hour special, â€œComedy Central Presents Jimmy Pardo.â€ But chances are if youâ€™ve heard Pardoâ€™s comedy, it was probably sometime over the last eight years on his weekly podcast, â€œNever Not Funny,â€ where he and producer/co-host Matt Belknap have a free-flowing conversation each week with a different guest. Pardo is also known for his yearly podcast telethon that has helped raise close to a half-million dollars for Smile Train.
I recently spoke to Pardo about podcasting, the Pardcast-a-Thon and his upcoming appearances at Louisvilleâ€™s own Laughing Derby on Nov. 7 and 8.
Chris Humphreys: Youâ€™ve been doing podcasts longer than just about anybody â€“ do you plan on doing this for as long as you can?
Jimmy Pardo: I think so. We started in 2006. We did two years for free, (when) the comedy podcast boom hadnâ€™t happened yet. Ricky Gervais and Adam Carolla were out there, but I just still felt like a nerd in my basement doing a cable access TV show. So then we went to the pay format and that worked â€“ we picked the exact right time to do that.
Then the comedy podcast boom happened. We were being forgotten about. (People said) â€œI donâ€™t want to pay for something!â€ Years later, Earwolf (podcast network) came to us and said, â€œDo you want to be part of our network?â€ We had been approached to join other networks over the years, but it just seemed like the time was right. Both Matt and I were making nice livings doing other things so we thought, â€œWhy not take a chance and go back to a free format?â€ The response has been terrific; it did everything we wanted it to do. We quadrupled our number of listeners. The people that were paying for it still get a second episode every week. So it worked out.
Humphreys: Itâ€™s the sixth year for the Pardcast-a-Thon. The last two years youâ€™ve raised over $100,000 each year â€“ do you have a goal set for this year?
Pardo: Well the dream would be to outdo what we did last year, but you never know. The economy is different; everything is different. You want to do what you did the year before and keep moving forward.
Humphreys: The Pardcast-a-Thon benefits Smile Train, an international childrenâ€™s charity that helps fund surgeries for cleft lip and palate. Why Smile Train?
Pardo: You know what? Itâ€™s this simple: I saw the ad on the back of Parade Magazine, that thing that comes in your Sunday newspaper, and it said â€œ45 minutes and $250 can change a childâ€™s life,â€ and my dumb little head understood that. To me it didnâ€™t seem as daunting as giving to causes where you donâ€™t really know what the money is doing, if itâ€™s for research or this or that. So, this was just my dumb comedian head that understood if I gave $250, a child is getting a surgery and itâ€™s changing their life. So I donated.
The next day on the show (we) came up with an idea to have a contest where whoever donated the most to Smile Train got to be a guest on â€œNever Not Funny.â€ So, we did it and that spun on into, â€œHey letâ€™s do a telethon to raise money for Smile Train.â€ It all just spiraled into a thing where Smile Train is now my charity of choice.
Humphreys: Do you have any guests committed to the Pardcast-a-thon yet?
Pardo: A lot of the show regulars are confirmed. Weâ€™re five weeks away so we just started to put offers out to other people.
Humphreys: Whatâ€™s it like to talk for 12 hours straight?
Pardo: Luckily Iâ€™m there with two other guys, Matt Belknap and Pat Francis, so we take turns doing the heavy lifting. Itâ€™s a new guest every 25-30 minutes so they come out with new energy, and itâ€™s fun, more than anything else. We used to do it from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (PST) and that was awful. That was a nightmare. At four in the morning we all hit a wall – the audience, the performers, everyone. Now we go from noon to midnight (PST) so most of us are up anyway. Itâ€™s not that hard. Itâ€™s fun.
Humphreys: You mentioned the comedy podcast boom which is funny because Louisville is kind of going through a boom now with weekly comedy shows popping up around town at pizza joints and play houses and the Laughing Derby getting big names like yourself.
Pardo: Thatâ€™s really nice of you to say. You know, Iâ€™ve actually always made most of my money in the Midwest. I started in Chicago, and then I traveled all around that area. But I havenâ€™t been to Louisville since March of 1994. So, that was 20 years ago.
Humphreys: Itâ€™ll be quite different.
Pardo: Yeah, it was crazy. Tom Sobel (former owner of Comedy Caravan, now the Laughing Derby) had a Friday and Saturday gig in a hotel, maybe about 10 minutes away. I think thatâ€™s where I worked. Was that where I worked? Oh hell who cares; itâ€™s been 20 years since Iâ€™ve been there.
Humphreys: Are you excited to come back?
Pardo: Of course! I always enjoyed my time in Louisville. I donâ€™t know why itâ€™s taken 20 years but Iâ€™m glad itâ€™s finally in the books.
Humphreys: Well, hopefully weâ€™ll see you back here again, sooner than another 20 years.
Pardo: You know what, my goal is to go everywhere every 20 years. Iâ€™m not very good at booking.
After doing a little research and reaching out to a local â€œfigure who haunts Louisvilleâ€™s comedy scene,â€ Rich Barber, I learned that the club Pardo spoke of was the, â€œComedy Caravan at the Hurstbourne Hotel. There was a different host every week,â€ according to Barber.
See Jimmy Pardo live at The Laughing Derby, located at 1250 Bardstown Road, at Mid-City Mall Nov. 7 and 8. You can view show times and purchase tickets here. You can listen and donate to the Pardcast-a-thon, benefitting Smile Train at www.pardcast.com/ on Nov. 28 from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST. His free weekly podcast, â€œNever Not Funny,â€ can be found on iTunes.