Back in 2006, George W. Bush was still president and The O.C. could still be seen on the air; Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" was a major hit and "Livestrong" wristbands were all the rage. On the contrary, however, podcasts were few and far between. Aside from Jimmy Pardo's Never Not Funny, that is.
"I would ask people if they wanted to be on my podcast, and they had no idea what that meant," Pardo remembers. "It was even weirder when they'd show up, and we're sitting at my dining room table doing what looked like a fake radio show."
Now more than 10 years later, Pardo has everyone from Amy Poehler to Zach Galifianakis on his podcast, while setting a standard for so many other comedians who have since started their own podcasts.
In addition to recording in his home, Pardo is now known for taking Never Not Funny on the road, occasionally taping the show at comedy clubs across the country. On January 29, in fact, the comedy veteran will record an episode of the show at The Comedy Attic, following several standup appearances at the club on January 27 and January 28.
Long before his days as a podcast pioneer, Pardo could be seen cutting his teeth at comedy clubs in the Chicago area. "When you first start, you're jumping into a whirlpool that's moving, and you're the new person and don't know which direction to go," he says. "You don't have a single friend. It's an Island of Misfit Toys."
Pardo eventually gained the approval of The Bob & Tom Show, which was crucial to his budding comedy career.
"There's no bigger support group than The Bob & Tom Show," says Pardo, who is now going on 30 years of making appearances on the radio show. "This was before the Internet, podcasts, Twitter and all that. If you went on the air with Bob & Tom in the mid '90s, and they said, 'You've gotta go out and see Jimmy Pardo,' that night the club was jammed with Bob & Tom fans. So I'm very lucky that those guys took a liking to me early on."
Pardo eventually caught another big break when he received a call from The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, which needed a warm-up comic. Although it was a great opportunity, Pardo remembers initially being turned off by the idea of warming up the audience. "The stereotypical warm-up is you come out, you might have a dance contest with the audience, and you're more of a cheerleader than comedian," says Pardo. "I thought, 'The guys that are good at it, man, they're great at it. But, it's not me. That's not my bag.'" After meeting with O'Brien and company, however, Pardo learned that this wouldn't be the average warm-up gig.
"Mike Sweeney, who was the head writer at the time, told me, 'Andy Richter said the only guy that can do 10 minutes to an hour off the top of his head — and that has the same sensibilities as this show — is Jimmy Pardo,'" Pardo recollects. "So they went and looked at a couple things online, and went, 'That's our guy.'"
After O'Brien's stint at The Tonight Show ended, Pardo moved over to TBS with the late night host, serving again as the warm-up comedian. Although no longer the warm-up today, he still has a deal with O'Brien's development/production banner, Conaco.
Looking ahead to his performances at The Comedy Attic, Pardo says this isn't the first time he's recorded a live episode of Never Not Funny in Bloomington. "This might be our fourth or fifth time doing it down there," he says. Like always, he's certainly looking forward to the visit.
"It [The Comedy Attic] is one of my favorite clubs in the country," Pardo concludes. "From day one, the guy who owns it has booked what he wanted and booked according to his sensibilities; and he hasn't booked the acts that he was told he should book. So to that end, he has really educated that town on great comedy."