Jimmy Pardo is a busy, busy man. When he’s not performing stand-up comedy, opening for Conan or recording his long-running (and highly recommended) podcast Never Not Funny, what does he do in his spare time? Well, apparently, he films a show for the Nerdist Channel! That’s right, folks – today is the debut of Write Now! with Jimmy Pardo, a hilarious hodgepodge of stand-up showcase and roast that pits a stand-up comic against a crew of comedy writers to see who can emerge victorious and emotionally unscathed. To get the skinny on what to expect from this Comedy Thunderdome, I caught up with the man himself, Jimmy Pardo, to find out who wins, who loses, and why cardigans are overdue for a comeback.
Nerdist: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today!
Jimmy Pardo: Of course! Let’s do this!
N: So, the show is called Write Now! with Jimmy Pardo, correct? What can people expect from the show?
JP: It’s a combination stand-up showcase and roast. What happens is that I come out, introduce a stand-up, and while the the stand-up is doing their set, three comedy writers on stage write me roast-style jokes based on the comedian’s set.
N: Fantastic. You guys actually workshopped this show as The Writers’ Room, a live show you performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in LA. What did you learn from those shows going forward for this adaptation?
JP: You know, we did it for about five years at the UCB and everyone walked out of there thinking, “This would make for great video. I could watch this all night long.” They just loved it. So, we finally figured out a way, in conjunction with The Nerdist Channel, to get it on the web so that more people can see it. And, of course, we worked the kinks out. It’s now a tighter show, but we manage to keep the looseness that is very important to this concept.
N: Was this show also in front of a live audience?
JP: Yes, we did it in front of a live audience. It was a small theater, but you want to have that instant feedback while managing to capture it like a television show, which is something I think we managed to do well.
N: More often than not, who comes out on top – the comics or the writers?
JP: Oh, the writers. The writers always win. Here’s the beauty of it: the comic gets to do their set uninterrupted; they get to showcase what they do. Then, at the end, they get a chance for a last word, a rebuttal. The comic always gets the final word. There’s really only one guy who ends up winning and that’s me.
N: Of course.
JP: Writers, they get hit at the very end. The comic gets hit while I’m reading the jokes. And I just sit there and look nice in my cardigan sweater.
N: A very sensible choice for a host – I would wear a cardigan too.
JP: I’m bringing it back to that Andy Williams/1967 look.
N: Well, fashion is cyclical, so it was about overdue for a comeback.
JP: Listen – it’s back and we love it.
N: So, who will be on the first episode? Who’s the comic?
JP: The comic is a fellow named Josh Comers – he’s a writer on Conan – he’s our featured comic. Then, the writers are Frank Sebastiano (SNL, Late Night with David Letterman), Laurie Kilmartin (Conan) and Ed Lee (Drew Carey Show, Are You There, Chelsea?). A really great group.
N: You’re also something of a trailblazer in the comedy podcasting world – people call you “The Podfather.” How did you get involved in that world and what is it that excites you about that medium?
JP: I got started because I was in between TV jobs – and I feel like a broken record when I say this – I didn’t know anything about podcasting except that Ricky Gervais had one. I did not know that lots of people were doing these underground shows out of their basements, talking into the microphone on their computer, and when Matt Belknap came to me and said, “Hey, do you want to do a podcast of your talk show at the UCB?,” I just said yes. That immediately went from taping the show at UCB, which was a failure – the show did not translate well to a radio medium – to setting up a little radio station at my dining room table and recording it weekly in my dining room. We did about 52 episodes, recorded in my house for about a year, then moved to a studio in Sherman Oaks.
What I like about it is the freedom. For me, my stand-up is very much in the moment; I try to improvise as much as I can during my stand-up, and, in doing so, people always said, “Boy, you should have a blog on the Internet. People would love to read your funny thoughts.” Keep in mind, this was before Facebook and Twitter too. But, whenever I tried to write a blog, it just read like a child’s rambling. It was awful. So, the idea of doing a weekly podcast where I could get my thoughts out, just be in the moment and bounce and riff of my friends seemed like the perfect channel for me. That’s really how and why it started.
N: Yeah, I can imagine that having that energy in the room makes a huge difference.
JP: It does! And I’m not the best writer in the world, which goes back to the show Write Now! – here’s these three professional comedy writers writing me the jokes to perform. It’s not unlike Billy Crystal or Chris Rock at the Oscars; they’ve got their team in the wings writing them jokes while a presenter is up there. Then they come out – and they get all the credit, of course – while their team is back there in a huddle coming up with funny things to say. So, the podcast lets me be free and loose without worrying about writing and the show gives me these professionals. The bottom line is that I come out looking great in every situation.
N: That really is the bottom line. And that’s what we’re here for.
JP: You’re damn right.
N: Apart from the show, what else can we look forward to from you?
JP: Most important of all, the Pardcast-a-thon 2012 is coming up on November 23rd. The Pardcast-a-thon is my annual podcasting marathon where we raise money for charity over the course of 12 hours. This year, we’ll be going from noon to midnight and I have 24 different guests coming on, a different guest every half hour. We are raising money for Smile Train. Last year we raised $41,000. To date, we are over $100,000. So, the goal is to raise more than $41,000 this year. We’re doing it at the Acme Comedy Theatre in Los Angeles – the same place that we shot Write Now! – and it will also be streaming live on Pardcast.com for the full 12 hours.