When the podcast boom first materialized, at the forefront stood Jimmy Pardo’s ‘Never Not Funny,’ a new type of show consisting of merely a few friends sitting around a table chatting through live microphones. Sure, it sounded simple then – a recorded conversation – but it would soon become a format to be duplicated time and time again to the well-known shows of today.
‘Never Not Funny’, a weekly podcast (or Pardcast) hosted by the comic and his producer, Matt Belknap, features a different guest each week along with the others “around the room,” as Pardo puts it. Today, six years since it’s birth, it remains one of the medium's most distinct shows out there with it’s fans being the industry’s highest in dedication.
If there is anything that we’ve learned from the ever-growing tree of podcasts it’s that we, as fans and as people, strive for conversation. The lost art is so heavily yenned that we’re willing to listen to nearly two hours of others entertainingly ramble on about their own lives, even if miles upon miles separate us. Perhaps it’s a therapeutic event for we listeners, or even an imaginative idea of friendship; but with the loads of them being unleashed via iTunes, ‘NNF’ has stood the test of time and proven to be a best friend to its listeners each and every week.
Back in 2009, with the idea of recreating the lost telethon of old show business, and raising a little bit of money for charity (though they’ve since reached substantial amounts), the Never Not Funny crew chose to put on Pardcast-A-Thon, a twelve-hour-long podcast/telethon held in Los Angles with 24 guests on the roster to raise money for SmileTrain, a charity that aims to aid those with cleft lip and palates.
“I grew up loving telethons,” Pardo tells me. “I loved watching to see who would show up on the Jerry Lewis telethon at 4AM, seeing what ridiculous act they’d put on. So when we started doing this I wanted it to have that feeling of what are they going to do next? And SmileTrain is a great cause. In general, it makes sense. It sounds cheesy but as a comedian I’m in the business of putting smiles on other people’s faces, so it works.”
“I think instinctually,” says Belknap, “Jimmy knew he could be good at something like Pardcast-A-Thon. I think he knew he could carry a show for 12 hours, whereas a lot of people probably couldn’t. Having known him for six or seven years now, Jimmy is a very unique personality. He’s almost like a personality machine. He never stops being Jimmy Pardo. Pat [Francis] and I have had the pleasure of going on the road with him to do live Never Not Funny events and we just laugh for two or three days just hanging out on the road together.”
With a new guest appearing at each half hour mark, bringing on a brand new energy, the Pardcast-A-Thon entertains a live audience in the ACME Comedy Theater and the viewership online [via a live stream on Pardcast.com] for 12 straight hours. The event is held every Friday after Thanksgiving, ordinarily from 6PM-6AM, which both Pardo and Belknap claim can get “incredibly exhausting,” especially around that 3:30AM marker.
But as a way to switch things up, and perhaps even give themselves a well-deserved break, this year’s show will be from noon to midnight (PST) on Friday, Nov. 23, giving the east coast audience a better shot at watching or listening to the entire event. “We’ve already established that we can make it through the night,” says Pardo. “The 6PM-6AM was fun, but with the 12 to 12, I think being more present in the moment is important.” Belknap explained, “This year, I think we’ll be able to have more fun with our guests because we won’t be so burnt out. In the past, we’ve felt regret because we’re barely able to hold a conversation by the time some guests come out. We have a few regulars who have done every single Pardcast-A-Thon. They’re really amazing and supportive, and when we’re burnt out we can’t help but feel bad.”
Burnt out or not, filling the show’s twelve hours with funny has never been an issue for the podcasters. Whether you believe it to be the rotating line up of guests or the chemistry between the guys of NNF, comedy seems to naturally exude, nearly effortlessly. “I never doubt that it’ll be great,” says Pardo. “It’s going to be funny from noon till midnight; there’s no doubt about that. What I want is to get those people who haven’t been on Never Not Funny before; that makes it somewhat fresh. It’s neat when someone unexpected comes out; they bring a new energy.” Belknap adds, “I think having a different guest on every half hour helps. They bring their own story and personality to the table.”
If you’ve ever given yourself the pleasure of listening to any episode of ‘Never Not Funny,’ you’d understand in full why one would venture out to see 12 hours of this particular show. There’s a heavy presence to its originality; it’s a chemistry that seems to be very rare within both podcasts and everyday relationships. “I think the fans of our show feel like they hang out with us every week,” Belknap explains. “They feel the same way that I do; getting to spend a significant amount of time with really good friends. They feel they’re part of something. I think that’s critical to everything we do. The people that are a part of Never Not Funny know that it’s special, and they’re proud to be a part of it.”
With three successful Pardcast-A-Thon’s in the bag, all with consistently rising charity numbers totaling over $100,000 for SmileTrain, both the comedian and the producer agree that not only is the ideal position their show finds itself in truly uncommon, but also that it’s a result of the fans. “We’ve become this neat thing,” explains Pardo. “We’ve carved out this neat niche audience who really digs what we do. The fact that we’re still here speaks volumes to how great our fan base is and how much they get behind what we do. These fans are very committed to Never Not Funny.”
In any art form there’s a certain indescribable sensation attained when an original experience arises. It appears safe to assume that the guys and fans alike agree that this show is one such time, which is exactly why NNF’s annual 12-hour conversation has proven successful. For the fans, the experience of watching or listening to Pardo, Belknap and Francis interact both on the weekly show or at Pardcast-A-Thon – no matter the topic of conversation and/or rant – does equate to being around a group of great friends, and thus aiding in our strive for conversation.
Guests of past Pardcast-A-Thons have been a toss up between the NNF regulars we often see and/or hear on the podcast, and occasional first-timers. As of right now, this year’s telethon will house guests such as ‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm, comedian Sarah Silverman, ‘Comedy Bang Bang’ star Scott Aukerman and ‘Childrens Hospital’ creator/star Rob Corddry. As far as the other twenty, we’ll have to tune in and find out.
The fourth annual Pardcast-A-Thon is Friday, Nov. 23 – 12PM-12AM (PST). If you’re interested in either donating to SmileTrain or watching the feed, check out Pardcast.com and SmileTrain.org.
To quote Pardo himself, “Don’t fuck this up,” Never Not Funny fans! “Let’s do this!”
Kyle Dowling is a writer in New York. Since working as a script intern at Late Night with Conan O'Brien, his work has been published in Penthouse Magazine, Playboy Magazine, The Atlantic, The Believer, Psychology Today, The Smoking Jacket and Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, among others. He's interviewed personalities such as Marc Maron, Doug Benson, Dave Attell, Myq Kaplan, Jay Chandrasekhar and Scott Aukerman, to name a few. Aside from regularly writing for various outlets, he is currently a producer on a scripted series in development.