Inside the Comedy Podcast Boom with Jimmy Pardo

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Jimmy Pardo is feeling himself. “I’m now at a point where I’m like, ‘This is who I am. If you like what I’m doing, great. Get on board. If you don’t like it, there’s a lot of other things out there for you.’” The former Conan warm-up comic and host of the long-running podcast Never Not Funny has just launched a brand new podcast, Playing Games with Jimmy Pardo. Playing Games incorporates Pardo’s game show hosting experience into a live show where listeners call in to test their pop culture trivia knowledge with the help of celebrity guests like Zach Galifianakis, Nikki Glaser, and Scott Aukerman. I talked to Pardo about his love of game shows, Kesha, and what will happen when the podcast bubble bursts.

The new show format is a lot of fun. What was the inspiration for creating a call-in game show podcast?

It’s kind of twofold. I love game shows. I want nothing more in the world than to host game shows. I’ve been very lucky to do it on television a few times. I wasn’t really aware of a lot of podcast game shows. There may be some, but I’m not aware of them, so we thought that might be an interesting way to go. But the biggest part of it was that fans of Never Not Funny who have been listening to us from the beginning, for the last eleven-and-a-half years, always say, “I want to recommend this to my friends, but when my friends go to listen they see that the episode is two hours long and it seems very daunting for somebody to jump in to just try it out.” So we thought that this game show was a great way to capture the vibe of Never Not Funny, which is why there is a lot of interviews and interaction with the callers. You get a little sample of what we do on Never Not Funny in this fun, little half-hour game show format. If you like that, maybe you’ll join us over at Never Not Funny. In addition to having fun hosting a new game show podcast, it will maybe also be an entree into the world of Never Not Funny.

I like that the episodes were about 30 minutes. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but some of them are long and I prefer to listen in one sitting. If I’m just taking the dog for a walk or doing a short commute across town I like to have something that fits within that time span.

I don’t disagree with that. Never Not Funny has grown in length over the years. Our longtime fans love it. They love that they can listen to it to and from work, or over two days of commuting. But for yourself or new people, maybe they want a smaller dose and this is a good way to whet their palate.

It’s a pop culture trivia show. How much of a pop culture guy are you personally?

I’m a pop culture guy in the things that I know. That’s the best way to put it. There’s a lot of pop culture that I don’t understand or get into. I’m not a big comic book guy. I know a lot of comedians are. I’m not a big Stranger Things or Walking Dead guy. There seem to be these certain touchstones that all comedians seem to be into that I don’t seem to be. But I’m into other areas of pop culture. I can watch General Hospital or Nashville, or listen to Kesha. There are things I’m into that other comics would look at me and roll their eyes and think, “Wow, what an old man.”

You just dropped Kesha. That’s not necessarily an old man pick.

As great as Kesha is — I think her new album is the album of the year — some a-hole always likes to point out, “Well, it’s the best album that you’ve heard.” Yeah, no shit. That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t comment on something I didn’t hear, and why are you offended by my opinion? Even though it was a number one album, it still isn’t talked about in a hip way, which is why I included her in my weird collection of pop culture likes.

What I hear is that you’re a guy who knows what he knows and likes what he likes and has built a career around just that. From your standup style to your podcasts, you seem comfortable being you. Is that accurate?

I think so. That’s not to say I’m not open to new things. But I think it is. It took years of growing up and being an adult to get there and go, “You know what? If I want to talk about the band Chicago, I’m going to do that and hopefully fans will find it either interesting or fun and if they don’t I’ll be done talking about it in a few minutes.” All through high school and stuff I tried to adapt to what the norm was, trying to fit in with the other kids in school and whatnot. I’m now at a point where I’m like, “This is who I am. If you like what I’m doing, great. Get on board. If you don’t like it, there’s a lot of other things out there for you.”

As someone who started a podcast in 2006 before a lot of people even knew what podcasts were, what have you noticed in terms of changes in podcasting, and what do you think its potential is heading forward?

I think it’s a lot like the comedy boom of the late ‘80’s/early ‘90s. To a lesser extent it’s like when Dane Cook became a success on MySpace and comics all thought, “I should get a MySpace page and I’ll be as famous as Dane Cook,” not thinking that they also need to be as funny as Dane Cook. It’s the same thing with the comedy boom: Every guy in the office who thought he was funny believed his office mate who said, “Hey, you’re funny enough to be a comedian.” The cream would rise to the top, to use that old cliche. I think it’s the same thing with podcasting right now. People see the success I’ve had with it, or Scott Aukerman, or Marc Maron, and they think, “Oh, I’ve gotta do a podcast. I can sit around and talk with my buddies too.” I think this bubble will eventually explode, the cream will rise, and everything else will regress to the norm. As far as potential, from what I can tell by the people coming out to the live shows, it seems for some people it’s replacing radio. But I don’t know if it will ever replace radio. There’s still something to feeling connected with your local people. Podcasts can be a great addition to that, but I don’t know if it will ever be a full-on replacement.

How much standup are you doing these days?

I like to get on the road about once a month. That keeps it fresh and fun for me. I just finished a six-weekend run. Luckily I was hitting some pretty good clubs, so I didn’t get tired of it, but it was a lot. It was a lot of time to be gone and a lot of hearing my own voice, which, while I’m a self-involved idiot, hearing my own voice that much can drive me crazy. I like to get out once a month, mainly to stay out there and meet the podcast fans and say hello, in addition to doing standup, which is obviously fun. But it gives me a chance to meet these fans in person and say thank you for listening to our show.

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