“You don’t want your hero to be a dullard”: Jimmy Pardo on his favorite Never Not Funny episodes

“You don’t want your hero to be a dullard”: Jimmy Pardo on his favorite Never Not Funny episodes

Bestcasts asks podcasters to discuss the three most memorable episodes of their podcast. Ties are allowed/encouraged. 

The podcaster: Jimmy Pardo is a veteran stand-up and warm-up man for the Conan show, and he’s also one of the pioneers of comedy podcasting. Way back in podcasting’s colonial days of 2006, he started a weekly chat show called Never Not Funny with ASpecialThing honcho Matt Belknap. The podcast further differentiated itself by opting for a paid-subscription model, which remains fairly uncommon nearly seven years later. (He also releases a free version of Never Not Funny every week that covers each episode’s first 20 minutes or so.) The cost is worth it: Never Not Funny is one of comedy podcasting’s most reliably enjoyable shows. Ahead of Fridays’s Pardcast-a-thon, a 13-hour marathon Never Not Funny that benefits Smile Train, Pardo talked about his favorite episodes.

Episode #5: Mike Schmidt
Jimmy Pardo: Episode five we were still finding our way, still fumbling about, and I guess I felt—at least at the time when I was asked to pick my three—I thought episode five was the one where everything kind of came together to be the show that I wanted to be. The first one was fumbling around, talking about equipment. I still thought it was very much in the moment and not all that different from what we’re doing today. And then episode two was kind of more of the same. It was supposed to, from the get go, be rotating guests. 

And this episode went so well with Mike. I really enjoyed having Mike, at the time, at my dining room table doing this. And then episode two was supposed to be Pat Francis, and he was sick and couldn’t make it. So then I just said, “Hey Mike, why don’t you come over? We’ll do it again.” And then all of the sudden it was kind of like, “Okay, this is the show.” Then episode three happens, then episode four, then I think that episode five was the one that really kicked it. 

The A.V. Club: It’s funny to go back and listen to it because you and Matt didn’t necessarily know each other all that well, but he wasn’t quite the punching bag he was for a while after Mike became part of the group.

JP: I think as shows went on, he kind of became the fall guy. That’s really on every morning-radio team, there’s the fall guy. I think he just naturally happened that way. Also, he may have been deathly afraid of Mike Schmidt. Mike is a big, imposing man with a quick wit. I think there were times Matt didn’t know when or if he should say anything. [Laughs.]

AVC: How long were you in the dining room? 

JP: Mike did the first 59 episodes, and I don’t remember how many we did outside of my house prior to Mike’s departure. But let’s say, I think we did a year in my house? 

AVC: You’ve talked a little bit about this on the show before, but what was the impetus for Mike’s departure? 

JP: It was time. At the time there was a lot of heated ego, on both of our sides, I would imagine. Our real friendship was getting strained. I know this is going to sound so ridiculous because we’re talking about a podcast or whatever, but I think it was time for him to leave the nest. I think that Mike had a lot to say, which he’s proving on his own podcast, which is, at times, four hours long. So he obviously had a lot to say, and I think that he wanted to say it. I didn’t want him to say it on my show because I wanted to say stuff on my show. I think—and by the way, what I’m saying to you is five years of thinking about this and it’s really just coming to a realization now of that’s what it was. It was time for Mike to do his own show, and being Jimmy Pardo’s second banana wasn’t working. He wanted to tell longer stories, and I wanted to ping-pong a little bit more than that. I wanted it to be the Jimmy Pardo show. 

AVC: Mike’s podcast, The 40 Year Old Boy, is a much different beast than Never Not Funny

JP: Yeah, it really is. Mike is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and he is a terrific storyteller. It’s just—it’s Jimmy Pardo’s Never Not Funny, and you have one seven-minute-long story from Mike Schmidt and then Jimmy and Matt participate a little bit, and then, “Oh, here’s another seven-minute story.” I guess at the time I didn’t realize, that it was like, “Hey, what’s going on here,” because there were other things happening as well in our lives, and I was about to have a baby. It was just time to make some changes. 

Episode #1106: Tami Sagher
JP: Tami had done Pardcast-a-thon, I believe it was 2010, and she was really sick. She was great, but she was sick. I knew her from the UCB, and I really liked her as a person. When she came in to do this episode, for whatever reason, it just felt so comfortable for me. So when you asked me to do this and I looked at the list of people, because… Look, there’s better episodes. Some of the Graham Elwood might be. The Jon Hamms would be great episodes—I say “Hamms” because any of his would be great. You know the Conan O’Briens would be phenomenal. The Andy Dalys. Ah, shit, it sounds like I made some mistakes with these three choices. I think I picked this one because I felt, I can’t even say because I wanted to pick a woman because I wanted to represent a woman, because the Rachel Quaintance episodes are great, the ones with Danielle Koenig are great, the ones with Janet Varney are great. There was just something about the Tami Sagher one that I just felt [Emphasizes each syllable.] comfortable. And I don’t know why I had to say it like an asshole. I can’t even speak to what it was. I do remember that I had just met the guy that starred in Breaking Away

I had told that story at the top of the show, and that was still at the time where I was painfully making the guests wait while I was making my opening remarks. It was one of those things—I wanted them in the room, because I felt it would be good for the rest of the show if they at least knew what table was set. Then as time went on and that was getting longer and longer and the show was becoming really what it is today, it’s like—what an a-hole I am for making these people arrive a half hour early to just sit there and wait. Yeah, they would laugh and they would enjoy it, but at the same time, how do you not want to jump in? And that one in particular I remember I was telling the Breaking Away story, and Tami was nodding. I remember saying I felt foolish that this guy recognized me, and here I was waiting in line to get his autograph, and she was like shaking her head no. I was like, “I feel foolish or maybe I feel flattered,” and she shook her head no when I said I feel foolish and shook her head yes when I should feel flattered, and for whatever reason, I just felt comforted by that. And it wasn’t somebody trying to interject, it wasn’t somebody trying to interrupt, it wasn’t even somebody trying to add. It just felt like, she understands what this show is. She gets it. She’s a fan of it. She’s going to participate in a way that doesn’t stop the flow of the show, and yet make me be able to find some more footing so I’m not fumbling around, if that makes sense. God, what a long-winded asshole I am, I apologize for that. 

AVC: When I was guessing which ones you would pull, I wondered if you’d include the Danielle Koenig one you recorded after Andrew Koenig’s death. But those heavier episodes aren’t really representative of Never Not Funny.

JP: They weren’t. Believe me, that one crossed my mind, that one with Danielle right after Andrew’s death. Or even Mike Schmidt’s return crossed my mind, because that’s a pretty good episode. But yeah, the one right after Andrew’s death, I do love that episode because it was almost like a release, but yeah, it’s too heavy. 

I guess the other thing about Tami is I just didn’t know her very well. Another one I had a tough time with was Ty Burrell’s first appearance, because I didn’t know Ty at all, and I don’t really do that on my show. I don’t have a complete stranger on unless it’s, like, Richard Lewis, who I kind of sort of knew, but at the same time he’s a stranger to me. But Ty I didn’t know at all. So for them to sit down and just fit in with the show as if I had been friends with them as long as I’d been with Paul Gilmartin, or Pat Francis, or Pete Schwaba, or whoever—Mike Siegel, Jimmy Dore. It just felt great. So that’s why I wanted that Tami one represented. 

AVC: There’s something reassuring about just clicking with someone like that when you weren’t sure how it’d play out. 

JP: It also helps that she’s a fan of the show. I’m always amazed when I find out that people like [the show]. She’s a successful, Emmy-nominated writer. When people like that—or when Jon Hamm first told me, “Hey, I listen to your podcast while I’m in the trailer at Mad Men,” it blew my mind that people know what this is and they enjoy it. Tami was another one. “Oh, you listen to my show? Well, why don’t you come on?” 

Episode #1117: Richard Lewis
JP: I opened for Richard, God, 10, 15 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, but we didn’t know each other at all. We said “hello” to each other and that was it. But I sat and watched every single show that he did, because he’s one of the three people that inspired me to do stand-up comedy. Then years went by, and I don’t think I ever saw Richard Lewis again until WGN Radio personality Garry Meier was out here in Los Angeles on vacation with his family, and he called me up and asked if I wanted to have lunch. So I went to the Four Seasons—I’m going to drop a lot of heavy-numbered names in—and Garry’s out front, and I’m like, “Why’s Garry meeting me at the door? I know how to get to a restaurant. What’s he doing?” And he goes, “Hey listen, there’s been a little mix-up. I thought you were today and Richard Lewis was tomorrow. Do you mind having lunch with Richard Lewis and his wife as well?” And I was like, “Do I mind? Are you kidding me? This is a dream!” So Garry was kind enough that day to basically be a broker. He said, “Jimmy was just in Chicago doing a live version of his podcast, and I was a guest. Richard, you should do it.” And Richard, of course, in Richard Lewis style, made fun of the concept of podcasting for 12 minutes and then turned to me very seriously, and goes, “Seriously whenever you want me to do it, I’ll do it. Here’s my phone number.” 

And that was it. We exchanged some voicemails from time to time—all hysterical. I wish I would have kept them. The Richard Lewis Tapes. Because his voicemails to me were as funny as his stand-up. I always use the phrase “funny in the bones” and Richard Lewis has it. So to look down at my cell phone and see that I have voicemail from Richard Lewis, “Oh here we go, show time.” It eventually worked out that he came on. He was actually one of the first—I’ll give him credit for this. He said, “What do you do?” “You get there, I’ll do the first 10 to 15 by myself.” And he goes, “Well, I’ll show up 15 minutes later then. I’m not going to sit there. You do your show, and then I’ll come on when it’s time for me.” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, doesn’t that make sense? Okay.” And then he showed up early. All of the sudden, everybody is distracted because Richard Lewis is in the hallway, but my back’s to the door, so I don’t know that. Then they said, “Well, he’s here.” And I said, “Well if he’s here, let him in.” He comes in all blustery, throws a soda bottle at me. He starts just ranting and raving, which, by the way, if he didn’t do any of that, would have been disappointing. You don’t want your hero to come in and be a dullard sitting there going “Yeah, no.” You want a guy to come in and be the Richard Lewis you hope he would be. 

There were a few times where—I know this sounds like I’m a child—but there were times where he would either laugh out loud, which was of course, “Oh great, I’m making my hero laugh,” or you would see that little Richard Lewis smile that you saw in 1989, 1990, the guy that was on TV every week. But there was like a little smile, like and it was a smile of recognition from comic to comic of “Yeah, this is working, and this is really funny, and people are going to love hearing this.” That smile said it all. I almost feel bad saying it out loud. I almost want to keep it secret, almost in the club. But that part of it was worth it to me. I came home and I said,
“There were a couple times where Richard gave this little smile that made doing it completely worthwhile.”