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LAist Interview: Jimmy Pardo of 'Conan' & 'Never Not Funny'

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A couple weeks ago we were perusing Conan O'Brien's TeamCoco.com website and saw the first installments of a web series called "The Pardo Patrol" hosted by "Conan" opening act Jimmy Pardo. Conan & Co. hired Pardo after they made the move from New York to Los Angeles to start "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien," a traumatic and dramatic rollercoaster that somehow, thankfully, ended up with Conan still being on TV. Pardo stayed with the show as it moved from NBC to TBS as he explains in the interview below. I've embedded a couple of the most recent "Pardo Patrol" videos above and below for you to check out. There's only been 3 of these videos so far with guests Ken Jeong, Dana Carvey, and Jeff Garlin, so it would be difficult to state that there is an formula for what can happen in them but they involve Pardo accosting the guest somewhere behind the scenes at "Conan" to engage in some kind of exchange that can be anything from banter to an argument and will probably continue to evolve as these continue.

My big question is, why are there only 3 of these completed over the last month? There should be at least 2 per week! Look at the guest roster of "Conan" week in and week out: from this week alone I'd like to see Neil Patrick Harris, Reggie Watts, Rob Corddry, and Nick Kroll be on "The Pardo Patrol." I don't know who has to talk to who to make this happen, but get on it. Fans of these guests will get more of them and they're guaranteed to see a new side of them because of what happens between them and Pardo - everybody wins.

Pardo has also been the host of the extremely popular "Never Not Funny" podcast which has had 4.5 mllion downloads since it began in 2006. It's a great example of a high end, comedy and interview podcast - this show has always sounded great and has had great guests and comedy from the beginning. We talked about the beginnings of this podcast and how this compares to his experiences with radio.

Please check out the interview below. To find out more about Jimmy Pardo, check out his website, the Never Not Funny podcast, you also have a chance to see him host a charity auction at Amoeba Records on July 2nd at 4pm, and if you are a real "Conan" fan you'll want to see Pardo moderate the Conan Writers Panel at the Cinefamily "Everything Is" Festival on Thursday, June 30th.

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Thomas Attila Lewis: I'd seen a couple of your "Pardo Patrol" segments that are up on www.TeamCoco.com and I wanted to ask how those came about, whose idea was this?

Jimmy Pardo: It was TeamCoco.com, I work at "Conan," I open the show every day and then hand it over to Conan and they wanted to do some more original content on the website. So they had a meeting and Conan suggested, "Why don't we have Pardo on there, why don't we have him be one of the faces?" So that's what happened, so we sat down and knocked around some ideas about what we were going to do and we shot the ones that you've seen.

TAL: What is the plan for them, scheduling wise? Is it 1 a week or does it depend on the guest? How does it work?

Jimmy Pardo: It's going to depend a lot on the guest. It's got to be the right guest who's willing to stick around and have some fun. I think the beauty of this is that we don't have to really stick to a strict schedule of this.

TAL: It's pretty obvious with the first couple, the ones with Dr. Ken Jeong and Dana Carvey, that they were psyched to do it and knew that they had a way to go with you on them.

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Jimmy Pardo: Thank you, my goal is to be different - with the name "Pardo Patrol" we're not locked into a specific format. We're open to it being anything, I think it's going to be a lot of fun!

TAL: A lot of people have no idea what that place is like beyond the set you see when watching TBS. So for fans who are total geeks for the show, they get to see a lot more of it and if you happen to be a fan of a guest that does a "Pardo Patrol" you get to see a different side of them. It's not just a hand-off from Conan to you, the "Pardo Patrol" seems to be it's own thing.

Jimmy Pardo: They do need to be slightly askew from what Conan is doing - I mean, they've just been interviewed so there's no need to interview them again so I do think they need to have a different angle. We don't want to rehash what just happened on set.

TAL: I'm hoping that more often than not you'll have at least two of these a week.

Jimmy Pardo: Oh, that would be great - we'd like to try to do that.

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TAL: I visited the set in January, Conan came out and talked to us - what's it like to work the show?

Jimmy Pardo: They run the tightest show - first of all, he's the greatest guy in the world, and Conan O'Brien has been doing this for so long that the show takes only 50 minutes to tape. It's tight, it's fun, you're never bored, I've never been to a taping like it, it's unbelievable!

TAL: Could you explain to me how you got involved with the show?

Jimmy Pardo: I was hired the week of the test shows for "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien." I've been living in Los Angeles since 1995 and when they made the move from New York to LA and the show was getting on its feet out here they wanted to get someone to open the show. I guess they had been using writers before but they wanted to get a guy whose only concern was opening the show, someone who didn't have sketches or other writing to distract.

Then they had some internal discussions about how they didn't want to have a "warm up" guy who threw out candy and have theme song singalongs and all that stuff. Andy Richter was nice enough to throw my name out there saying that I was the funniest guy off the top of his head, someone who had the same sensibilities as the show. They looked at a thing of mine online, they called me in for the interview and offered me the job four minutes later and I've been there ever since. I've never really wanted a job doing warm-up but it was "The Tonight Show" and it was Conan O'Brien. The idea of working with this guy who I had watched for over 16 years, someone who really did have the same sensibilities as me.

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TAL: That's some great background on how this happened. Also, then there's all the horrible things that happened with NBC, but at least you guys are back on the air in a very strong show that you couldn't have had on NBC.

Jimmy Pardo: Yeah, can you imagine all these people that moved from New York? Everybody thought this was going to be it. My friend told me when he found out about my gig, "You have a job for the rest of your life!" But sure enough, 7 months later it was over. Luckily we got back to work 7 months later, here we are, we're at a network that wants us, and the energy that we have at the office and in the studio is unlike what it was at "The Tonight Show" - it's fun and loose and happy and we're having a great time.

TAL: You can really see that with Team Coco. You've got the live webcasts, the "Pardo Patrol," and all kinds of video bits - you just don't see this kind of production on CBS or NBC or ABC. Perhaps the exception is Jimmy Fallon who started out doing webcasts before he was even on the air with his show.

Jimmy Pardo: That's right, I think it's generational, don't you?

TAL: Yes, but also it's a matter of investment which I think you'll see even more of this. But it will take them a while to catch up to what "Conan" is doing: podcasts, the Coco Cam, the live webcasts on Fridays which appears to be a bunch of antics...

Jimmy Pardo: Antics! That's the perfect word! I think also, to compare it to Jay [Leno], I don't think he has an audience that would say that after the show they would go to the web to get more of the show or other content. I think they say "Bye! See you tomorrow!" and then turn off the TV. They're not looking to get additional stuff from the team.

TAL: I also had some questions about your podcast "Never Not Funny" as it's also a great piece of content. It's been described as having seasons, do you really approach it that way?

Jimmy Pardo: Well, we had a cast change after 59 episodes and after we made that chance we didn't call the next episode 60 or 61, we called it 201 which we stuck through for another 40 episodes. Then we had the option to start charging for the show. When we did that we called the new set 301. So we decided to charge people for 26 episodes at a time and we call each of these 26 episode chunks "seasons." At this point we're now into what we're calling our 9th season.

TAL: How did you come to embrace the podcast format? Were you a listener of podcasts before?

Jimmy Pardo: The only one I knew of before was Ricky Gervais'. He made that big splash releasing those 5 episodes in, what was it, late 2005? Then the guy who is my producer, Matt Belknap, was a fan of mine, and he was running ASpecialThing.com and he was coming to my live shows. He said, "Hey, I think your skills could be used wisely in podcast - let's do these Jimmy Pardo interviews and release them as a podcast." I really didn't know what that meant except for Ricky Gervais. We starting doing them at my dining room table and had probably 6 listeners and now we have about 4.5 million downloads total. Now we have a studio in Sherman Oaks and we make money doing it, it's really just taken off. I love it! I look forward to doing it every week and I love that people like it, I'm proud of it. That's how it happened!

TAL: You have a lot of fans now that have found you through that medium.

Jimmy Pardo: The only other way that helped me get a bigger fan base was the Bob and Tom Radio Show out in Indianapolis. They hit 130 markets across the country and their fans are really loyal. The show is so comedy friendly and comic friendly, they let you shine on the radio show in a way that other radio shows are afraid to let comics do. I kind of refer to them as the Johnny Carson of the new millennium. If Bob and Tom like you, their fans embrace you. The comparison I'm making is that I had a great fan base because of Bob and Tom, and then this podcast, once these podcast fans are on board, they're on board. It's really made me reach an audience that I did not know was out there and man, I'm grateful for them.

TAL: You've got a hugely successful podcast and you guys just keep churning them out, you're so consistent.

Jimmy Pardo: That was the goal from day one. I had a knot in my stomach when I started this because I thought it was cable access. I wanted it to sound good, to do one once a week, and to make it a real thing. I really wanted to treat it like radio, to make it professional, and it really has paid off. I'm sorry my answers are long-winded and rambling, go ahead.

TAL: [Laughs] No, I thank you for them, thanks for your time today and for putting out all this great stuff. Do you have anything else coming up that you could share with us?

Jimmy Pardo: I will be hosting a charity auction at Amoeba Records on July 2nd at 4pm, also I'll be moderating the Conan Writers Panel on Thursday, June 30th that's part of the Cinefamily "Everything Is" Festival.