So how does this stand-up comic make working the crowd look so easy?
Rare is the comic who can quip with the zippiness of Jimmy Pardo. Because of his easy facility with gab and invariably "finding the funny" therein, the 47-year-old stand-up vet has a smash-hit podcast (Never Not Funny), prominence as a national touring act, and a cushy job with TBS' Conan to show for himself. The Chronicle spoke with Pardo about his various hats in advance of his appearance and live podcast taping at Cap City Comedy Club this weekend.
Austin Chronicle: As a stand-up, you made a pivotal decision many years ago to forgo prepared material and establish yourself as a "crowd-work" comedian. Was there a watershed moment where you decided to reinvent yourself?
Jimmy Pardo: It was late 1992: I'd been doing comedy for a few years, and I got tired of people telling me that I was 100 percent funnier offstage. And for whatever reason, it clicked in late '92, and I just was like, "I gotta kinda start over here. I gotta go back to what I was doing as an open mic-er. I gotta do what's true to me." I like to say that I spent about five years working very, very hard to be an average white guy talking. I wasn't horrible, but I wasn't good – I wasn't interesting. I was just a generic comic.
AC: You're the warm-up act on Conan. For those who have never attended a late-night talk show taping, take us through what that role entails.
JP: We're a little different, in that it's a really tight show. What happens is, I'm basically just welcoming the people, explaining to them who's on the show, how a live TV taping works, and being as funny as I can be.
[With] other shows, you can feel like you're sitting there for a long time; especially in a sitcom, where they gotta have different camera setups and they move into different rooms. The warm-up has to do a lot of handholding in-between. On other talk shows, the warm-up has to go out for the commercial breaks and keep the energy up and throw out candy and shirts – and I don't have to do that. So I don't even like to say that I'm a "warm-up"; I like to say I'm the "opening act," because I literally come out and I open the show, and then I'm done.
AC: You do a 12-hour marathon Never Not Funny podcast taping every year to raise money for charity. What's the feeling like in the waning hours to have been recording so long?
JP: The beginning, of course, everybody's hyped up, and then you get a little tired, and then you see the light at the end of the tunnel – in the last few hours, you sprint for the finish line. That little gap in the middle – not even in the middle, almost like at the three-quarter mark – you just feel like, "Jesus! Why are we doing [this] – other than for charity? Why is this fun?" And then eventually it's like, "Oh, this is why!" And you burst through that wall like the Kool-Aid guy, and you take a sip of Monster drink, and you move on.
AC: You've said that you've worked really hard to make your interplay with crowds look effortless. In what ways have you worked to give off that air?
JP: I think it's just a matter of doing it [getting onstage]. It almost sounds arrogant to say, but it's the skill that I have. I'm not a great joke writer, but I can do this. It's a magic trick to incorporate these people into the bits that I'm doing and make it seem seamless without it being, you know, "What's your name? What do you do for a living?" I mean, that comes up every now and then, but I try to avoid those tropes – if I can. When I do warm-up, I ask that because that's a different animal, but when I'm out doing stand-up, I ask people if they're married and that sort of thing. Nothing's ever a dead end. I don't ever ask somebody a question just to ask them a question or make fun of them – that's not my bag. For the most part, everything's happening for a reason.
Jimmy Pardo performs Friday and Saturday, June 20 & 21, 8 & 10:30pm, at Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. A live taping of his podcast Never Not Funny will take place Sunday, June 22, 3pm, at the club. For more information, call 512/467-2333 or visit www.capcitycomedy.com.