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Review: Jimmy Pardo

Beware getting in the line of fire of this crowd-work master
Russ Espinoza, 10:30am, Wed. Jun. 25

It must be hard enough going through life as a moron, but why oh why place yourself front-row-center – and therefore in the crosshairs – of a consummate “crowd-work” comedian like Jimmy Pardo?

Famous for his decades as a stand-up, as well as in latter years his hit podcast, Never Not Funny, and a plum job serving as the warm-up act/opener for TBS’ Conan, Pardo, 47, is a comedic everyman who appears to have hit full-stride.

His three-night stand at Cap City Comedy Club last weekend included stand-up performances Friday and Saturday nights and a live Never Not Funny taping Sunday afternoon. For a tonally and atmospherically identical rendition of what you missed from Pardo’s two sets, see his 2013 comedy album Sprezzatura – which translates from Italian to mean “perfect conduct or performance of something (as an artistic endeavor) without apparent effort.”

For Pardo, the tag “crowd-work comedian,” though something of an overused buzzword, fits with the snugness of those cardigan sweaters he loves so well. In the spirit of “sprezzatura,” Pardo long ago eschewed prepared material in favor of forging a career out of improvising onstage, communing with his audience, and falling back on his instincts at eliciting laughter in rapid succession.

And just like on Sprezzatura, Pardo, with his dizzyingly zippy delivery and weighty mental tome of reference points, interacts with the audience and mines them for laughs. This is why, to revisit the condition of being a moron, said individuals should know better than to plant themselves at the feet of Jimmy Pardo. Though hardly considered an “insult comic” or the bullying type, his ribbing of people for not remembering their anniversary or admitting to disliking parenthood (to single out a few of our local townsfolk) is focused and piercing without resonating as cruel or over-the-top.

The high priest of the morons on Saturday night, a 32-year-old named “Damien,” (the one who drew a blank on the anniversary question), was a sitting duck for Pardo all night. Imagine what a drunken deer in the headlights might say if it was born brain-damaged and could talk. That was Damien: a wellspring of weird, off-key answers to Pardo’s probing that basically stole the show. For his part, the cheerfully exasperated comedian kept imploring the girlfriend of 14 years to get the hell out.

Like a pinball, Pardo’s mind – seeing as he’s largely improvising up there – careens from one laugh line to the next with galling speed. The gaps between them are so narrow that laughs tend to stream into one another seamlessly. The comic makes it all happen so fast that, apart from parenthood, show-business, and goodnaturedly ripping on Damien, who can recall most of what he riffed on?

The Chicago native and L.A. transplant’s impression of Austin? Positive, for sure – even though he spent his downtime taking in a crappy movie (Jersey Boys) and foolishly eating some mangy Thai food in lieu of barbecue (kind of a local staple). He knows he screwed-up and was very repentant, though.

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