Sitting outside a Mid-City office building following his weekly spot on Kyle Anderson’s Entertainment Weekly radio show on SiriusXM, Jimmy Pardo can’t help but let out a groan and roll his eyes. He notices the latest news in Trumpland scrolling on CNN on the widescreen TV over his shoulder and shakes his head. This year, Pardo hasn’t shied away from politics during his sets, frequently lambasting the president.
“He’s oddly not politics, he’s a circus,” the comedian says of the president. “You’re still making fun of this jackass who hosted The Apprentice. To me, yes, he's our president, but you’re making fun of this ridiculousness we’re all going through as opposed to left and right, Republican and Democrat. The sooner he’s gone, the better.”
His feelings about our game-show host president notwithstanding, the comedian — who for years served as the warmup act for late-night host Conan O’Brien and was a pioneer of comedy podcasting — has long been enthralled by the idea of hosting a game show. So he decided to turn his dream job into a podcast. In addition to Never Not Funny, which he's been recording since 2006, he now hosts Playing Games With Jimmy Pardo.
“I love hosting game shows — that’s what I was meant to do,” he says as he nurses a water. “When Stitcher approached us to do this, we wanted to make Never Not Funny a game show. And that’s basically what it is.”
Created with Mike Henry and Matt Belknap, Playing Games features a short interview portion and then fans can call in following an open call via Twitter. The questions they're asked are based on pop culture trivia and are organized by decade (determined at random), which gives the hosts and guest a degree of spontaneity that doesn’t generally exist in traditional game shows. Guests have included Nikki Glaser, Scott Aukerman, Cristela Alonzo and Zach Galifianakis.
Categories include "Charades by Proxy" (Henry acts out the answer and the celebrity co-host describes what they’re seeing) and "Let’s Get This Started" (a contestant gets one line of a song and guesses its title). The winner has to buzz in before the other two competitors do. The final round is a showdown against the celebrity guest.
“It’s a simple game, but the game is incidental to the fun that’s happening,” Pardo says. “It’s like The Match Game in that regard."
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The whole process from development to completion took a mere 12 weeks, and Pardo is excited about the new podcast’s potential.
“I think I’m a game-show host doing a talk show,” he says. “That part is easy for me, and I love it. I should be doing it and I am going to be doing it. The Rich Sommer episode, the contestants are just giggling like idiots.”
In the continuously muddled world of comedy podcasts, Pardo may have stumbled on a fun way to cement himself as a true pioneer in the genre. He has a modest ambition for Playing Games’ initial run: for people to have fun with experiencing a different type of podcast.
“Look, I’m not reinventing the wheel,” he says. “Radio shows have had call-in contestants forever, but not in this format. Maybe there’s 8,000 of them out there, I don’t know. But I hope not. And if someone comes up to me and says, ‘I’ve been doing this for years and nobody cares,’ that’s right — nobody cares! But they will care about this one. This is just a different skill that I also love doing. It won’t replace Never Not Funny, but hopefully it gets more people to listen to it.”