I'd hate to rip off one of his "Pardo-isms" when I say this, but comedian Jimmy Pardo's newest album -- Sprezzatura -- is a total win! Being his first live CD in six years (following 2007's Pompous Clown), the new release rapidly shot up to the number one spot on both Amazon and iTunes on it's very first day. And from one listen, the reason why is pretty damn obvious.
Known for his standup, hosting the award-winning podcast Never Not Funny and appearing on TBS's CONAN, Pardo remains both modest and excited about the reaction Sprezzatura has garnered. The album mixes his fan-favored chaotically organized act with added comical offshoots -- visual to those in the audience and even at home listeners -- and is a perfect flow of hilarity that grabs the listener from minute one.
To me - and undoubtedly anyone who knows his act - something that sets Jimmy aside from many in the field of funny is his ability to deliver a "performance" that seems all the opposite of one. It's often not so much an "act" as it is a hysterical conversation between he, the audience and the listener - something understood by the loads of Never Not Funny fans around the world. Yet regardless of the outlet, Pardo's skill to make it seem as if he's gathered us all inside a room to have a conversation for which we are each essential parts of, is remarkable.
Because of this, I couldn't help but reach out to the comic and speak with him about the new album, how he preps for a CD, and what that #1 spot meant to him.
Kyle Dowling: Jimmy, it's a thrill to be speaking with you again!
Jimmy Pardo: You as well! I'm calling you from a dressing room at the Conan O'Brien program.
KD: Well, how exciting! That sure adds a certain degree of importance to this call.
JP: Certainly! It brings a whole level of show business into it. You're welcome. [laughs]
KD: [laughs] So, "Sprezzatura!" Honestly, I've listened to the album four times in two days.
JP: Oh Jesus. I hope its' not I've listened to it four times in two days to figure out what could I possibly ask you about this piece of crap.
KD: [laughs] Not at all. The album has been #1 on both iTunes and Amazon. How does that feel?
JP: Kyle, it's incredible! I started my career as a comedian. I got into show business to be a standup comedian. And while I've had great success with TV and the Never Not Funny podcast, to have the #1 comedy album as a stand up is very overwhelming. I know it's lame for somebody in my position to say they're proud but it's the truth.
KD: I don't think it's lame at all. Anyone in your position would be saying and feeling the exact same thing. For people who don't know the origin story of the title, where did Sprezzatura come from?
JP: I was talking to Todd Levin, a writer here at CONAN, and was explaining a stand up show I had done where the audience felt the need to get involved, which can sometimes happen because I'm so in the moment and improvise as much as possible. However, no matter how much that happens I always know where I'm going. I always know what I'm doing and will find the funny somewhere; I'm in control at all times.
So, I told Todd if I needed to I'd call my new CD Organized Chaos. He said the Italians have a word for that - sprezzatura. I automatically knew that was the name of my new CD. The word basically means: working hardest so to make things look effortless. In the hard copy of the CD I include the definition. It does really describe the "Jimmy Pardo experience" in one word. I'm thrilled.
KD: A lot of comedians approach recording albums by doing a number of sets and editing them together. With how your act is, a large conversation, how do you approach recording an album? Do you have to make sure one set goes just right?
JP: When I decided I was ready to do a new one I was working at Go Bananas in Cincinnati; they're set up to record at all times. So, I asked if they could record all four shows with the intent of doing what you just said - picking from each. Surprisingly, it turned out that one show was exactly what I wanted.
What's interesting about what I do, being so in the moment and willing to go away from my act at the drop of a hat, that particular show is the most structured show that I've done in ages. It's structured but still has these branches and offshoots, things like a guy getting up and looking like he should be in Night Ranger because he has a ponytail. Some may say things like that don't play on a CD because it's so visual but I do think I paint the picture enough to include everybody. It goes back to the old comedy albums when you'd hear Steve Martin refer to someone in the audience. It's theater of the mind. You can certainly figure out what's happening, so I decided to leave that in because I think it painted a good picture.
KD: As a listener, it feels as if you are part of that conversation right there with the audience. I think it plays just fine.
JP: That's exactly what I'm going for! Every now and then I'm painted as "put down" comic, and I don't think that's true. I try to include everybody and have more fun than anything else. When I'm onstage I do try to make it a conversation with the audience, which is why I love comedy clubs or small theaters as opposed to larger venues because in those larger ones I feel like it's a performance; it's harder to talk to the crowd.
For you to say that it comes a cross as a conversation, that's great because it's exactly what I want. It's representing me exactly the way I want to be.
KD: How do you go about creating your act - that "conversation" - around an audience who is not so receptive to engaging with the comedian?
JP: Well, I don't really ask intrusive questions. It's really what's your name, where do you live, who's married? Normally, their answers, no matter how short they are, act as a springboard to something else that I can talk about. And if it doesn't, I move onto the next person in the audience. Somebody will give me something that I can riff off of. But I don't look to put anyone down. I'm just talking to them so that it leads somewhere else. It's almost as if they're a straight man but they don't realize it.
KD: It's surprising to me that you're painted as a putdown comic.
JP: I think it's a lazy person's way of trying to describe what somebody that does crowd work does. It's the old Vegas thing of, "Oh, that guy talks to the audience? He's a putdown or an insult comic." I just think it's a lazy description of what me or somebody like Todd Glass does.
KD: So, I have to ask, you're in Show Business, you've got an award winning podcast, you work at CONAN, you've improvised and rubbed elbows with the likes of Jon Hamm and Tom Hanks...why put out another comedy album?
JP: I just felt it was time. Matt Belknap and Ryan McManemin at AST Records have been saying forever that I should and I just didn't think the time was right. Then I realized that no matter how many times I improvise onstage, my material now is a whole new hour than what I did on my last album, and it's constantly changed over the years. I've had good bits come and go. And some of the ones I do now are going to go away soon, and I know that.
For example, the bit about my son seeing the movie "Brave" - I can't be telling that's story forever; or my father in law getting a star on the Walk of Fame. No matter how topical they are there are really great stories in them. I felt they should be documented. And I don't mean to sound arrogant; I just thought they should be on a CD. I'm so excited with how it's all turned out!
For more by Kyle Dowling, visit his site.