Before you go congratulating Jimmy Pardo on the inherent altruism of staging a 12-hour comedy chat show for charity, it’s important to note that he had already wanted to do one for his own reasons.
"I grew up watching the Jerry Lewis telethons and I loved seeing the nonsense that would be on at 4 a.m. to try and keep your attention and keep people donating money," Pardo says. "The initial idea was just to do a long show and have fun."
Within seconds of suggesting to his co-hosts that they stretch out their popular podcast Never Not Funny far beyond its breaking point, Pardo, the comedian and nightly opening act for Conan O’Brien’s show, realized it would be rather strange to host a telethon without a cause. Since he had previously auctioned off a guest spot on the show for Smile Train, which raises money for children’s lip and palate surgery, Pardo decided to continue that relationship for the first Pardcast-a-thon back in 2009. It was a raucous, all-night affair, loaded with celebrity guests, streaming online for the price of a donation. Although he may have only eventually arrived at a humanitarian purpose, the host’s podcast marathons have become a laugh-packed annual tradition that brought in over $50,000 for children on November 23.
Pardo was already a seasoned vet in the now-crowded comedy podcast world by the time of the first marathon. Never Not Funny was born three years earlier, in 2006; one of the pioneering shows of its kind, and perhaps the first to truly bring awareness to the medium as a way for comedians to get their voice out into the world and build up an audience.
Long before kindred spirits like Scott Aukerman and Chris Hardwick began their own popular shows, they were guests on Pardo’s. Since then, he’s had everyone from his employer Conan O’Brien to Modern Family’s Ty Burrell stopping by, along with other luminaries from the comedy world. The steady parade of interesting guests from week to week serves as an apt preview of what happens during the Pardcast-a-thon.
This year, Pardo had visits from Sarah Silverman, Greg Behrendt, Mad Men’s Rich Sommer, two-time offender Jon Hamm and many more. The format Pardo and Co. have established is that a new guest appears on the video feed every half-hour, continually replenishing the conversational vibe of the room. "Everybody brings their own story to it," the host says. "Jon Hamm talks differently than Andy Richter. We’re coming off of Thanksgiving so everybody has Thanksgiving stories or Black Friday stories. Everybody has a launching point, and if they don’t, I kind of steer them in that direction."
He adds, "Last year, Jon Hamm was just crazy and he wouldn’t leave. He kept coming back again and again—but in a way that wasn’t annoying. Maybe if it wasn’t Jon Hamm, but when that handsomeness walks out, it’s hard not to enjoy his company."
Even with the added star power, though, it’s hard not to imagine Pardo and his co-hosts Matt Belknap and Pat Francis losing steam after six or seven hours. The previous incarnations of the Pardcast-a-thon went from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with both the hosts and many East Coast viewers hitting the wall around 3:30 a.m. For the viewers, it’s not an issue, since they can download and watch later, but for the hosts, it can be brutal. This year, the show ran instead from noon to midnight, which helped keep everyone’s spirits up.
"Every hour we do an update on how much money we raised and every time it goes up, it’s hard not to get excited about it and ride that wave for the next hour," says Pardo.
Purchase the entire show and have your own marathon viewing session here.
[Image: Flickr user Scott Beale]