Jimmy Pardo on Kojak, having Walter Koenig as a father-in-law

Never Not Funny, comedian Jimmy Pardo's podcast, continues to grow in popularity. Along with Marc Maron's WTF and The Adam Carolla Show, it is consistently at the top of the charts. In January, the show moved from its very successful pay model to a free platform at the behest of Earwolf, the comedy podcast network run by comedians Jeff Ullrich and Scott Aukerman. "They wanted us to be part of the Earwolf team," Pardo explains. "We'd been pursued by several networks in the past, but we decided to take the plunge with these guys."

Pardo and his producer/co-host, Matt Belknap, have known Aukerman for quite a while. "I've worked with Scott on various projects over the past 10 years, so it seemed like the right landing spot for Never Not Funny."

[jump] In order for the show to remain profitable, though (Belknap left a job in the film industry to run it and a few other podcasts full-time), Never Not Funny introduced a premium service called "The Player's Club." It's a fountain of pop-culture references from the '70s and '80s in particular, and Pardo took the name from cop-show icon Telly Savalas, a.k.a. Kojak. Back in the day, Savalas was a pitchman for a vacation club called the Player's Club, and Pardo, in the midst of binge-watching old Kojak episodes, was inspired.

"It holds up," Pardo insists. Indeed, the show's quality is evident. "There's something about Kojak," he adds. "It was so well written and so well directed, the plots and the acting are great. Plot lines were surprisingly sophisticated, with some revolving around drug dealing and prostitution, heavy stuff in the early '70s. "I'm amazed at what they could show. Maybe it was because TV was coming of age then? They'd say, 'That guy is selling grass, man.' Sometimes you'll even here the N-word, or 'whore.' Really? Did the FCC tighten down after that? Because that kind of crazy language never would have happened in the '90s."

In Pardo's estimation, other shows from the era haven't aged as well. "Growing up I loved Baretta," he states. "That one doesn't hold up. I've got the DVDs. I watched some Starsky & Hutch, and that doesn't hold up, either. Kojak was considered a good show at the time and it still is."

Pardo recently had a chance to interact with an actress from a huge '70s and '80s franchise: The Love Boat. Jill Whelan, who played Vicky, was a guest on the annual Never Not Funny "Pardcast-a-Thon" last November. The event raises money for the Smile Train charity.

"When The Love Boat comes on, I have two emotions," Pardo says. "It brings me back to that time, of course, and there's some happiness with that, but there's also some sadness. It's nostalgia, melancholy. Every other Saturday night, we would have a pizza or frozen dinner, while my mom and stepdad would go out bowling. We'd watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, that one-two punch. Hearing The Love Boat theme brings me right back to that."

Whelan told the Never Not Funny "Pardcast-a-Thon" audience several stories from her days on the show, including one about comedian Tommy Smothers. "I will not repeat that, because I might get sued, but if she tells the story it's okay." (All previous episodes of the podcast are available online.)

Speaking of TV icons, Pardo's father-in-law is Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on the original Star Trek. Ironically, that's one old show Pardo never really got into. "I would catch it in reruns on Sunday mornings sometimes," he says. "When I met him it was like meeting any other dad."


Jimmy Pardo

Acme Comedy Co.

708 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612-338-6393

8 p.m. Friday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday


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