CLOSE
Original image

Creatively Speaking: Jimmy Pardo

Original image

You know him from his hilarious podcast, Never Not Funny, or perhaps as the host of GSN's National Lampoon's Funny Money some years back. Or maybe you know him as the co-host of AMC's Movies At Our House. However you know him, and especially if you don't, Creatively Speaking is thrilled to have Jimmy Pardo on board today to divulge all there is to know about the comedy racket, and even offer some tips for those looking to break into the bizness.

So without further ado, let's get right into it.

DI: I'd imagine it's not really a choice, comedy, because, let's face it, why would anyone DECIDE to try and make it in this crazy arena. It must have chosen you, no? At what age did you become aware you possessed the power to make people laugh?

JP: I'm told I was always the kid making people laugh"¦ but I would probably say around 12 or 13. I was a short kid who either had to make the girls laugh to get "dates" or use my wit to avoid getting beat up. And yes, it did choose me (as pretentious as that sounds). I had a great job at MCA Records that I left to make $150 a week doing stand-up. Thankfully my price has gone up dramatically since then.

DI: Once you figured out you had the gift, what did you do next to pursue the dream?

JP: I did the usual theatre and choir stuff that one would do through high school, and when I turned 21, I went to my first open mic. I was great out of the box... and then stunk for a long time.

DI: What's the deal with comedians and Chicago? It seems to be America's funny bone. Is there something in the water there or is it all Martin de Maat and Sheldon Patinkin's fault?

JP: I think it has a lot to do with the "second city complex". Always being the underdog makes one want to get in spotlight and scream "look at me", whether that's the whole city or just one person. I would also place some blame on Sheldon's brother Mandy.

DI: How did you get your first big break?

JP: A talent scout from CBS Television was making the rounds to comedy clubs across the country and saw me perform in Detroit. He then invited me to another showcase in Chicago and eventually became my manager and made me move out to Los Angeles. Three months after I got here, he had a nervous breakdown and quit the business.
I was lucky enough to get signed by an agent a few weeks later and have been working with him ever since.

DI: If someone who never heard of you asked me who you were like, I'd probably say Don Rickles meets Albert Brooks. Who makes Jimmy Pardo laugh? Who are some of your idols? Who influences you?

JP: You are right, Rickles is a huge influence on me, as is Groucho Marx. Johnny Carson is my hero, but I can't ignore how much Richard Lewis and Robert Klein influenced my stand-up as well.

DI: Talk a little bit about your wife, another hilarious comedian, Danielle Koenig. Is it hard being married to someone who does something so similar to you for a living? What happens if we're taken over by aliens and they ban all comedy world-wide? Who'll bring home the bacon and how?

JP: I'm the luckiest man alive to be married to such a funny, talented and beautiful lady. It was hard when we first started dating as I was already pretty well known in the stand-up circles and I never wanted her to be just known as "Jimmy Pardo's girlfriend'. Now that we've been together for eleven years and she's an established comic and writer, it's a breeze. It's great to be able to talk to your spouse about the crap that is show business and have them understand.

Assuming comedy is banned, I guess I could always take a job announcing car lots from the back of a tram at Disneyland. "Goofy, you are now leaving Goofy. Make sure you have your keys!"

DI: What's the worst gig you ever had?

JP: Oh, I've had many horrible gigs"¦ But hands down the worst was in 1991 at The Great Lakes Naval Base just outside of Chicago. I had been there before and it had gone well and was looking forward to going back. The first comic performed and did great, the crowd loved him. I took the stage and for about the first 5-6 minutes was killing. Then something happened, and to this day I have no idea what it was, but the crowd turned on me. I was contracted to do 30-40 minutes and I'm basically out of material after 10, but decide it's best for everyone if I just bail. I say to the audience "I'll tell you one more thing and then go." One of the sailors yells back "Don't even tell us that, just go!"

I come off stage and the entertainment director is standing there with my coat in one hand and my check in the other and tells me "Get out of here, they will kill you." I run to my car while being chased by a dozen or so military men.
Obviously, I got out of there okay, but it was the one and only performance that shook me up so much I was skittish to get back on stage.

DI: What's the worst flub you ever experienced?

JP: I was just a kid of 23 years old performing in Merrilville, IN. The first two acts tried to do their act while a guy in the crowd kept yelling out "My wife is pregnant!". He must have yelled it out 25 times and was ruining the show. I was the headlining act of the night and after he yelled it out at me a few times, I came back with "Yes, we know sir and seeing how you act, we can only hope she has a miscarriage." Oddly, the crowd was with me as this guy was so annoying, but afterward I was forced by the resort the club was in to write a letter of apology. I was angry at the time as "˜the stage is mone to say what I please."

I was just too young to understand how devastating a miscarriage could be to a family and would never think of saying something like that again.

DI: When you're not busy with your podcast, or touring, or writing jokes, what takes up most of your time?

JP: Well, of course my wonderful son, Oliver. He's the highlight of my life and every other cliché you want to use. I'm a proud dad and love spending as much time as possible with him. He's only 20 months now, so it's not as tough leaving to travel as it's going to be in a year or so.

I also play fantasy baseball.

DI: What happens if your kid doesn't like you or your wife's brand of humor? They may burry the girls in China, but not the boys. Then what?

JP: Being a self absorbed comic, I don't care if he thinks Danielle is funny or not, but I can't think of anything worse than my kid not thinking I'm funny. Man, if being in front of a crap crowd for fifty minutes is tough"¦ how bad would fifty years be?

DI: What will you tell your son if he comes to you guys one day and, in all seriousness, says, "Mom, Dad, I want to be a comedian when I grow up."

JP: Ugh, do you have to? If so, learn from your Mother and write! Don't follow in your old man's shoes and rely on working the crowd the whole time.

DI: What advice do you have for those looking to break into the business?

JP: Specifically for stand-up- be true to yourself. Don't sell out and try and be what you think will sell. I'd rather fail and be original than try and fit an image of what a comic "is". Other show business? Learn to juggle, I hear variety shows are making a come-back.

DI: Could you have imagined your award winning podcast "Never Not Funny" becoming such a monster hit?

JP: I was just looking for something to do between TV jobs and really hit on something.
I am amazed at how popular it became and after two years we switched to a subscription platform. The listener can still get the first twenty minutes free via iTunes, but if you want to hear the whole ninety minutes you have to plunk down $20 for 26 episodes.

I was told over and over that nobody makes money with internet content. I guess I've bucked the trend. It's just proof that if you put out a quality product, people will pay to be entertained.

Browse through past Creatively Speaking posts here >>

Original image
Creatively Speaking: MeetingBoy
Original image

Read on to win a new Meeting Boy wall calendar!

We have a nice interview/contest today with someone you need to know about if you don't already. PC World named him one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. Like Racer X, no one really knows who MeetingBoy is, but whoever is behind this madness is one hilarious, talented fella. Tweeting out quips and one-liners, he's amassed close to 80,000 followers on Twitter as @MeetingBoy. I first got to know him (well, as much as you can know a masked-man) after he re-tweeted a Twaggie (illustrated tweet) we did off one of his tweets over on my start-up, www.twaggies.com.

Then one day, MeetingBoy asked me if I'd like to give away one of his new MeetingBoy wall calendars in a contest. I said sure, under one condition: he do the following interview. So read the interview and follow the contest rules at the bottom of this post. We'll pick one tweet/comment at random and send you the calendar in time for Christmas! Good luck!

DI: First of all, where do you take your meetings? Tell us about your day job.

MB: I work in a glass & steel high rise in New York with lots of lazy idiots. The managers spout buzzwords to impress each other, and my boss is a clueless, bullying hypocrite more concerned with covering his own ass than getting things done. Does that narrow it down?

I am stuck in 3-5 meetings a day, so if there’s a way to waste someone’s time, I’ve seen it. And I’m sick of it. I must have really bad karma to deserve this. I must have been something truly awful in a former life, like maybe a manager or CEO.

@MeetingBoy: 125 PowerPoint slides? Well, I hope you're not presenting a case for how efficient our department is.

@MeetingBoy: Definition of insanity: holding the same meeting with the same people every week and expecting different results.

@MeetingBoy: Four meetings today. And then later, no doubt, a meeting with my boss about how I'm not getting anything done.

@MeetingBoy: I'm confused by this article about Bernie Madoff. I thought "white collar prison" was just a euphemism for my office.

@MeetingBoy: 7 hour conference call, though my lawyer says I'll be paroled in 6 with good behavior.

DI: How’d all this Meeting Boy stuff get started? Walk us through the early days.

MB: Since my biggest pet peeve in meetings is people who ramble on and on, Twitter was the right place for me to vent. The forced brevity was just right. If only I could force the people who write PowerPoint presentations to stick to 140 characters instead of 140 slides!

I’d been on Twitter before, but mentions of work had become a problem once people knew I was tweeting and started following me in the office. After I got a new boss last year, I created the MeetingBoy account so I would stop hearing about it. Since then I only tweet under my own name after hours.

@MeetingBoy: I'm married to my job. I don't love it. It was a shotgun wedding; I had knocked up my credit cards with all sorts of debt.

Early on as MeetingBoy, I was getting positive responses. People identified with my complaints-- in fact the most common response to MeetingBoy is “do you work at my company?”

Of course I hate buzzwords, and so many of my rants result from sitting through an hour of them. The word I hate the most is “robust”:

@MeetingBoy: At the end of the day I think we can all agree how tired the phrase "at the end of the day" is.

@MeetingBoy: When the revolution comes, I'm shooting everyone who says "robust". Well, except the coffee roasters.

DI: When did your first little break happen?

MB: Last October, PC World named me as one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. My following increased dramatically as a result. This was a huge surprise to me. I had no idea I had broken out of the Favstar community of internet jokers. After that my friends who weren’t on Twitter insisted I start cross-posting my material to Facebook and MeetingBoy.com so they could follow along too.

DI: And then your big break?

MB: Earlier this year someone at Twitter added me to their Suggested Users - Funny list. I was pretty excited; after all, as my friend said, “It sure beats being on the Suggested Users - Not Funny list.”

Though some people would say my “big break” was when I got a boss that didn’t get my sense of humor, forcing me to put more of it on the internet. Speaking of my boss:

@MeetingBoy: We have high expectations for him - he got his MBA in business jargon from Wharton.

@MeetingBoy: You're right. It was wrong of me to question how another layer of paperwork would speed up the process. I apologize.

@MeetingBoy: Hey, everybody! My boss is running a special on poorly thought out, unworkable ideas today. The discount code is YESSIR.

@MeetingBoy: "Dumb it down. Remember, you're presenting it to management."

@MeetingBoy: "I didn't read the executive summary you sent. Can you just put the idea in a few quick sentences and send it to me? Thanks."

@MeetingBoy: New line on my job description: "maintain high morale". Told HR I could do it, but not if my boss keeps trying to motivate me.

@MeetingBoy: My boss is very susceptible to food poisoning. Apparently this occurs when he stays out late drinking.

@MeetingBoy: The boss sent an email at 11:30 "reminding" everyone that he's working from home today. He sent it from his Blackberry.

DI: Did you set out to achieve Internet fame or did the idea sort of take over by itself?

MB: I set out to vent about work in an amusing way, in part because I was so annoyed at how people in the office reacted to my being on Twitter. I certainly had no idea how to get people to write about me or who at Twitter to sweet-talk to get them to recommend me.

Being famous and anonymous is a little odd though. None of the benefits of fame have come my way. I’m not getting a better table at Sparks or celebrity gift bags at the Oscars. And no matter how many followers I have, I’m still stuck in the same meetings every day.

I would like to see a MeetingBoy calendar make an appearance on The Office. Seems like something Jim Halpert would have (though since he gave up his office, I’m not sure where he’d put it). Or maybe Michael Scott because he’s a “cool boss” and none of it applies to him..

DI: Talk about the tweets themselves. Mostly they are things you think up in these meetings every day?

MB: They are responses to things that happen in meetings. Or things I wish I could say. In a few cases I’ve actually said these things. Of course the names have been removed to protect the boring, the rude, the jargon-spewing types, the lazy, the bullies, and the people with “bad grammer”.

@MeetingBoy: I know, I know, but if your idea is so good, why hasn't some VP passed it off as their own yet?

@MeetingBoy: Sorry, I have to leave your meeting. I have something I need to do. I need to not be bored to death.

@MeetingBoy: This PowerPoint needs an art director? Wow! I never thought I'd say this to you, lady, but you're overthinking this.

@MeetingBoy: That email you claim I never sent you? Here it is. Along with your REPLY TO IT.

@MeetingBoy: No, I wasn't playing Devil's Advocate. I really think your idea is stupid.

@MeetingBoy: You are mean, incompetent, and ignorant. Life did not hand you lemons; life handed you CONSEQUENCES.

DI: But other times I see you attributing the tweets to other authors/publishers. How does that work?

MB: Sometimes I see a tweet that I wish I wrote. Other times my followers send me one I missed. Either way, if it’s something I think my audience would appreciate, I share it. After all, I don’t want to be like that guy in my office who thinks the only good ideas are the ones he thinks of.

For example, some of my favorite tweets that someone else wrote are:

@swimparallel: I've recovered from my death sickness. Now I'm back in the office. It feels like a lateral move.

@summersumz: Evaluating data, making conclusions. LIVING THE DREAM!

@kerissmithJA: Your cc list doesn’t scare me. I still refuse to respond to your email.

DI: So now you have this cool wall calendar. How’d that come about?

MB: A friend makes up a calendar with photos of his family, which I dutifully hang in my cube. I thought it would be cool to have a MeetingBoy calendar. I’d hoped to make a 365-page-a-day calendar, which I think would really work for my short quips, but I couldn’t find a way to publish it. So I went with a wall calendar, and asked for illustrators among my followers.

Of course once I had printed the calendar, I realized I couldn’t possibly put the calendar on my desk. I can’t have my boss or coworkers know that I’m MeetingBoy, and it’s probably better if they don’t even know he exists. Clearly I hadn’t thought this through.

I think the calendar makes a great Secret Santa gift. I think coworkers across the English-speaking world would love to get one.

Calendar available for sale online at http://meetingboy.com/calendar

DI: Have you learned any profound lessons going through the self-publishing process?

MB: I’ve learned that self-publishing isn’t very profitable. I’ve been very happy with all the illustrations I got, though paying for them before I sell the calendar has made money tight.

I was going to try to sell them directly myself over the internet, but I couldn’t be sure that my secret identity would be safe. Luckily one of the illustrators owns a comic shop and they agreed to carry it for internet sales.

And I’d still like to make a 365-page-a-day calendar if anyone knows how to go about that.

DI: What’s next for you and what’s your ultimate goal?

MB: Next up I’m starting to do regular illustrated tweets on MeetingBoy.com. Of course I can’t draw, so I’m using some of the same illustrators from the calendar, and any new ones I pick up along the way.

My ultimate goal is to be the boss on The Office after Steve Carrell leaves at the end of this season. Though I would also accept President Obama declaring my birthday, June 23rd, to be a national holiday, maybe National Out-of-the-Office Day. Write your congressman to make it happen.

DI: Will you always hide your true identity Meeting Boy? Or will we one day find out you’re actually Racer X’s older brother?

MB: I can’t reveal my identity without losing my job and potentially risking never working again. After all, who would hire MeetingBoy? A surly, sarcastic person who will mock your every shortcoming on the internet to tens of thousands of people. Even I might balk at hiring that guy. He kind of sounds like a loose cannon.

Okay, contest time! Of all the tweets mentioned in this post, by MeetingBoy or someone else, which would you like to see illustrated on Twaggies.com? RT it with the hashtag #twaggies and we'll pick one of you at random to get the calender. If you're not on Twitter, leave your vote in the comments below. The tweet with the most RTs will also get twagged on twaggies, too!

For my interviews with Jason Alexander, Monty Hall, Mitch Albom, xkcd and more, browse through past Creatively Speaking archives here >>

Original image
A chat with Jeff Garlin
Original image

Jeff Garlin co-stars and executive produces the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The unique comedy, which is one of the rare television shows to become part of the national zeitgeist, stars Seinfeld creator Larry David, with Garlin portraying his loyal manager. Born and raised in Chicago and then South Florida, Garlin studied filmmaking and began performing stand-up comedy while at the University of Miami. He has toured the country as a stand-up comedian, is an alumnus of Chicago's Second City Theatre, and has written and starred in three critically acclaimed solo shows. I was fortunate enough to get this interview with him when he spoke at an event a charity I work with produced.

DI: Which do you prefer: writing, directing, or producing?

JG: I prefer to direct what I write.

DI: If you were to retire, what would you do with your time?

JG: Nap and eat puddin'.

DI: What's your favorite food?

JG: Puddin'.

DI: Of all the comedians and actors you've worked with over the years, who has been the most enjoyable.

JG: Larry David.

DI: Is Larry David as obnoxious in real life as he is on the show?

JG: See my answer above.

DI: What's the biggest difference between Chicago and L.A.?

JG: Human contact. In Chicago you get it on a regular basis.

DI: What's one of your favorite films?

JG: Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges.

DI: If you could have lunch with anyone deceased, who would it be?

JG: My grandfather Harold.

DI: Who's your idol?

JG: My wife.

DI: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JG: A comedian.

DI: Where do you like to go to unwind when you're not working?

JG: Wherever my wife tells me.

DI: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be?

JG: The street names.

DI: Shakespeare wrote: "Brevity is the soul of wit." What do you think the essence of comedy is?

JG: A plate of fresh cornbread.

DI: I heard you studied law in college and almost graduated before deciding to pursue a career in comedy. Do you think you would have been a good lawyer?

JG: That's on Wikepedia.com and it's not true. I studied film.

DI: What's more difficult: performing stand-up comedy before a live audience or performing on camera?

JG: Actually, my personal life is harder.

DI: Do you own an iPod? If so, what's the most unusual music you've got on it?

JG: Chin Ho soundbites from Hawaii Five-0.

DI: Who is the funniest comedian of all-time?

JG: Jack Benny.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios