Jimmy Pardo is eating nachos. He offers me one, and it’s good, but we both agree that it’s hard to go wrong with nachos. I’m sitting with him (and said nachos) in the studio where his long-running podcast Never Not Funny is recorded. They often order from nearby places like Hugo’s Tacos after the show, and today is no different.
In addition to hosting Never Not Funny, Jimmy spent the last six years with Conan O’Brien, acting as warm-up comedian, field correspondent, and panel guest. He’s performed stand-up all over the country and appeared on many a late night show, and has recorded three comedy albums. He’ll soon be hosting the Science Channel show Race to Escape, but right now he’s eating nachos and talking to Paste about touring and his weird food habits.
Let’s start with the classic question: what’s your favorite food?
Jimmy Pardo: What asshole doesn’t say pizza? I also like Chinese food, I love Mexican food. My wife and all of my friends will tell you that I’m a picky eater, but I don’t think I am. I’m pretty open to anything, but if I don’t like it, then I don’t like it. [Pause] I don’t know if you knew this about me, but I’ve got weird food issues.
I did not know this.
Pardo: I cannot be around cooking food. I cannot see food that’s being cooked, I can’t smell it. If I smell food being cooked, I have to run from the room and I will vomit.
Why do you think that is?
Pardo: I remember I was at a house, and someone was making sloppy joes with what must have been bad ground beef and it made me sick. I went out and vomited all over the front lawn. And now my head flips with any food cooking and it makes me sick. Except barbecue, it seems to get a free pass.
I also cannot see food before it’s prepared, it has to be a like a magic trick. If I say hey, I’ll have the chicken parmesan, it has to just show up prepared. I can’t see the chicken breast—I can’t even walk down that aisle of the grocery store. And for that reason, I have never cooked a day in my life.
That’s a good way of getting around it.
Pardo: I wish I could! You think I like Subway everyday? I eat out, minimum, how many meals are there a week? 21? 20 are eaten out. It sucks financially. My wife and son will eat at home if I’m not around, but for the most part we eat out.
Since you do eat out a lot, where do you like to eat on tour?
Pardo: I love going back to Chicago, I grew up there. And for the obvious reasons, like thin crust pizza and Italian beef. Deep dish is tourist pizza! It’s not what the locals eat, and it sickens me. It’s like a casserole, it’s not pizza. For thin crust, Vito and Nick’s on the south side of the city is great. If I have an extra day in Chicago, I will make the drive from where ever I’m working or staying, since there’s really no comedy club near there, and I will go there. And I like going back to Cincinnati. In my unhealthier days, I liked getting Skyline Chili with the noodles.
Did you used to eat unhealthy food while on the road?
Pardo: When I first started out, I was a fast food guy. I would be out touring 48-50 weeks a year, 5 days a week. I would get in my car in Chicago and drive to Indianapolis or somewhere and stop in a drive thru on the way. I’d get onion rings and a Whopper and a drink and not understand why my face was oozing. Then I’d go out every night after shows to eat junk or get hammered or both.
Do you try to eat healthier now?
Pardo: I guess I try to eat more healthfully. I guess? I’m not eating hamburger at all in 2015. Let me stress this is hamburger format. I’ll eat beef, like a taco. Just not a patty. Why? I don’t know. It might be a step toward vegetarianism. There are times I wish I hadn’t made this grand statement to my podcast listeners. Now I’m doing it because I just want to keep up appearances. And candy, I’m not eating candy. That being said, I’m eating cookies and cake like an idiot.
I lost 30 pounds four years ago, and I’ve put 10 back on. During that time, I ate nothing but healthy food and felt great. And like a lot of people who do that, then you stop eating as healthy. Now I try to balance it, and sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not.
Sometimes public shaming is a great motivator.
Pardo: Definitely. I don’t drink anymore, I’ve been sober for 16 years. And I think I could drink now, I could have a beer at a concert, or have champagne at New Year’s Eve, there’s no question. But I don’t, I like saying I haven’t. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I don’t want to say “well, except I have champagne every year at New Year’s.”
Do you tour much these days?
Pardo: I go out about once or twice a month. I do shows now to stay relevant and consistent. There are people who like to see me, so I go out to shut them up. But I have a seven-year-old boy, so I don’t like to leave anymore. I love doing stand-up, but as the great Dan Fogelberg said, “the audiences are heaven, but the travel is hell.”
: Any great food experiences at a comedy club?
Pardo: I rarely eat at the clubs, but The Acme in Minneapolis has great ribs. Someone told me I had to get them, and they were phenomenal. If I’m starving, I’ll have something in between sets, but I don’t like going on stage right after I’ve eaten. It’s the one thing—I could literally be having this conversation with you and hear “Jimmy Pardo!” and walk on stage and go, but eating…I can’t.
What kind of places do you eat on tour now?
Pardo: When I’m on the road, I want to experiment, but I always know a chain restaurant is safe and it’s not going to ruin my day. So I’m basically a chain guy. Also, I’m by no means famous, but now I’m well-known enough that I don’t want anyone to see me sitting in Chili’s alone, because then they’ll want to talk to me. And I don’t want to talk to anyone while I’m eating. It doesn’t happen often, and even though it’s very flattering, I just want to eat.
Turns out, I am picky. I’m a pain in the ass, even to myself.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy.