Photo: Jason Baldwin/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Jimmy Pardo Muses on His Top Conan O'Brien Memories  

Jimmy Pardo
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I started on Conan on June 1, 2009 on his very first day taking over the Tonight Show. We did a couple of rehearsal shows and I started day one of that. I was with him for the seven months we were on the air at NBC, then we went through that nonsense. We went over to TBS and I still work there. I'll still be a guest and will do a sketch or whatever they need me to do. I'm theoretically an employee of Conan, but I just don't go there every day and do the warm up anymore. 

As a small, young boy growing up on the South Side of Chicago, one of my dreams was to host the Tonight Show, and then I got a phone call to be the host of the Tonight Show. Meeting Conan O'Brien, Jeff Ross, and Mike Sweeney changed my career. I went from being a struggling guy on the road to having a full time job working with the funniest people in the world. 

The Pardo Patrol

I had some great ones with Daryl Hall, Rob Corddry, and Martin Short. The one that always stands out to me, and it's not necessarily the funniest, is Tom Hanks. We never bothered any of the A-listers because we always felt we were lucky enough that they were coming by to do the show.

So, Hanks was going to be a guest, but we all felt he was too big and not going to do want to do Jimmy Pardo backstage, and we figured no Pardo Patrol today and him deal with my nonsense. I'm out there doing the warm-up and I walk off-stage and Aaron Blurt who does stuff with, where this stuff lives, came up to me and said, "Tom Hanks just said, 'Hey I want to do one of those backstage things with that guy.'" We were going to do word association, but we wanted to have fun with him. 

I'd met him once before on the first day of the Tonight Show and he was the guest. I don't know if he remembered that we'd met and had some fun. I barged in and told him we were going to do a word association game with him. I was going to be insulting him for three minutes and you're going to say one thing that makes me mad and I'm going to blow my top. Here I was doing improv with Tom Hanks, then ended up doing it with Martin Short.

This Conan connection changed everything. 
My First Appearance as a Guest

I was grateful that they let me come on as a guest and everyone got to see how Conan and I had this great chemistry together. It's very Johnny Carson-Don Rickles-y where we bust each others' balls the whole time. Its easy to see when a talk show is talking to a guest when the person has to rattle off something that no one can relate to. 

There was instant chemistry between Conan and I at the first meeting. He came into the meeting and the producer Jeff Ross picked up the phone and was saying that I was saying no. Conan couldn't believe I was saying no and I said that I wasn't sure if I wanted it. He looked around the room for a chair and there were no chairs available, so he sat next to me cross-legged, and he was still somehow taller than me,  and we were making each other laugh. It was this neat chemistry. 

To bring that on-stage, and for people to go, "Holy crap, who's this guy?" was great considering I was just promoting my podcast. Then,  when Andy was out a few days, and Conan said that he wanted me and I co-hosted Conan on TBS. But that phone call was the greatest.
Watching NBC Torpedo Conan's Tonight Show

It was one of the weirdest things to be a part of. It made no sense. The reason the ratings weren't good was because they put Jay Leno on at 10 o'clock and people would turn off Jay Leno, then they'd turn off the news. That thing was all weird.

I was at home watching my computer and something popped up, and nothing ever pops up, where TMZ was reporting that Conan was getting fired. So I called my friends at work and asked what the hell was going on, since I didn't have to go in till 3 pm. They saw it at the same time I did. 

Conan called for a meeting right away and I raced to Universal Studios and said there was nothing to it and it was just a rumor and for no one to panic. Then the next day, we found out there might be some truth to that rumor, but it was still business as usual then after that was the letter he released to the people of earth. 

Watching all of that happen and watching this guy who I'd come to be friends with and his dream was to host the Tonight Show and it's like they gave it to him with a watchful eye on it. They didn't trust him and it was unfair. To watch it get yanked away from him was excruciating.