Get Smart with Deborah Pardes


Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Deborah Pardes is the kind of woman who will touch a big, hairy spider just because she needs to know what it feels like. This intense curiosity, coupled with her love of performing and desire to build community, led her to create Get Smart Radio.

Launched in 2008, Get Smart Radio is a live radio show and podcast hell bent on “eradicating dumb America.” Pardes, who also hosts and edits the show, is a self proclaimed nerd who isn’t afraid of looking silly and asking ridiculous questions. To get to the bottom of things, Get Smart Radio fields approachable experts and live audiences and tackles topics as diverse as meat, prison and the nose. Pardes infuses the program with a warm and friendly quality that fosters audience relaxation and participation. Toe-tapping is also encouraged, as each show is punctuated with catchy tunes from the Get Smarty Pants Band. 

“She can be inappropriate at times which I think is perfect for internet radio. Deborah is so funny and she writes amazing songs,” said friend and colleague Cristi Delgado.

This isn’t the first time behind the mic for Pardes who spent much of the '80s and '90s chasing her folk-star dreams. She caught more than a few and was in the line-up with Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan in the Lilith Fair West Coast, a 1999 talent search winner at Lilith Fair and has opened for a multitude of well known artists including Holly Near, Bernie Taupin and Todd Rundgren. She has four solo CD’s to her credit including 2008’s Love and Discipline, which she also produced.

Between gigs, Pardes worked in marketing and got involved in product launches and commercial music and copywriting. She became fascinated with the different ways that people learn and soon came to the conclusion that there isn’t much difference between marketing, education and entertainment. After being smacked across the face with shocking adult illiteracy statics, she went on to found Artists for Literacy, a non-profit organization that unites musicians, teachers and learners in a musical quest to better access and appreciate literature.

From the beginning Artists for Literacy was focused particularly on combating illiteracy in adults, an often closeted and difficult to reach population. The organization is best known for the Songs Inspired by Literature Project, a compilation of original, literature themed songs by both emerging and well known artists, whose sales benefited adult literacy programs.

After six years Pardes began to reduce her role at Artists for Literacy and to search for her next creative connection.

“I really missed performing, but didn’t want to go back to sitting on a stool in a bar. I realized at this point I can’t shy away from my power anymore, I can’t shy away from any magnetic pull I might how with people. And I think it’s no accident that I just got my heart smashed in a million pieces,” she said.

After the end of a serious five year relationship, Pardes is rededicating herself to Get Smart Radio and her many other creative endeavors including being the resident songwriter at Spark, a monthly story telling event in Los Angeles and volunteering for Bread and Roses, an organization dedicated to providing live entertainment for people living in institutions. 

Community, or lack of, has always played a big role in Pardes’ life and she grew up surrounded by strong communities that she didn’t feel included in. She was a lesbian among straight sisters, non-religious in an observant home and Jewish in a predominately Irish Catholic and Italian neighborhood.

Pardes now considers her background an asset and has learned to use the pain and wisdom of those formative experiences to bring people into her warm and fuzzy tent.

“A lot of white, upper class, or mid-class in my case, educated women don’t get the opportunity to feel like an outsider and it’s a really wonderful thing. I got that chance and I think part of my commitment to making things accessible and warm and friendly is my commitment to the idea of inclusion,” said Pardes.

From the outset, she has strived to give Get Smart Radio a hometown feel and to create an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and admitting that they don’t know something. 

“There’s a lot of shame around ignorance. I think radio gives people a chance to speak from the heart more, because they’re not worried about what they look like. I really think what’s missing in a lot of internet entertainment is the element of live, the element of community.” she said. 

She has big dreams for her little radio show which she hopes to get funded and grow in broadcast as well as internet format.

“I want it to be a community event that is inclusive and has a take away. I think Get Smart Radio is answering to a need we have for a softer, gentler world.”

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