Why So Serious, Adam Carolla?By John Wenzel | November 30th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Is Adam Carolla a sexist pig? Is he insensitive? Is he a blue collar champ or just a cynical talk show host? And if he’s originally from L.A., why does he have that strangely laconic, Midwestern accent?
In case there was any doubt, the plainspoken former host of “Loveline” and “The Man Show” does not actually care what you think, and he’s got over 60 millions downloads of his “Adam Carolla Show” podcast (recently certified as the most-downloaded in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records) to prove that he doesn’t really need to, either.
The runaway success of his nearly three-year-old podcast and his 2010, New York Times bestselling book (“In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks …And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy”) have allowed him to return to the road for a string of stand-up dates, including his Sunday, Dec. 4 show at the Paramount Theatre.
We caught with Carolla via phone last week to pick his brain about the “rigors” of touring, cry-baby comedians and why, maybe, just maybe, he should have gotten molested as a kid.
So why this tour, and why now?
To make money, pretty much. For a guy who’s worked at real jobs that are actually hard, coming to a town and going to a theater is just awesome and easy. It’s just like, I enjoy it and I like to travel around and meet the fans and hang out after the show and all that kind of stuff. The audience is there to see you, you’ve got a nice dressing room backstage with some beers in it and carrot sticks and people treat you nice and it’s just easy. Seriously, people do this thing with show business like, “Why’d you write the book?” or “Why did you dance with the stars?” or “Why this or that?” And the reality is, no one ever says to a roofer, “Why are you roofing?” It’s pretty clear that all the people who have jobs, whether it’s a guy putting the roof on your house or the chick handing you the coffee — she’s not doing it for the love of coffee or roofing. She’s doing it because she has bills to pay and comics do it for the same reason. We just happen to be lucky enough to have a job where we get to walk out and talk and drink. As a roofer you’re doing the job with a beer in your hand you might get fired, but you can actually do stand-up and hold a beer and nobody says anything other than, “You need another beer?” And it’s pretty good job there.
True, and I’m sure most comedians at your level would agree with you.
Some guys get bummed out about it and say, “I don’t wanna get on a plane,” or this or that, and to me, I’m thankful every time people come out and see me because they work hard for their money in whatever real job they have and I don’t take it for granted. Comics would be lying if they said they did these tours to get in touch with their inner comedic spirit or something. I mean, it’s a job. But on the other hand, it’s one of the easiest, best-paying, highest-reward jobs around.
You’ve been at the forefront of podcasting in general the last couple years, and since podcasts are the new go-to tool for comedians, do you have any thoughts about why your show has done so much better than others?
I don’t wanna sound pompous but it would be like asking Tom Brady, “Why have you had success in the quarterback position? I don’t get it!” He’s successful because he’s a good quarterback. There’s not a lot of mystery involved with it. People used to do that with me and Dr. Drew (of “Loveline”) all the time. They just wanted to talk about the format. “Why is it so successful?” Well, it wouldn’t be if it you didn’t get two guys like me and Dr. Drew to do it. Obviously a podcast is the same thing. There’s no game show component to it. You either like Marc Maron or Adam Carolla or Chris Hardwick or you don’t. My podcast will be as popular and good as I am. And by the way, that doesn’t mean it’s going to have ten million downloads. It could be 200,000 downloads a show.
Will the show be put on hold in December and January while you tour?
The podcast will always be five days a week.
Is that a lot of work for you?
It is, but again, compared to a roofer, a waitress… you know what I mean? It’s a lot of work compared to no work, but not compared to everyone else is putting in a 50-hour week or more. So you’d think about all those poor sons of bitches that are having to work at those Targets or Sears or whatever where they do that thing that’s like, “Doors open at 4 a.m. Black Friday! So that means I need to be there at 3:30 on Black Friday and put in a 12-hour shift.” Yeah, this is work. You burn a few calories, you have to be on a plane, but it’s good.
What’s your second book, out next spring, about? Did you start writing it right after the first one?
I didn’t start right after, but pretty close to the last one, and the first book was successful so if you have any success they always make you do it again. This one’s old stories, all true. Personal stories from my past, so pretty straightforward.
Any crazy drug and sex stories, Chelsea Handler-style?
I think there’ll be some. Unfortunately I wasn’t molested so there will be no revelations of that. But had I known I was writing a book I would have asked someone nice or paid them to molest me so I could do a cheerful interview on “The View” about it. My stories are pretty fucking weird, but at the time I didn’t think they were as weird as they are. But judging by the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them half these stories, I realized maybe, yeah, maybe these weren’t experiences that other people had. Will that be a big pile of long-winded, boring stories? No, it’ll be a nice cluster.
I read a review of your book recently and I can’t remember what the exact wording was, but it said you were either a highbrow answer to the sort of lowbrow-dude attitude, or a smart guy slumming it. Do you have any comment on that?
Listen, I am blue collar but I’m not dumb and you don’t have to be both, although some people think you do. I think there’s a smart person’s blue-collar, and I’d like to be that.
What haven’t you done yet that you’d still like to? Maybe a one-man-show Broadway show? Underwear model? Video game tester?
I could finish out my career basically writing and directing cool film projects and maybe writing books. But I’m pretty close to doing what I want to do right now. It’s nice to be self-employed and doing my own thing and creating jobs for other people. I’m very proud of the fact that when I was out of a job, instead of finding (another) job in radio, I created a job, and then I created more jobs for other people. I feel like I’ve been able to pump a certain amount of money back into society here during some lean economic times.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of random song titles and band names @beardsandgum.