Still yanking your crank
On Loveline, Adam Carolla was millions of teenagers’ proxy father. Today, he’s a New York Times best-selling author about to pit-stop in Sacramento for some holiday cheer.
Comedian, multimedia personality and actor Adam Carolla takes no prisoners. Most people familiar with his appearances on The Man Show, Loveline and Crank Yankers—and his penchant for reckless banter, relentless irreverence, rants and crass opinions—either love or revile him. His show on iTunes was the most downloaded podcast of 2009. He’s been called a racist, angered Hawaiians and was denounced by the Filipino press. Now you can witness first hand what all the fuss is about when his Carolla Christmas show comes to the Crest Theatre this week. In the meantime, check out his manically anecdotal book, In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks, which just debuted at No. 8 on the New York Times best-seller list.
Let’s talk about your book, which is subtitled And Other Complaints From an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy. How does it feel to wake up one morning and be a best seller?
For me, it’s a little nutty. I had a strange and pompous thought as I was driving in the other night to do my podcast. I passed three sort-of 20-something-year-old guys who were riding their mountain bikes, and I just thought as I went past them, “I bet those guys aren’t on the New York Times best-seller list.” It was pretty sick. It’s not a thought I was proud of. I just had it run through my head. As a guy who doesn’t read books and wasn’t much of a student, or a serial killer … yet, it’s pretty astounding, it’s pretty nuts.
I laughed out loud as I read your book, like when you suggest that people with bad attitudes shake themselves like an Etch-a-Sketch and maybe start over with a clean slate.
That’s a compliment that a lot of people have paid me. They said: “I don’t laugh out loud when I read books. I laugh out loud from watching a movie or something, but I got a lot of out-and-out laughs reading this book.” It’s a nice compliment.
Your book is all over the map: You talk about tow-truck drivers, attorneys, airports, rock songs you never need to hear again, food, religion, racism. You critique films. Would it be fair to call you an equal-opportunity basher?
Yeah. I don’t align myself with a group and then have to think the same way as the group. I treat life like a buffet. I’m gonna hit the buffet and take a little ambrosia salad, maybe a little turkey meatloaf, but I’ll do my thing. I don’t want to sign up with a group that says, “Here’s what we do: We do the brisket, we do the shrimp salad, and then we go back to the table.” I don’t want the peach cobbler. I want the pumpkin pie. Or at least the ability to have that thought and make that decision. And most of this stuff, although it sounds vitriolic and hate filled, and this and that and the other, it’s mostly just common sense in a world that has lost our common sense. I don’t think of it as radical. I think of a lot of it as “sensical.”
There’s a main theme that masculinity is disappearing.
Maybe the fact that you need a computer to work on your car these days—maybe that was the start of the problem. But it started to dawn on me, because I am a car guy. It is pretty insane. So it all came to a kind of head one night, when Dr. Drew and I were doing Loveline, and he was running late. He said: “Hi. I got a flat tire.” And I said, “You got a flat tire?” “Yeah. I had to call AAA.” And I said: “Well, where were you?” He said: “I was at home.” “You had to call AAA at home?” He said: “Yeah. How else was I to change a flat tire?” “You pop your trunk. You get your spare out and change it,” and he’s like, “Nah, I don’t—not for me. I don’t do that myself.” Wow! Geez. We bottomed out here.
Your wife encouraged you to write this book. Did she have any specific comments after reading the chapter “Women, Hear Me Roar”?
I’m unclear if she’s read that or not. The basic intention is women are constantly saying, you know, why can’t we be in the military, why can’t we be on the front line, why can’t we go to work and you stay home. Or, at least, that was the battle cry from the ’70s. And my feeling is, like, be careful what you ask for, because getting shot at or getting yelled at by a boss—it’s not that great.
You address politicians and politics. When the recent elections were held, were there any big surprises for you?
I can’t believe Barbara Boxer is in there again. California is just such a horrible state. I don’t understand. When do we start blaming Barbara Boxer, and how did she get elected in a bankrupt state with crazy unemployment? I was surprised about Barbara Boxer doing what feels like a 25th term.
Were you surprised that the marijuana initiative didn’t get passed?
No. I’m not much of a pot smoker, but I do say this: If I did decide to smoke pot, I think it should be legal for me to grow a pot plant on the land that I own that I pay incredibly high taxes on, and then, if I get really high and throw all my kids in the car and we go out to do some doughnuts in the parking lot of Costco, that’s when the government should get involved.
Was this a sort of blood, sweat and tears experience, or did it just sort of pour out of you?
I’m a pretty poured-out kind of guy. And I guess there’s a certain amount of skill. I guess the whole point of whether you’re driving to the hoop or writing a book, you don’t want people saying, “Man, that looked hard.” We all know there’s a lot of hard work behind it, but then you create the illusion that, ah yeah, it’s just kind of poured onto the page.
Your podcasts on iTunes are massively successful. How would you describe them to the uninitiated?
I would say that it is pure, uncut, unstepped-on talk and idea exchanges. When coke comes over from Colombia, it is pure grade. But after it gets done being cut and cut and stepped on, the stuff that gets to you is only 50 percent or whatever. Well, that’s kind of how talk radio and other forms of talk are. You’re dealing with the [Federal Communications Commission]. Program directors. Watchdog groups. Sponsors. By the time it gets to your ears, it’s been stepped on. Not only do you have to watch what you say languagewise, you also have to watch what you say about certain groups and sponsors. I’m not saying [my show] is better. There’s just nothing getting between me and my thoughts.
You are quite the media crossover: radio, TV, film, Internet. Which do you enjoy the most?
It’s nice to sit around and go on a rant and a jag and free flow, you know, like improvising like a jazz musician when we’re doing the podcast. And then it’s nice to sit in your office in your bathrobe with your thoughts and really try to craft some ideas to change people’s minds. I don’t need a big live audience. So at this point in time, I would have to say the podcast and the book are the two things that are the most exciting to me.
Football was a pretty big element of your childhood.
It was really important to me, because it was the only thing I was good at, and I got a lot of pride out of it. And I liked the camaraderie and hard work. I think that’s missing, that sort of taking-it-for-the-team kind of thing. I realized in the 11 years of organized football that I played, I never scored a touchdown. I tackled other people. I did everything that didn’t involve, you know, the sort of fun jobs. But I just thought it was good for me. I like that discipline. I like people, especially guys, that have had to do push-ups and had a couple of other guys yell at them.
You once made a living as a carpenter. What’s the last thing you made?
Ah, I built a garage. I’m not making the stuff in the garage. I’m making the garage. I’m a nut-job builder.
Your experience as a boxing instructor inadvertently jump-started your show-business career by hooking you up with Jimmy Kimmel on a radio show. You still box?
I skip my rope for 20 minutes, and I go a couple of minutes with just a little shadow boxing, just to kind of keep the dust off. I haven’t been in the ring in a little while.
Carolla Christmas, is that going to be a holiday-themed show?
Yeah. But we’re not gonna have the Rockettes out there or anything. We’re gonna do Christmas-themed diversions of the stuff that I normally do, and it’ll be essentially be my show dressed up in a Santa Claus outfit. But it’s not going to be Candy Cane Lane or anything. It’ll be a stand-up show with a little bit of a year in review sort of mixed in and a little Christmas mixed in. But I don’t want people expecting white and red stripes everywhere and snow falling from the ceiling.