Adam Carolla has built a media empire throughout his unusual 20-plus-year career in radio, TV and podcasting. As the co-host with Pasadena-based Dr. Drew Pinsky on the longtime syndicated radio smash “Loveline,” he established himself as a no-nonsense comedic counterpoint to the advice Pinsky dished out about drugs and relationships.
From there, he teamed up with a young Jimmy Kimmel as co-host of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show,” where the two outrageously take aim at all things involving men in pop culture and society. They also created another hit, “Crank Yankers,” for the network before Kimmel made the leap to hosting his own late-night talk show on ABC.
Carolla went a different direction by entering the world of podcasting, launching a studio complex in Glendale to house Carolla Digital, from which he produces an array of podcasts each week that draw millions of listeners on the Podcast One platform. He recounted his rise to fame and fortune with his trademark sardonic wit in the bestselling memoir “Not Taco Bell Material,” and now he’s released his first standup special using the same name.
PW: Tell us about the special. How’d you decide to finally do one now?
CAROLLA: It’s an hour-plus standup special, a mix of straight standup with autobiographical tale. Beginning, middle and end with some visuals so it’s a combo of a one-man show and stand up. The book was a good template as a “This is your life” kind of thing. But at some point, when people ask, “Why’d you call it this or that?” well, you have to call it something.
You shot it in Portland at the Aladdin Theatre. Since Portland is known to be overrun with young liberal activists, wasn’t that a weird choice for you since you rail against the so-called “snowflake” generation?
There are guys with kilts and knives if you get a little out of the city. My biggest cities are Seattle and Portland, even though I don’t come across as a Seattle/Portland guy. We’re in this weird no man’s land these days of me expressing my opinion and some people saying, “Think about what that sounds like coming from you.” I say, “Why should I have to?” Do what I say to do and have a better life.
There were some suggestions of things I should remove from the special and I said no. I don’t think enough of myself to edit myself. That’s not courageous, it’s just low self-esteem. I’m making jokes, so how can I offend anybody? If it’s funny, it’s in. If there’s no laugh, it’s out. I don’t care about the topic.
I don’t want to sound like Oprah, saying, “You’ve gotta become your best you.” Look at Howard Stern — everyone clutched their pearls when he started, then he got big and everyone expects him to be outspoken without complaining anymore. Snoop Dogg can now smoke pot in a police station. If you hang out long enough, you can be you, no matter what.
Jimmy Kimmel recently said he thinks “The Man Show” would be bigger than ever if done today. Do you believe that, considering we’re in the #MeToo era with men expected to watch what they say everywhere?
The pendulum swings. Look at hair bands in the 1980s, which I never enjoyed. A bunch of dudes who looked like chicks with spandex and eyeliner, like Cinderella and Motley Crue. You had all that huge for a few years and what’s the very next musical genre that’s ushered in? Grunge. We went from nothing but makeup, Aquanet and teased hair to Kurt Cobain with a wrinkled shirt everywhere. Those guys probably wouldn’t go onstage without wrinkling their shirts on purpose. Did the Cinderella guys care? Did the Soundgarden guys not care? The answer is one’s a reaction to the other. The more safe spaces we create, the more octagons will spring up. When you have enough of this, this other stuff will spring up. I feel like the more you try to push people into this world of use the right pronoun [regarding gender identity issues], the more you’ll create crazy fringe comics.
You’re known as a libertarian, and not a fan of big government and so-called “handouts.” What inspires that viewpoint?
Whatever situation you find in life will become the standard mark for you. We’re all wired to get used to wherever we are fast. When you climb into a Jacuzzi, you put your foot in and say “This is hot!” But five minutes later, you’re drinking a piña colada in it. We’re built to acclimate. If any of us went to prison, it’s horrific sounding, but at some point you would acclimate.
So my kids are acclimated to a different place than we ever were. My kids are even living in a $7 million house, but for them that’s treading water and surviving. I lived way poorer growing up and well into adulthood, and that was my base. But once you have a base, you want more. If you say free health care, housing, et cetera is my base, then you want a free foot massage. And we can’t afford it at some point.
You don’t wake up thankful for your base. Every single morning, I jump in a freezing cold swimming pool and say I’m awake. I’m way off my base. I’m under a freezing body of water, and I try to find ways to kick my butt a little bit. I perform at the Ice House Thursdays for free, and another club on Sundays. I’m trying to shake up my baseline a little bit. In a world of perfect heating and air, you have to shake your baseline a little bit.
“Not Taco Bell Material” is available at chassy.com and on streaming services. To hear the complete interview with Carolla, from the radio show “Man Up” that Kozlowski co-hosts from 8-9 p.m. Saturdays on KRLA 870 AM, visit manupshow.net/episodes.