Straight off the cuff
Comedian and talk-show host Adam Carolla comes to the Ventura Comedy Festival
By Justin Formanek 09/20/2012
Known for his particular brand of no-holds-barred and no-apologies-necessary machismo-infused comedy, Adam Carolla has played many roles over the past two decades. Among them: comedian, radio personality, voice actor, filmmaker and even contestant on Dancing With the Stars and The Celebrity Apprentice.
As former co-host of MTV’s Loveline and Comedy Central’s The Man Show, he currently hosts the world’s most downloaded podcast, The Adam Carolla Show, available at www.AdamCarolla.com.
His second book, Not Taco Bell Material, a follow-up to the New York Times bestseller In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks, was published by Crown this past June. In it, Carolla details his tumultuous rise to fame using as markers of his progress the various “dumps” throughout Los Angeles that he called home. The stories that accompany each subsequent abode are often dreary, sometimes bawdy and, in the end, surprisingly inspirational.
Carolla will be recording a live podcast of his show on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. at the Ventura Crowne Plaza Hotel as part of the Ventura Comedy Festival.
You’re going to be recording a live podcast as part of the Ventura Comedy Festival. What should those unfamiliar with your show expect?
It’s like a live, improvised stand-up radio show — A Prairie Home Companion meets bad morning zoo meets I don’t know what. It’s a lot of opinions, it’s a lot of me, it’s news.
On your website, visitors can now preorder bottles of your “Mangria.” Can you explain what it is?
“Mangria” is something I invented, which is basically taking red wine and turbo-charging it. I was left with a half a glass of red wine and I decided to mix in some other forms of liquor and a little orange juice and put it over some ice, and realized it was delightful and it altered you very quickly. So I thought, “Well, I enjoy this stuff a lot.” Then I started making batches, like if I was going over to Jimmy Kimmel’s place for the Fourth of July and I made a batch and brought it with me.
Like any organic invention or idea, you just started making it at home and enjoying it with your friends and it just turned into, “Hell, if I like it and my friends like it, some other people might like it, so why don’t we start bottling it and putting it up for sale?” And so far so good.
I just finished your book Not Taco Bell Material, and I have to say I really enjoyed it.
What do you hope readers take away from it?
I really don’t have any desire for anyone to take much away from anything I do other than they’re not left feeling like they got ripped off. The main thing I’d like them to walk away with is feeling, “You know, I’m glad I spent that $17 or $14.” Or whatever it was.
I think it’s $25 for the hardcover.
Oh, the hardcover. Yeah, well, you should’ve gotten it used.
I think the takeaway is just, “That guy did not mail in that effort on his book. That guy wrote a book and it was a year and a half of work and it was worth the either $25 or $15 that was spent on it.”
You know, look, making people laugh, making them smile, making them think, it’s all good stuff; and I’m happy, I tell you, if I made anyone do any of those things.
My ultimate thing is really when you, you know, the success of anything — whether it’s a book or a restaurant or a podcast or anything — it all basically boils down to this: Somebody says, “Did you read that Adam Carolla book?” and you say, “Yes,” and they say, “What did you think?” And if you say, “Eh, don’t bother” or “You can skip it” or “It’s not worth a dime,” then I haven’t done my job. If you say to somebody, “Yeah, it’s OK, if you want to read it, then so be it,” then I’ve done about half my job. If you call three people and say, “Hey man, you gotta read this book, it’s that good,” then I’ve done my job. That’s where I am with that. It’s all a bunch of word of mouth in the book department.
You propose a theory on success being proportional to the distance between you and your name placard. Where do you find yourself on this scale?
Well, I guess I have my podcast and it’s in my building — though, technically, my name is not on it — but I’m somewhere in between the McDonald’s badge with your name on it and the tower in Singapore with your name on it, but you live in Dubai. I’m somewhere between those two.
You have an asteroid named after you, so that has to factor into the equation somehow.
Yeah, that was a strange one. There’s a guy, an astrophysicist, and he told me he was a big fan of Loveline and he had a job where he was able to discover and/or name asteroids. I guess he was just that big of a fan. I’m flattered, you know, until it hits Texas and destroys civilization.
Then you’ll get the blame.
Then it’s kind of a bummer. Then I’m going to have to take the heat — not that we’ll be around, but you know what I’m saying. When the history books are written after the nuclear winter, that will be one of the first chapters.
You also mention that alleys and vans fall firmly into your “more-harm-than-good” category. What are some others?
Probably politicians are crossing into the “more-harm-than good” category, and cops are getting close. Obviously, meter maids started because we wanted to keep traffic moving and we want to make sure there are no cars parked on the side during peak rush hour — they started off with the best of intentions and now they’ve just sort of turned into monsters. It’s a disaster. Most stuff starts, I mean, like any sci-fi movie: there’s a guy who’s a military scientist and he’s trying to create the ultimate weapon and, at a certain point, he takes a turn.
I’ve found that with most things in society, they start off as something. I mean, look at Kim Kardashian. Five years ago she was just making bootleg porn movies. Now we never see her out of her clothes and she’s just hawking her perfume on late-night shows and it’s a disaster.
You cite lyrics from Boston’s “Peace of Mind” as a source of inspiration during a pivotal moment in your career path. What was this time like?
Well, I was just rudderless, I was living in North Hollywood in a bad apartment [and] I had no career prospects. I was just swinging a hammer and everything seemed so doom and gloom and there was just nothing good that was happening whatsoever. Things were just bleak. I was able to overcome that bleakness, and that song just sort of spoke to me.
I have to ask, what was it like getting slapped by Grandpa Al Lewis?
At the time, not an honor. But now, 35 to 40 years off — everything is funny with a little bit of time. So, yeah, not bad now. It was a little tough back then.
Between hosting your record-breaking podcast, your current tour and various television appearances such as The O’Reilly Factor and Car Show, you seem to keep incredibly busy. Do you have any other projects in the works?
No, I mean not — I mean, there’s always something going on and I’m proud of that. But, no, not just yet. It’s pretty much the podcast, the live show thing and blah, blah, blah.
The week-long Ventura Comedy Festival begins, Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza, Top of the Harbor Ballroom, featuring Adam Carolla. Preferred seats are $35, and general admission is $25. All-access passes are $59.99 and include admission to all shows and events, a souvenir pint glass and special discounts (posted on the website) throughout Ventura. For tickets and information, call 644-1500 or visit venturacomedyfestival.com.