From racing cars to podcasting, Adam Carolla is one all-around busy guy
Young Adam Carolla was an unlikely future king of podcasting, but that’s how life turned out for the construction worker turned comedian. Carolla came to prominence on call-in show Lovelines and Comedy Central’s The Man Show, but he later parlayed his own successful podcast into a small empire. He has a new book, Daddy Stop Talking!, and a documentary about Paul Newman’s racing career out this season, but it’s at his livecasts that Carolla is in his most natural element. He spoke with Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen recently.
Tell us what you have planned for the Hard Rock. All I know if there are going to be four shows, and Dana Gould will be at the first one.
It’ll be four freestyle shows. We get good comedians to come up, and it’s sort of like watching good jazz musicians jam except we do it with comedy. I usually have a couple of thoughts and a couple of ideas, couple things I want to talk about before I walk out onstage. Sometimes we’ll play some games or do some stuff like that, but it’s all improvised.
I read a description of your live podcasts as freestyle, with friends dropping in and doing stand-up.
Yeah, but it’s not really stand-up. I really don’t know what to call it. It’s a live radio show, I guess. You get up there with Dana Gould or you get up there with Lisa Lampanelli, or Artie Lange. I’ve had Artie Lange to my right, Howie Mandel to my left and we just jam. Ninety minutes goes by in the blink of an eye. You wouldn’t think it would work, but it works every time.
Does this mean that you don’t do stand-up any more?
What’s happened is this has replaced stand-up for me for a number of reasons. One is I’m required to do a daily podcast anyway. As long as I’m going to do a podcast we might as well just capture it, and not only get paid for making a live appearance but also use that as the podcast. It’s sort of like being able to repurpose something, almost. It’s a more efficient way to do it. Number two is they don’t want to hear the same act as last time. This can never be the same act because it’s made up. It’s also more interesting than regurgitating; you can create new stand-up on the fly. I’m working on putting together a stand-up album that’s just the best excerpts from the podcasts.
Do you have a sense of yourself as an industry pioneer, and if you do, when did that start to feel like part of your identity?
The way I’m wired, nothing really feels like anything. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I do understand my name may come up when it comes to podcasting. I’m not wired that way. I pretty much focus on whatever’s next. I’m shooting a TV show all week. That’s pretty much what I had to do this week. Now I’m done and I won’t think about it until Monday morning when it’s time to shoot it again, and I did a podcast all week. I don’t think about what it means to me or other people.
When I show up I realize that every time the microphone is in front of my face I’m going to try as hard as I possibly can to not disappoint anyone who’s listening because I realize, for most people, you’re only three bad shows away from them tuning out for good. I really do mean that and feel that way. And I don’t mean three bad shows spread out over a year. I mean three bad shows in a row. I don’t look at myself as any different than a restaurant, which is basically to say: You can go to a restaurant you love, and you go once and you have a bad experience after loving that restaurant for a long time. You may take six months off and go back. If you go back and have one or two bad experiences, you’re out for good.
I can barely wrap my head around how you get all this done. Is it the way you approach your schedule or are you just able to handle everything that comes your way?
You try to get some good people around you, farm out as much stuff as you can farm out, set up interviews for the ride in and the ride home because you can’t do it during the day, and put your head down and start walking forward. That’s about it. Get a really good assistant who’s really on top of your schedule and work a system out and start developing habits, like good habits. Like, my assistant said at lunch to me today, “You have two interviews this morning on the ride in to Torrance. You know you have an interview for the ride home, right? You didn’t forget about that?” And I said, “No, I did not. Your Post-it with ‘Matt from Las Vegas Magazine’ is stuck to my steering wheel.” I stick it to my steering wheel. I get the Post-it, it says “print Vegas,” phone number, 4:30. And it is a Post-it, and as we speak it is stuck to my steering wheel. I’m going to rip it off, and I’m not going to set it down because it will be mistaken for one that I might use. I’m going to tear it, and I’m going to ball it up and throw it on the floor of the passenger side of my car, which I just did, as well as the map to Torrance, as well as the other Post-its from this morning’s interview. And when I get home I’m going to take them out and throw them in the garbage, and then Monday I’ll do the same thing again.
So it sounds like a similar approach to being a contractor.
Yeah … sorry, there’s a cop coming up behind me and I’m in a bus lane.
Are you getting pulled over?
Not yet. I’m just going to see if I can make it to the stupid freeway without … thank God the cop just blew past me. I don’t know. I’m in the express lane and the stupid bus didn’t take the bus express. But I did.
How did you go from the idea of Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman to execution?
I have a lot of Newman’s race cars. Quite a few of them, like six of them. I race his cars, and I realized nobody really knew the story of this guy’s cars and this guy’s racing passion, so I was just sort of hell-bent on telling the story. I don’t know, I kept telling people about Newman and racing, and no one really knew the story. I just sort of realized somebody needed to tell the story, and why not me? I’ve got all his cars anyway.
So you’re making your movie then going back and racing his cars. You must have felt some kind of connection to him.
You would think, but again, like not thinking of myself as king of podcasting, I don’t. I race his cars. I made the movie. I have a great respect and admiration for the man, but I never … I don’t feel … I’ve never met him. I don’t feel connected to him. When you watch the movie—and Matt, you gotta watch this movie because you’re gonna love it.
I’ve already got it saved on Netflix in case it doesn’t come to Vegas theaters. My first exposure to Paul Newman was in Silent Movie. [Newman plays himself, wearing a cast on his leg after an implied wreck, in a chase scene on wheelchairs.] Even seeing Cool Hand Luke and all the things that he was known for later, I thought of him as the racing car actor.
You’re gonna love it. Did you say Silent Movie as in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie?
Yeah, he wore a racing outfit. That was when he was hitting his stride as a racer.
Well, he won four national championships as a driver. So you’re gonna love it. The only kinship I feel with him is basically sort of a work ethic. I feel like he just went out there and took care of business, and that’s the way I feel about things.
Speaking of work ethic, you’ve been pretty free with criticism of younger generations’ sense of entitlement. Do you have a strong youth following? How is that criticism received by younger listeners?
I really don’t know what my following is. When I do live shows, most of the people who come out are couples, but that’s to a live show. We probably get a fairly even balance of 60 percent male to [40 percent] female tweets and that kind of stuff, but I really don’t know the age I’m dealing with here. I don’t imagine they’re older folk for the most part, because they’re not Internet savvy. I really don’t know and I really don’t think about it much. I don’t think about that much that much.
Are you happy with how your last movie Road Hard did? It scored higher on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer than San Andreas and Tomorrowland, but less than Mad Max. But it got a 79 percent audience rating.
It’s funny, the whole thing with 80 percent … it dropped to 79 a week ago and it pissed me off. For some reason I wanted an 80 percent, so I’m going to tell whoever’s listening to go vote so it’s 80 percent, because it’s bothering me. As far as the critics go, the critics and me … I believe that many critics are blind politically, and I don’t believe they like me politically, and they’re sure not going to give a fair review to the guy who says “women aren’t funny,” according to them. I wish they had a little more dignity when it came to doing their jobs. And look, I’m not making it up. It’s a percentage. It’s not 100 percent of the critics. It’s not 50 percent of the critics. The movie should be at 75 to 80 percent. It’s at 50 percent, and that 25 to 30 percent is the biased critics. It’s a good comedy, and I got in an argument with the guy who ran Rotten Tomatoes about this topic.
Wow, how did you meet him? Never mind, go on with your story.
I told Matt [Atchity, editor-in-chief], who I liked, I said, “Look, it’s not going to shave 80 points. It’s not going to take a good movie and turn it into a bad movie. It’s a percentage. Twenty percent, 30 percent, it’s going to shave it off. And when you read the reviews, you’ll see the ones from The Village Voice in New York that are never going to be good. They didn’t like [Carolla’s 2007 movie] The Hammer. The Hammer’s at 89 percent with Rotten Tomatoes, but they didn’t like it. The Village Voice is going to give me a bad review no matter what, and it’s because I’m not politically aligned with them. Now here’s what I said. He said, “Well, how do you explain Clint Eastwood? They give good reviews to Clint Eastwood.” I said, “Alright, three movies that took place in Iran or Afghanistan, or wherever the hell they were recently. One was American Sniper, which did the best at the box office and has the highest score amongst the fans. The others are Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty were directed by a woman. They’re up in the 90s on Rotten Tomatoes, from the critics. American Sniper, while everyone agrees they liked it better than Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, the critics have it at 72 percent. Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is in the mid-90s. American Sniper is in the low 70s. The people have American Sniper as the highest. … Review the movie, don’t review the politics.
How does Daddy Stop Talking contrast with your previous writing efforts?
Honestly, all I do is I go to Amazon, and if you go to Amazon, you can punch my name in and you can see my last book maybe got 4.5 stars, or five stars. I think this book was 4.6 stars. The book before it was 4.4. Most comedy books don’t make it past 4.0 in the stars department, so I’m proud and pleased to say that the people seem to be enjoying it. Other than that I don’t really make any guarantees. I listen to the people, and if the people say it’s no good, I’ll believe them. I’m not here to write a book, have everyone tell me it stinks, and then go “Screw them, it’s good.” I believe them. But the good news is they seem to like it, so I’ll believe that too. I make a product and I put it out there. If people like it I’m happy because that’s my job. If they don’t like it, I don’t call them a liar. I believe them. The only part of the whole equation that I think is B.S. is when The Village Voice gets involved. They called my last movie, The Hammer, racist and sexist. If you want to know about biased journalism, that’s it. I can’t listen to those people. If you’re going to call The Hammer racist and sexist, I’m going to stop listening to what you have to say. But if you’re a fan, I’m all ears.
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