Adam Carolla talks GLAAD, Blue Collar Comedy, 'Germany or Florida' and competing with other podcasts
Five days a week, The Adam Carolla Show podcast runs abot 90 minutes. So when you're approaching a telephone interview with the rant-happy Adam Carolla, you start to panic. Is it really possible to cram a conversation with Carolla into a 15-minute phone call?
As it turns out, the answer is no. Once we got to talking, fans won't be surprised to learn 15 minutes stretched into 30, with Carolla ready to rant the whole time.
Carolla's record-breaking podcast has won him new fans in the comedy world (including your humble Soundcheck editor -- I'd never heard him on the radio before the podcast, but have since become a fan of his lengthy, improvised comic rants on pretty much any topic you can name.) Improv-based bits like "What Can't Adam Complain About?" helped spawn a second career for Carolla as a stand-up comic. He'll perform at the Straz Center at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $24.50; click here for details.
Last week, we got Carolla on the phone to talk about a range of topics: The Hammer, his recent controversy with GLAAD, competition in the podcasting world and more. We even played a little "What Can't Adam Complain About?"
A version of the interview will appear in Friday's tbt*, but it'd be such a shame not to let Adam go long. So here's a fuller version of the interview, edited a little for clarity.
You’ve brought the show to Florida before. But you don’t make it over to the East Coast a whole lot, do you?
I don’t know how to define “a whole lot.” We did some live podcasts from Caroline’s in New York a few months back, and I did a couple shows in New York, and then a couple shows in Atlantic City. Yeah, I get out there a little bit. Not a ton, but it’s easier, obviously, for me to just go play Seattle, Portland or Phoenix.
In your experience, do Floridians like the game "Germany or Florida?"
I’ve never spoke to one of them about "Germany or Florida."
Are you worried you’re going to be surrounded by people with pitchforks and torches when your plane lands in Florida?
No, I’ll tell you why: Because whenever you’re making fun of crazy, dumb people, they don’t know you’re making fun of them. They’re kind of laughing with you. So it’s like, if you talk to Floridians about Florida, like, “What’s up with these people?” They’d be going, “Yeah, I know? Can you believe it?” “Yeah, I’m talking about you.” They’d be like, “Yeah, I know, it’s nuts, right? These people are insane!” It’s funny. Listen, people make fun of Hollywood all the time, right? I live in Hollywood. I was born and raised in Southern California. And when they’re making fun of Hollywood people, I’m like, “Totally, that’s what I’m saying.” As long as you’re in the room, it doesn’t feel like it’s you they’re talking about.
The Hammer was financed in part by some investors from Tampa. And one of our St. Pete boxers, Jeff Lacy, had a role in the film. Was it a lifelong dream getting to act alongside the great thespian Left Hook?
Sure, Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy. He was great. I had to fly him out here on my dime. We were making this film, and we had a pretty low budget for it. I was like, “You know who’d be perfect? Jeff Lacy.” Of course, everyone in the indie world is gay or Jewish, or gay and Jewish, so they didn’t have Jeff Lacy posters up in their meditation room. So they’re like, “Who’s Jeff Lacy?” I’m like, “He’s a boxer; he’d be perfect for this part.” “All right, well, he can play this part. Tell him to be on the set.” I said, “I think he’s in Florida. We’d have to fly him in for a few days to shoot this role.” They’re like, “We’re not paying for that. If you want Jeff Lacy, then you have to buy his plane ticket and pay for his hotel and buy a ticket for his fiance, too.” I was like, “Ah ... all right. Well, I want Jeff Lacy.”
Did he appreciate all the effort you went to?
I don’t know. He was a nice guy, and was cool to hang with. He was in good spirits at the time, because it was probably before he fought Joe Calzaghe. But: Cool guy, and he did a great job. He looked right, he sounded right, he jumped right into it.
I feel like a number of critics would describe The Hammer as “surprisingly good,” kind of like how they described In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks as “surprisingly good,” or Crank Yankers as “surprisingly good.” So my question is, how is it you’re still able to take people by surprise?
That’s all I do. I don’t mean that in a boastful way. I mean that in a very sad and pathetic way, where people say, “You know, I saw you on Dancing With The Stars, and I was surprised I enjoyed you.” Or, “I read the book, and I laughed! I was surprised!” “The Hammer, it was a nice independent film! I didn’t expect it!” I don’t know. It’s a source of frustration for me. It’s one thing when you’re from Florida and you’re surprised that Adam Carolla, it turns out, can act a little bit. I live in Hollywood, amongst a whole bunch of people who are just as surprised, who work in this business. I have had this thought many times, where I’ve screamed to the heavens: “Look, if I write a book, people like it, and it’s funny; and if I make an independent movie, people like it and it’s funny; and if i do a podcast, people like it and it’s funny; and if I go on Dancing With the Stars, people like it and it’s funny — why is there this constant surprise?”
There’s something about you that makes you an easy target for criticism.
Oh, listen, I’ve read reviews of The Hammer that called it racist and sexist. And it’s like, “Racist? Sexist? Where’s the sexist part coming in?”
The dustup that you had with GLAAD was maybe an example of that.
Yeah, they’ve always done that. Listen: I had the temerity to be heterosexual and have views about the roles men play in society, and the roles women play in society. GLAAD is not going to rest until gay/straight/lesbian/transgendered/pre-op/post-op transgendered/heterosexual males and females just get blended up into one tasteless paste, where there’s no difference, you can’t judge, there are zero differences. Obviously, they’re f---ing idiots. I have kids. I have a boy and a girl. They’re dramatically different. They’re twins; they’re night and day apart. They have a mother and a dad, and we both serve very different roles in their life. Very different. And they (GLAAD) just won’t rest until every culture and every gender and every sexual proclivity is exactly the same. Like, who cares? Who cares whether your kids are raised by a lesbian couple or a gay couple or a transgendered couple? It’s all the same. I’m just the only guy who’s got — I imagine it’s more balls than brains, because everyone else knows they’re wrong, including them, too, on some level — that males and females bring different things to the table when it comes to raising kids. I’m not part of a Christian movement; I’m an athiest. I just happen to have eyeballs and ears, and I actually can see what’s going on in nature, and understand there’s a huge difference in the way they approach parenting, being a male and a female. Anyway, that makes me a homophobic, xenophobic hatemonger. GLAAD can just eff themselves, is basically my feeling. I wish more people would tell them to eff themselves.
Have you ever been offended by something another comic said?
No. I don’t go to comics for my news, or even my opinions. I don’t understand why people do. I suspect they don’t. I suspect they’re just looking for publicity. There’s a modern-day ambulance chaser, and it’s basically these guys, and Gloria Allred, and all these people. They hide under the umbrella of equality, but really, they’re just drumming up business. They’re basically Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — they’re the gay version of those guys. They don’t do anything, and no one needs them, but they’ve got a business to run, and their business is basically going after me and Tracy Morgan. They’re now going after comedians.
You’d never listened to a podcast before starting your own, is that right?
Have you found the demographics of your fan base expanding or changing completely, just due to the podcast?
I really have no idea. I have no way to discern that. I just assume that when I went from doing terrestrial radio to doing the podcast that a certain percentage of people went along with me on the journey. But as far as picking up new fans via the podcast? I knew that there was a certain amount of displaced fans, fans that were in places that formerly got my show. I would talk to people who say, “I used to listen to you on 91X when I lived in San Diego for six years, and then I moved to Idaho, and I couldn’t find you, and now I can find you because of the podcast.” But I haven’t met too many people — and I’m not saying they’re not out there — who just got turned on via the podcast. It’s usually somebody telling somebody they should check it out.
You’ve been a guest on most of the other big podcasts. How would you describe the nature of competition in the podcasting world, whether it’s for guests, for advertising dollars or just for listeners’ time? There’s only 24 hours in a day.
Right. Seems like we should have done a 25-hour day. Things would be so much easier, you know? Because you always do that thing where you go, “Twenty-four hours from now ... 48 hours from now, 72 hours from now ... ah, s---. Goddammit.” Everyone gets to 72 hours and then kind of falls off. Look, we’ve all been alive for a while — how many hours in a week?
God, I don’t know.
That’s the point. Shouldn’t we know? It’d be so easy to just say 175.
Parents can do that math with weeks when they have infants.
I know. It bothers me.
I don’t know — I’ve done a lot of other people’s podcasts, and they’re good, and they’ve been guests on my podcast, and they’ve been good on my podcast. I don’t know what people want from a podcast. I just sort of assume that there are certain people who are fans of NPR, and they’re going to get what they want from a podcast, and then there are certain fans of mine, and they’re gonna get me from a podcast. I never really looked at it so much as, “Well, I’m serving Thai food, and there’s a bunch of other Thai food restaurants on the block, and I have to compete with those Thai food restaurants.” I look at it as, there’s a Mexican restaurant, there’s a steakhouse, there’s a rib joint and I’m serving Thai food. So if you’re in the mood for Thai food, come on down. But if you want a steak, then you go listen to Greg Fitzsimmons’ podcast. (Not a good steak, but you know what I’m saying. Think more Sizzler than Morton’s.)
But you know what I’m saying. We don’t do the same show. Nobody does the same show. So I guess you could go, “Well, your Thai food’s gotta be better in order to get people away from the Mexican joint.” Yeah, that may be true — you have to offer up some pretty good Thai cuisine. But all the guys out there that are doing these podcasts, and I’m friendly with most all of ’em, we’re all pretty different comedically. We have a different sensibility and a different format. They like to come on my show, and I like to come on their show as well.
If you could give up your podcast and still have the exact same level of success in show business, would you?
Meaning, give it up, and I get the money I make at the podcast? I’d certainly be giving up some fairly substantial income. I don’t know that the podcast has opened any doors or anything. I feel from a showbiz standpoint, it’s sort of a constant “prove it.” I’m not one of these guys who walks around and does that bulls--- where I go, “I got a target on my back, and people are gunning for me, and I gotta wake up hungry every day.”
I made a movie with Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy, and Sports Illustrated said it’s the best sports movie of 2008, or whenever it was. People go to me, “When are you gonna make another movie?” And I go, “Well, never.” They go, “Why not?” Because Adam Sandler makes movies, and he makes them with his friends, and Judd Apatow makes movies, and he makes them with his friends. I’m not friends with those guys, so I’m not allowed to make movies, unless I raise another million dollars and fly Jeff Lacy in from St. Pete. I have to do my own thing, and I have to do it early and often. I don’t know why they’re making Bucky Larson: Born To Be a Star. People say to me, “Why are they making those piles of s---? Why don’t they make one of your movies? You’ve got scripts, you’ve got ideas.” Hey, I’m trying. I’ve pitched and pitched and pitched to the same people who make those same s---ty movies, and they go, “Nah, we’re gonna make our pieces of s---.” And that’s just the way this industry is set up.
Not to put you on the spot, but would you be up for a lightning round of "What Can’t Adam Complain About?"
Sure. I’m wildly sleep-deprived, but let’s do it.
What I wanted to do was pick things that are going on in Tampa this weekend, that you’re going to be competing against for people’s time and dollars. So I’ll start with an easy one: Your buddy Jim Norton is going to be at the Improv here in town.
Well, I met his parents backstage when I was in Atlantic City. They were not there to meet me; they were there to meet (Jay) Leno. They’re a nice, elderly couple from Atlantic City, and they’re well into their 70s, and they seem like the nicest 74-year-old couple on the planet. And I wanted to scream the whole time, “You know you’re son’s entire career is built on defecating on hookers, right? Have you seen it?” Jim Norton is literally the filthiest human being on the planet — and it’s not Richard Pryor tossing in an MF’er every once in a while. It’s graphic depictions of debauchery and sexuality that would make a German atheist vomit. I’m just saying, I know Jim Norton’s parents, and they’re good people, and they would be disgusted if they knew what he was up to. I wonder if they do, and I wonder if they ever go to the show and go, “Ah, that’s just him puttin’ on a comedy routine.” It’s not. It’s the truth. He’s vile. So although I like him personally, listen, do you really want to go out for a night of hearing about being covered in cellophane and defacated on?
Okay, next: Monday Night Football. Bucs are playing the Colts this weekend.
Uh-huh. Where are they playing? The Big Sombrero?
Raymond James Stadium. They tore down the Sombrero a while back.
Why would you tear down a Sombrero? Why wouldn’t you just build a giant donkey and put it on top? That was a huge tactical error by the local folks. I would have erected a mule the size of the Sears Tower, and put the Big Sombrero on top of it, and charged people to take pictures next to it, like they do in Mexico.
Stadiums with silly names are the best.
Yeah. Well, obviously, Peyton (Manning)’s not in there, and Kerry Collins — let me just say this. Whether you’re Brett Favre or Kerry Collins, if you’re the elder statesmen of football, and people are wondering if you’re getting a little too old to play in this league, how about you shave the full grey beard? Or how about you comb in a little Just For Men? Didn’t Drew Rosenhaus ever get these guys on the phone and go, “Kerry, listen buddy, people are talking about how old you are, and how many years you’ve been in the league, and you’re up there looking like Ernest Hemingway. Knock it off. Either shave the stupid beard or comb in a little eyeliner and look like a 27-year-old.” Remember when Brett Favre would have just a full-blown grey beard? You’re in the National Football League! How many other dudes returning kicks have a grey beard? You’re not a novelist, you’re a quarterback. So obviosuly, no Peyton Manning, no Colts, no dice.
Finally, one other big comedy show is in town this weekend: The Blue Collar Comedy Guys. Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall.
Well, nobody can get enough of that, can we? We’re not topped off on that humor yet? Really? Let me just say something to your readers: Those guys are all kazillionaires. They’re gonna tell you about their ride over in a Winnebago. They’re gonna tell you about workin’ the back 40 in their John Deere. They’re gonna tell you about sippin’ cider out on the porch with Granny. They live in 200,000-square-foot mansions. Mansions! They need a golf cart to get to their bathroom. First off, “Blue Collar?” Here’s what I’ll do — I’ll pop the hood on any car in America and say, “I’ll give each one of you a--wipes an hour to find me the air cleaner. Go ahead. I want you to jump-start this car. I want you to change the oil on my pickup truck, Mr. Blue Collar.” Those guys are actors! Playing hillbillies! You remember the Beverly Hillbillies, right? That was an actor playing Jed Clampett! Those guys are multi-kazillionaires who sit around and go, “I was eatin’ me some pulled pork sammich on the porch the other day, sippin’ moonshine.” No, you weren’t. You were in a luxury villa with your trophy wife. Knock it off. Look, if you want to tell stories, tell stories, but stop pretending to be poor. You’re kabillionaires, and you all flew in on private jets. It’s so maddening.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*