ADAM CAROLLA: PODCAST KING
"My life philosophy is pretty straightforward,” says Adam Carolla. “Grit is better than I.Q., intestinal fortitude is better than any degree, and always blame yourself.”
Given the success that the 49-year-old Carolla has enjoyed in radio, television and film, there might be something to his pearls of wisdom.
A child of divorced parents who came of age in
Hollywood, Carolla spent his 20s working as a carpet cleaner, a
custom-closet installer, an earthquake rehab contractor and a boxing trainer. It
was that last gig that led Carolla to Jimmy Kimmel, then known as “Jimmy the
Sports Guy” on L.A. radio station at KROQ. Carolla coached Kimmel for a boxing
match in 1994 and the two became fast friends.
Carolla soon rose to notoriety on “Loveline,” a raunchy sex advice show he co-hosted with the straitlaced Dr. Drew Pinsky. Over 10 years, the odd couple answered questions about everything from genital herpes to “I want to be with a man and a woman and a donkey at the same time — and what’s so wrong with that?” as Carolla recounts with a chuckle. The show also featured celebrity interviews and appearances by bands like No Doubt.
Carolla went on to create “The Man Show” with Kimmel for Comedy Central, write two New York Times bestsellers (“In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks” and “Not Taco Bell Material”), and launch a line of ready-to-drink cocktails called Mangria. His current podcast “The Adam Carolla Show” — for which he’ll tape two live installments Friday at the Varsity Theater — set a Guinness World Record for the most downloaded podcast ever.
In the process, Carolla has amassed a loyal fan base, which he rallied this summer to raise more than $1.4 million for his forthcoming directorial debut, “Road Hard.”
“I spent over a decade doing mindless donkey work. Now I’m overcompensating and trying to make up for all that lost time,” Carolla says of his unrelenting ambition.
Considering Carolla’s impressive media empire, could there be anything left on his bucket list?
“I’d like to start a bucket company — no, a line of signature, high-end buckets,” he answers, deadpan. “Beautiful oak buckets with beautiful rope handles.” It doesn’t seem that far out of the realm of possibility — the man once taught himself to ride a unicycle, after all.
Carolla offers this advice to college-age fans who are newly entering the workforce: Use setbacks as learning experiences and be realistic about your abilities. Just because you have your heart set on a certain profession doesn’t mean you’re qualified to do it.
“There’s a lot of people who are untalented hacks,” Carolla says regarding those aspiring to work in showbiz. “They want to produce, they want to direct, they want to write. Well, you know what? They’re not any good. And thus, they’re going to have a very hard time making a living because they suck.”
While Carolla uses his no-holds-barred humor to address polarizing topics like affirmative action, police presence and gay marriage, he makes it clear that he doesn’t see his comedy as a vehicle for social change.
“I don’t really break it down along those lines,” he says. “I don’t even think ‘What’s funny?’ ‘What’s not funny?’ I just think about ‘What do I want to do? What do I want to convey?’ and I do it.”
And even though most of Carolla’s podcast episodes skew pessimistic and focus on his pet peeves, the married father of twins doesn’t really hate everything on Earth.
“The focus on the stuff that drives you nuts is comedy,” Carolla says. “As long as we got iTunes, iPhones and professional football, I’ll be happy.”
Q&A: ALI WONG
Ali Wong has a dirty mouth. From seeking anal on Craigslist to being dominated “Fifty Shades of Grey” style in bed, the L.A.-based comedian has covered a wide range of raunch in her stand-up act.
and of Vietnamese and Chinese descent, Wong earned her Bachelor’s degree in
Asian American Studies at UCLA. Though she worked as a temp and a receptionist
briefly, she’s managed to make stand-up her full-time job for the past decade.
Wong has performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Chelsea Lately,” Dave
Attell’s “Comedy Underground” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” among many
other TV programs. Wong is also a writer for ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat.”
Newly married, 33-year-old Wong may be taming down her act in the future—but hopefully not before her upcoming run at Acme in
Q: How did you know that stand-up comedy was what you were meant to do?
A: I was in theater group that Randall Park had founded. I liked that improv and sketch comedy were collaborative, but you really depended on other people and a stage to perform. With stand-up comedy, I liked that you had no one else to blame and depend on.
Q: You also do a lot of comedy onscreen. Do you prefer that to stand-up?
A: Stand-up will always be my favorite and the most important thing that I do. I view everything else as free money.
Q: How is your sense of humor different in your 30s than it was in your 20s?
A: Before I used to talk about a lot more about what it was like to have sex dating, and now I’m beginning to want to talk about what it’s like to have sex when you’re married. The jokes before were about how giving blow-jobs was such a chore and now that you’re married you don’t give a full-on blow-job anymore because you’re married. It’s over. You don’t need to do that anymore! We’re trying to get pregnant and we don’t really have sex for pleasure. It’s extremely clinical.
Q: You’ve often joked about how “trapping a man” is an alternative to having a career and that it gives women the opportunity to relax and hang out at Whole Foods in the middle of the day. Do you really believe marriage is like that?
A: I’ve fantasized about it. A lot of women do stand-up as a gateway into acting but I love stand-up and to be a good stand-up, you have to go on the road a lot. It means going to places in
where they’ve never seen a Vietnamese person in their life. Sometimes you’re
performing Tuesday through Sunday. And it’s scary! After late shows, you have
to walk back to the hotel by yourself. It’s not that glamorous.
So I look at those women who get to do hobbies, watch TV, do yoga, and I’m like, “Damn! That would be nice!” It would take the pressure off if I didn’t have to do stand-up to survive. Ultimately, I’ll probably never stop doing stand-up, but I do fantasize about being a trophy wife—though I joke that I’m more of a commemorative plaque.
Q: Has being sexually explicit in your comedy had any negative consequences?
A: I once dated this guy who wrote me this really crass e-mail after I broke up with him. He said he didn’t want to be friends because it made his dick hurt because he wanted to sleep with me. I refused to talk to him afterwards and he was so, “Oh, but I thought from your onstage persona that you were open to anything.” And I was like, “I’m still a woman. You can’t talk to me like that.” That was the only time I felt like someone misinterpreted my onstage persona. You can’t just be crass without being witty. Angry crass is horrible.
Otherwise, it probably has prevented me from being on late-night TV more because it’s hard for me to come up with five clean minutes. But it’s beginning to change. I’m moving in a different direction now that I’m married and trying to have kids.
Q: Do you feel that male comedians have more leeway in terms of what they can talk about in their acts?
A: When you are a female and a minority in comedy, people see both of those things and think you use those things as a crutch. I would never do an accent of my mom, because my mom doesn’t have an accent. But people will automatically be like, “You’re such a Margaret Cho.” They just assume. That’s challenging sometimes.
Q: What would you be if you weren’t a stand-up comic?
A: A trophy wife who’s also a Zumba instructor.
Q&A: TOM RHODES
There’s never been a better time to be a stand-up comedian. Or so says Tom Rhodes. The 47-year-old funny man has spent three decades of his life making people laugh. His acerbic wit and dark humor have landed him television gigs as a late-night talk show host in
as well as his own (short-lived) NBC series. A globetrotter at heart, Rhodes
has no formal address and lives a nomadic existence. This year alone he’ll hit Costa
Amsterdam, and Scotland.
In addition to frequent stand-up performances, he produces a podcast, Tom
Q: You’re one of the few comedians that travel all over the world. How does travel inform your comedy?
A: I was maced the first time I was in
That’s a lively story. I have a lot of jokes and stories about different
countries and I always love asking the audience if there’s anyone from a
different country. I usually don’t get stumped, but I was in Las
Vegas a couple nights ago and I had someone from Romania
and Nepal. I
had nothing for them.
Q: Do you find that some of your jokes are universal?
A: Absolutely. When you go to different countries, you find out what’s universally funny and what’s regional and you have to adjust pretty quickly. Everybody gets the same news now from technology and everybody gets American television and movies, so as Americans we have that advantage. Pain, suffering, heartbreak—things like that people can relate to everywhere.
Q: You have a video on your YouTube channel featuring a recent exchange with a heckler [who almost came to blows with
How has your approach to hecklers developed over the years?
A: When I walk onstage, everyone loses rank and title. I’m the sheriff. This guy had a UFC fighter build with very predictable tattoos and a shirt that was open down to his navel. He wanted to high-five and interrupt everything and finally, I just got tired of it. I’ve got a lot of heckler comeback lines. In my early years, my fragile house of cards would easily get blown over. You have some pea-brained drunk steal your thunder at a show enough times and you’re going to go home and lie in bed and think of the most evil insults possible so you don’t have that happen again. I have a lot of arrows in my quiver now. I never look for it. I never make fun of the audience. I don’t pick on people. I hate that kind of comedy, personally. But if somebody is an idiot and keeps interrupting the show, I take great pleasure in humiliating them.
Q: Are there things you won’t joke about?
A: Absolutely. Last year there was a big controversy about rape jokes and a lot of comedians were saying, “Comedians should be allowed to speak about anything,” and I agree with that, but I don’t find anything funny whatsoever about rape. There are a lot of topics I wouldn’t make fun of because I want to entertain people. I like shock humor, but I don’t talk about certain topics because why ruin someone’s evening?
Q: What do you consider selling out?
A: Not being true to yourself.
Q: Are you anti-endorsement?
A: No, not for the right thing. I’m a snob about certain things. I travel constantly, so luggage is important to me. If Travelpro Luggage asked me to endorse, I would be happy. I’m a faithful consumer.
Q: You swore off alcohol at the beginning of the year. What prompted that?
A: Wow! Have you been talking to my mom? You know everything! How do you know that?
Q: From your interview with London Real. You mentioned that’s how you got the scar above your eye.
A: Yeah, I had an unfortunate incident. Actually, it’s kind of a blessing. I blacked out for a second and fell off of a stool and got six stitches in my forehead. I took that as a wake-up call. I just stopped drinking. I’m enjoying it. Like that incident with the heckler, I was completely clear-headed and in control. I felt like a matador, like I was standing in front of an angry bull. There’s certain things that if you say to another human being, you expect them to punch you in the face. Maybe not Minnesotans, ‘cause you’re so nice. [Laughs.] I love having total clarity and total recall while I’m onstage. I’m on a whole different level since I stopped drinking.
Q: Tell me about your friendship with the late Minnesotan comic Mitch Hedberg [who died from a drug overdose in 2005].
A: Mitch was one of my best friends. Like most everyone, I was completely devastated when he died. He was a really sweet, brilliant human being. We worked together a lot. I partied with him a lot. There was a period I was living in
New York City
and he was living at the
and we had some very wild, wonderful times together. Chelsea Hotel
Q: Did his death change your views on drug use at all?
A: It’s kind of a personal question. Hmm… [Pause.] It was…yeah…hmm… [Pause.] I love the guy. I felt like a big brother to him in certain ways. It’s unfortunate.
Q: You’ve said “Comedy was invented for the ugly and the damaged.” Where did that philosophy come from?
A: The scar on my forehead. [Laughs.] I think comedy has been hijacked in certain ways by young, good-looking suburban kids without much life experience. Comedy wasn’t meant for the people who got everything in life. Comedy was meant for the outsiders.
Q: Who’s on your wish list to interview for your podcast?
A: There’s loads of people. It’s mostly comedians talking about comedy, but the unique thing about mine is that I’m traveling all over the world. I got to interview [tech entrepreneur] Kim Dotcom. The guy’s like a vaudeville and he’s got his own private army of men in black with machine guns around his property. I got to go talk to him and ask him all about the
States government persecution and us trying
to extradite the guy. It was great. I have it in my mind now that anything’s possible
for interviewing people.
I would love to interview Prince. I love that guy. I was playing in
Minneapolis at least 15
years ago and someone who worked for him was a fan of mine and I got invited to
He did these summer jams, like every Saturday night where started playing at 3
in the morning and ended at 6 or 7 in the morning and there were only 50 people
walking around. I love the fact that he’s still a Minnesotan. I think he’s one
of the coolest performers of all time. Paisley Park
For more of Erica Rivera's comedy writing, please see the Publications page.