Adam Carolla is best known for his popular podcast The Adam Carolla Show, plus the former radio show Loveline, the television show The Man Show, plus Crank Yankers and The Car Show. After the bestseller IN FIFTY YEARS WE'LL ALL BE CHICKS, he wrote a memoir about growing up titled NOT TACO BELL MATERIAL. He also reads both books for Random House Audio, (and, incidentally, Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame is a fan.) His latest books are DADDY STOP TALKING, and PRESIDENT ME: The America That's In My Head from Harper Audio. I spoke to him via phone.
Jonathan Lowe) In your memoir you divide your memories into various homes around the San Fernando Valley. What was it about the environment or the ambiance of those neighborhoods that haunts you today?
Adam Carolla) You know, the Valley used to be sort of middle class, white suburbia that basically turned into Tijuana. There's tons of aircraft manufacturing over there, machine shops, and places to get aluminum welded. I'm on my way over there now to get a part for my race car, in fact. It's just horrible architecture, no personality or culture. . . a huge place, but everything was built in the 70s. I was just telling a friend that it has no comedy clubs, and the reason is because they could never stay alive.
JL) Your parents, grandparents, and the houses you lived in went into developing your philosophy of life. What is that philosophy, and how did your friends back then reinforce it?
AC) I really didn't have a philosophy other than I was miserable and I wanted to stop doing what I was doing. I knew the long term prognosis was bad. I was making money under the table doing work piecemeal, gun-for-hire kind of thing, swinging a hammer, kinda like an undocumented illegal alien. I didn't have a credit card, so I mean, taking my girlfriend to Catalina for two days once every three years was a big vacation. I wanted to have a life, and I knew that wasn't possible doing what I was doing.
JL) The slacker friends you describe...are you still friends with those guys?
AC) The smart ones I'm friends with, and the dumb ones not so much. I reached out on a few occasions to some, but they weren't having any of it. But yeah, I'm friends with most of those I grew up with, even the ones who moved away.
JL) What if Jimmy Kimmel had been a Taco Bell manager, where would you be now?
AC) Well, I'd probably be managing the North Hollywood Taco Bell. Or maybe night manager. At this point I'd probably have at least thirty years with the same Taco Bell. And I'd probably be eating at a discounted rate. People ask me if I get free tacos now, but the stuff is practically free as it is!
JL) What was your worst job---cleaning carpets?
AC) Yeah, that and doing construction labor. Being at a site, I mean, when's the last time you've dug in the mud nine hours a day, no ear buds, no books on tape?
JL) I remember waxing floors and texturizing ceilings in ninety degree heat years ago, so I hear you. What about sports. I've heard you say sports are like religions, too. Take the NFL or NBA Dioceses. What's your favorite church?
AC) I like the NFL. I like it because whenever you turn on a game you know that everyone on that field is there because they're the best, unlike, say, some sitcom where politics or nepotism might play into it. It's not who you know. It's not "I know that guy" or I went to school with him. . . oh, no, no. It's only the best. There's not some team owner's son on the field. You know? Doesn't happen.
JL) I remember listening to Loveline, with Dr. Drew playing straight man. That was a brilliant paring. How did it happen?
AC) They were looking to take the show national, and wanted to infuse it with some comedy. Dr. Drew had been out jogging in the morning, and he was listening to me doing a character on the Morning Show in Los Angeles, and he decided I was funny and just threw my name out, and they said, yeah, we'll give it a try, and it just took off from there.
JL) So it was Dr. Drew's idea.
AC) Right. It had a lot to do with Dr. Drew, and with Jimmy Kimmel getting me over to do his show.
JL) You ever call Dr. Drew for advice, late at night, or is it the other way around?
AC) (laughs) We just did a bonus podcast the other day. We get along great. We hang out a lot, go out to dinner together with our wives. Yeah, it's a good relationship. But I rarely ask him for advice. On rare occasions.
JL) Saw you on The Apprentice, although I don't understand the show much. I mean, here's a guy who builds hotels and resorts, why are teams trying to sell brooms or hot dogs or whatever. What was your experience like?
AC) Those decisions are usually made by my wife, who liked the show. I wasn't really looking to get anything out of it. It's interesting, and, you know, it is what it is. I wanted to say I tried it, so I did it. I get it.
JL) You narrate your own books, and I think people get more out of listening when it's the author reading a memoir, than just reading a print book. Was the recording frustrating, with lots of edits, or was it pretty smooth going the second time around?
AC) I'd say it was pretty smooth, and mostly because I was able to do it in my own studio on my own terms. I don't know much about how others do it, but it worked out well reading the book on my own.
JL) Is the studio in your home, as for some audiobook narrators?
AC) No, it's where I do my podcasts.
JL) Speaking of which, do your opinions ever get you into trouble these days?
AC) Yeah, my opinions do get me into trouble, but you have to define what "trouble" means. I'm not sure what that means, really. You can get people pissed off, but I'm never sure just how pissed off they are, you know what I mean? How angry are they? Or are they just being self righteous or whatever?
JL) Have your pet peeves changed over the years, do you think?
AC) They evolve, keep growing and moving. Sure.
JL) What's your biggest pet peeve?
AC) Oh God, I don't even know where to start. I guess that we have all the resources, all the technology, all the ability, to basically create a utopia here in the United States, and we're too stupid to pull it off. We're so wasteful, so inefficient. We should have monorails and high speed bullet trains, and the best education. I mean, for the amount of money everyone pays, and for what we have, the resources. . . I feel that we're like this huge factory that's running at about 19% efficiency.
JL) Why do you think that is?
AC) I think it's because the Right and the Left started arguing, and it became more about winning elections than doing the right thing. For example, I know how to fix the education system. It's not about school programs, teachers, money. It's all about parents being part of it. Help the kids do their homework, show up at Open House, and make that a priority at your house. There, I've just cured the dropout rate. What's the difference between cultures that are failing and cultures that aren't failing? It's about candlelight, communication, and parents who give a crap.
JL) Well said. What's next for Adam Carolla?
AC) More podcasting, and getting a piece of aluminum welded for my race car. That's about it.
JL) Well, good luck, and be sure to tell people to LISTEN UP OR ELSE.