Adam Carolla, the offspring of a special needs school teacher and "a welfare-food-stamp-depression-kind-of -70s-sit-around-the-house" mom, is anything but boring. His career accomplishments include his stint as the Pinky to Dr. Drew's Brain on Loveline, drunkenly watching girls bounce on trampolines with Jimmy Kimmel on The Man Show, and he is currently the voice of podcast The Adam Carolla Show.
He's going to be swinging into the Colony Theater for the South Beach Comedy Festival Thursday at 8 p.m., so we called him up and asked him a bunch of questions about Celebrity Rehab, how the hell he met Jimmy Kimmel, and digging ditches.
New Times: How'd you meet Jimmy Kimmel?
Adam Carolla: I was working as a boxing instructor in Pasadena, California and he was doing sports on a local morning radio show. They were pulling one of those radio stunt things like, the sports guy is going to fight the maintenance man, and they needed a boxing trainer. And I didn't want to do it just to train Jimmy or anything, it didn't matter who I trained, I mean, I didn't have any real goals other than I wanted to see the inside of the radio studio.
Why'd you want to be on the radio so badly?
I was also working as a carpenter and I was in a lot of positions where I worked at night, and alone, or going into businesses during off-hours. I was just alone and if you were working with someone in construction, usually they're speaking Spanish, so, there's not much to talk about. And the radio was kind of like my salvation, my friend.
I guess what I didn't know about myself was that I was a real social dude - I like to exchange ideas and talk. I just needed the stimulation, so I'd tune into any talk radio that was on. It's kind of like what you do with your pets when you leave the house, you turn the radio on. I mean, I'm not religious at all and I would listen to the Bible Answer Man on the way home from work in my truck. And I kind of knew in the back of my mind that whatever I was listening to, even if I wasn't that interested, was increasing my vocabulary, my thought process, just expanding my view of what I knew and who I knew.
How did you transition from being Jimmy's boxing trainer to getting on air?
At some point, I showed him a video I did from public access. Like a live home improvement public access show I used to do that was just nutty, stupid. I probably only did like 3 of them but I took calls, gave advice, cracking wise, doing everything unscripted. It had no production value at all, no cuts or editing, but it was the only piece of tape I had of myself, so I told Jimmy to check it out and I guess he saw something in that tape because he really dug it. He was impressed especially since I was his boxing coach which created this extra weird element for him and I was surprised because I thought the tape was kind of crappy.
So two weeks later, after he lost the fight I was training him for, he told me he was going to try to get me on the air. And at this point, Jimmy had no juice. He was about as high up the ladder as a sports guy on a morning show could be, which is not very high. But he kind of knew how to position this kind of thing, like he knew he couldn't just shove me on these guys.
So, he told me I had to come up with a character, and I really didn't do characters and I still don't, but he told me I had to come up with a character and call in as that character and it probably won't work but if it does, you can call in again as that character the next week. So I put this guy together, Mr. Birchum, a woodshop teacher at a local junior high, and they liked it. So, Jimmy said, 'Call in next week, see if they like it again.'
What's bugging you nowadays?
I'm being driven nuts by insane people who don't know how to argue and the fact that everyone's feelings need to be considered. Like, it would be impossible to build the Golden Gate Bridge nowadays because first we'd have to discuss it for ten years - there'd be all these environment impact reports and all these different groups that are against building it and it would just never get done.
Some people should just shut up and let the experts do the driving. Like I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher the other day and they were talking about Lara Logan getting raped essentially in the streets in Egypt and Maher said something that I've been saying for years which was along the lines of 'these dudes gotta learn to treat their ladies better and when they do it's going to help.'
Like you show me a society that doesn't treat their ladies very well, beheads them, and doesn't allow them to have drivers licenses, and I'll show you a group that's hard to talk to and doesn't treat its neighbors very well either. It's a bully mentality. I mean, I don't get my wife in a headlock because I want to watch the Adam Sandler movie and she wants to watch The King's Speech.
Is this something the two of your have gotten in a fight about recently?
All of Adam Sandler's movies are awful, so no. What I'm trying to say is that [Americans] are more evolved than that. So, Bill Maher says this and Tavis Smiley, who I always thought was an ass but never knew was this much of an ass until then, was like 'you don't think we treat our women unfairly over here?' and Bill's like 'well, you can't compare the two' and Smiley's like 'wrong is wrong' and Bill's like 'yeah, okay, we can do a little bit better, but they can do a lot better' and Smiley just keeps on going on and on and at it's just like, shut up.
On my show I said 'Name me one great Hawaiian inventor. Look around the house, find me the light bulb, the automobile, or the toaster and tell me what great Hawaiian invented it' and no one could come up with an answer. I was resting my case, which is there's differences in people and differences in cultures. Sometimes it's math skills and sometimes its vertical leap and sometimes its putting a pig in the ground.
And my job, as a commentator on life, is to find those differences and point them out. And it's not to say that the guy who's good in math is better than the guy who puts the pig in the ground, I'm just here to tell you they're different. You can decide which ones better or worse -- and a matter a fact I'd rather be the guy who puts the pig in the ground than the guy crunching numbers, the guy with the pig is enjoying himself more - and yes, I did call Hawaiians stupid on my radio show but people should try to do 3, 4 hours of radio a day unscripted.
You don't drive into work thinking 'I'm going to call Hawaiians stupid today'. It's like a girl calls in and she's like 'I'm dating this guy from Hawaii and he tried to change the tire on my car and the car caught on fire' and I'm like 'well, Hawaiians are stupid' and the next thing I know we have a problem on our hands. But, really, if your kid has a bad heart valve and they need surgery and you've got a Japanese doctor, an Indian doctor, a Jewish doctor, or a Hawaiian doctor which one are you picking? Then explain to me why.
How would you describe your family?
My family's great. You know, the usual, you know marriage, whatever. I was going to say trials and tribulations, but I guess we don't have problems like someone got someone else pregnant outside of the marriage.
So, basically what you're saying is there's no Maury Povich guests in your family?
Nah. Even with my mom and dad, no one's a bad person or abusive or an alcoholic or anything like that, they're just lazy. Hands-off parents. They're just not motivated people, they don't take on life. They're not bad people by any stretch of the imagination and the only problem I had with them growing up is that I didn't get any time or attention from them.
So, I really didn't know what I was sitting on top of in terms of being a strong comedic mind and having a strong personality. It was just buried. It was never discussed. It was like 'what if Will Rogers just dug ditches for a living?' and you'd think 'well, that's kind of a waste' and that's what this Will Rogers was going to do. I didn't know any better. I mean, that was going to be life for me, digging ditches, and swinging around a hammer.
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So, neither tried to cultivate your talents?
Not in one million lights years, never ever. It never came up. I just wandering out into life with a low education, low self esteem, low income, low everything. So when I told my family I got a job cleaning up trash on a construction site, they were like, 'good'.