Adam Carolla is an entertaining radio and talk show host. His professional past, from Loveline, through The Man Show, and all the way up to his current, enormously popular podcast, is testament to that.
In all of these projects, he's shown serious on-the-fly wit, doing his best when paired with either a totally strait-laced (Dr. Drew) or equally wise-ass (Jimmy Kimmel) cohort.
That's not so much the case when he appears with solo, standup-style
material. At least it wasn't last night during his South Beach Comedy
Festival appearance at the Colony Theatre.
Taking the stage about 20 minutes after the scheduled 8 p.m. start time, Carolla commanded attention from the beginning without the benefit of a warm-up act. His delivery was confident -- it's just that nearly every joke relied on rote observations. Of course, most fans of comedy will note that comedy is, at its essence, mostly a bunch of rote observations, and it's the comedian's job to deliver them in a unique way.
Carolla, instead, chose to take the easy route, aided by a slideshow of photos and the occasional video clip. Opening topical material, for instance: Boy, Miami sure does have a lot of pretty people! How do men keep from excusing themselves to masturbate all the time? Or how about those alligators everywhere in Florida?
Things picked up late into the show, but not before a long segment he introduced as "Shit That Pisses Me Off," which actually could have been the title of the entire performance. Here is a top 10 list of things he really seemed to hate, which made liberal use of gay slurs and seemed a little too preoccupied with Mexicans -- material that, no shit, fell a little flat in Miami:
1. A bronze statue of Amelia Earhart in the Burbank Airport. "Nothing inspires coincidence in the flyer like a 2000-pound bronze statue of a dyke who crashed her airplane into the Pacific Ocean!"
2. Morbidly obese people on airplanes, especially on Southwest Air flights with unassigned seats.
3. Those manholes with traffic lines painted over them, accidentally put back in wrong (oh, the visual horror).
4. The fact that his wife changed his computer desktop screensaver to a picture of his children, which is a buzzkill when he's trying to masturbate to Internet porn.
5. U.S.A. Today survey infographics (okay, those are pretty dumb).
6. Those signs in L.A. that warn drivers of families of Mexicans potentially running across the freeway. "Let's see if we can make this sign more accurate -- just one kid?"
7. Crosswalk flags for pedestrians in Seattle.
8. The Los Angeles River, in general.... This somehow segued into a joke about how terrible it is that men have to use public urinals.
9. Those "Coexist" bumper stickers. "Who do you think you're sending the message to besides all the other fags at Whole Foods?"
10. Those "In Loving Memory" decals people use to remember dead loved ones on the back of their truck windows, which Carolla apparently thinks is a phenomenon unique to Mexicans. "What am I supposed to do with this information?" He asked. Was he supposed to signal for the person to roll down the window and say, "Please accept this floral arrangement I bought from [the dead person's] cousin when I got off the freeway?"
Really? After this long segment, he redeemed the show with an old clip from The Man Show, in which he and longtime pal Jimmy Kimmel dressed as pilots and then proceeded to get rip-roaring drunk in an airport.
Too bad it was followed by an overly long, set-closing bit in which Carolla took us through every year of income on a form summarizing his Social Security earnings to date. Yes, there were the struggling-comedian years in the '80s and early '90s in which he earned, sometimes, no taxable income ... but then, lo and behold, into the late '90s and '00s came the millions. Can you believe he had to pay $700,000 in taxes the year he earned over $2 million? Boohoo!
Oddly, though, this led into a motivational-speaker-worthy closing statement. "I didn't know what the hell I was doing," he explained about the lean years. "All I did was walk forward. So all I'm saying is, take the first step!"
It was a bizarrely optimistic end to a show built on run-of-the-mill pessimism, though there were some truly hilarious moments throughout. The old Man Show was one of them, as was another clip played early in the set, from Carolla's podcast animated by New York artist Michael Narren.
In it, Carolla and actor Bryan Cranston gleefully riffed off each other in a segment called "Gay Eye." In this, Carolla talked through an entire fantasy comedy movie scenario in which a flaming bigot loses an eye in a mechanic accident, only to get one transplanted from a gay man. Here, Cranston's additions only served to push Carolla further to talk through increasingly surreal scenarios, to escalating laughs. This was a true moment of amusing back-and-forth, showing Carolla probably does best when he's not front and center solo. Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami