Adam Carolla went from throwing jabs as a boxing instructor, to tossing verbal jabs at virtue-signalers. He went from being a freelance carpenter, to building a podcast empire.
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Carolla has worked as a voice actor on cartoons, such as Commander Nebula on the Disney animated series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Death on Family Guy, and Wynchell, in the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph. He directed the documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, and starred alongside radio host Dennis Prager in the free speech documentary No Safe Spaces.

He’s the author of the New York Times bestsellers In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks, Not Taco Bell Material, President Me, and Daddy, Stop Talking!

The latest book is I’m Your Emotional Support Animal: Navigating Our All Woke No Joke Culture. In it, he mocks fuzzy-feelgood car ads, rolls his eyeballs way back at toxic masculinity, dumps on those with emotional support animals (obviously), blows a raspberry to cancel culture, and snipes at a slew of other PC-topics-du-jour.

The first of three times I interviewed Adam Carolla was in 2012, and one of my questions included asking him whether he could joke about any topic thrown at him. He said “of course.” I dared him to talk about – the first thing that came to my head – cricket.

“So, what kind? The bug, the sport, or a member of Buddy Holly’s band?” (Oh, how a nimble comedic mind begins free-associating!)

You choose, I said. Challenge accepted: for the next five minutes, he delivered a LMAO off-the-cuff bit about the sport, punch-line after punch-line, as fluid as a scripted live show. Notwithstanding the treat of a free, customized private stand-up show, it illuminated for me why this quick-witted humorist and Renaissance Man – with an incisive take on life’s foibles – has become a success in the entertainment world.

Adam Carolla is definitely Swagger-worthy – and we pick his brain about everything under the sun

What have you learned about how to be a better podcaster?

Adam Carolla: You have to make things that are interesting to you, interesting to others. So, it is a real game of saying, ‘Here is what I care about. Here is what I’m interested in. How do I get people listening to feel the same way as I do?’

I think it is a little bit different than being relatable. I think the problem with the old school version of terrestrial radio is that if you are talking to people who are in your listenership who don’t fly first class, or don’t own a sports car, or a vintage race car, or do a lot of the things that I may do, the old school approach was to not talk about it. If these people’s average income is $52,000 a year, and yours is $10 million a year, you aren’t going to relate to them on those levels.

My approach has always been: this is my life. These are my problems. This is what I’m thinking about. I want to relate that to the listeners. I do not share the life of most of the people who listen to the show, and vice versa.

I’m not going to go on and say, “I went to Koo Koo Roo Chicken last night and bought a meal for my kids. It was so expensive!” It’s not expensive to me. I’m not going to say that. It would have been expensive to me when I was a carpenter. It’s not expensive now. So, I just feel like you are allowed to share your experiences, even if your experiences don’t mirror your audience’s. You have to be relatable about them. That person has to listen and say, ‘I’ve never flown first class, but this is a funny story,’ or, ‘I get it,’ or ‘I can identify in some other way.’

Tell me about your Paul Newman race car collection. And what’s your pride and joy?

Adam Carolla: I have 13 Paul Newman race cars. I collect vintage race cars, but mostly Paul Newman vintage race cars. They are just something I feel very passionately about. I’m guessing most people reading this don’t have more than five Paul Newman race cars, but I should be able to express my passion about that, and they should be able to translate that into whatever they are passionate about.

I’ll say the jewel in the crown is Paul Newman’s car he won in his last Le Mans, and second overall in 1979 – a Porsche 935. Also, won the 24 hours of Daytona outright, and won Sebring outright. I think Brian Redmond and Bobby Rahal were driving it at Daytona. That car is the most valuable – not really the nicest aesthetically.

I’ve driven it at about four vintage events, and spun it out a couple of times. It’s a hard to drive, rear-ended turbo car. There are a lot of thrills driving a car like that. It’s an expensive car, but if I crash it, we’ll fix it.

You rail against universities for some of the dumb stuff they teach. What are courses you’d offer if there was a Carolla U?

Adam Carolla: I’ve never been asked that before. I think I’d do one on internalizing versus externalizing. I feel like there is way too much externalizing – way too much blaming of the government, or blaming of society, or blaming whatever powers that be, for whatever your lot is in life. I would do a course on internalization and agency.

Once you internalize, you have agency. And once you have agency, you get to control your life. If you push everything out about systemic racism, oppression, or whatever the topic this week is – then you are giving people outside of you your agency, and you have no chance for correction or modification. It’s like “Personal Responsibility 101.”

In I’m Your Emotional Support Animal you jeer at the phenomenon of “toxic masculinity.” You suggest it’s time to bring back being manly and masculine. I’m wondering what you think the difference is between the two?

Adam Carolla: I think masculinity is probably more of an inherent trait, and manliness is something you may try to develop by growing a beard, or drinking the right beer, buying a Harley when you are 52. Some version of that.

I think masculinity is something that some people might have more in their DNA than others. I think manliness is sort of the new ‘macho’. There isn’t really macho anymore. It’s funny that ‘macho’ gave way to manliness. Manliness feels a little bit like it is manufactured. Masculinity feels like it’s a little more from having the right chromosomes.

When I was Bar Mitzvahed the rabbi said, ‘Today you become a man.’ I said, ‘What does that mean?’ And he said, ‘It means from this day forward, responsibility for your decisions falls on you.’ It seemed to me manliness, then, is a derivative of personal responsibility. As in “man-ning up.”

Adam Carolla: Yeah. I think that’s a good take. Get back to the internalization part of life, like what we were talking about before.

You’ve done stand up. What would you tell somebody who wants to be a comedian? How much of it is a skill, talent, how much can be taught?

Adam Carolla: It’s probably all the above. I know very funny, gifted people who have not had much success. And I know people who are not particularly talented, that have had tons of success. So, there is an example on each side of the pendulum. Most things can be overcome with hard work. If you are gifted, and are naturally gifted, you probably do not have to work as hard as people who are not naturally gifted. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that someone who isn’t naturally gifted can’t get to a higher rung in the comedy ladder than you. If they are willing to work hard, they will surpass you. I don’t think it is much different than other fields of endeavor.

If you are hell-bent on being a stand up, and you are not that funny, but you want to hire a couple of joke writers, work it.

Never stop getting up on stage and honing that craft. It’s like any other profession – save sports – where you can carve yourself out a niche.

It’s obviously more difficult if you don’t have that natural ability. There are plenty of unfunny people who have carved out a world for themselves.

What is the best mistake you ever made?

Adam Carolla: I’m trying to think of how we define the best mistake. If it turned out good, was it a mistake? I’ll tell you one. When I was a young boxing trainer, I was trying to get to the radio station KROQ to train either Jimmy Kimmel or Michael the Maintenance Man, for a Morning Zoo boxing stunt. I wanted to train Michael the Maintenance Man, because he’d been there for several years, and Jimmy Kimmel had only been there for a few months.

I thought it would be a much better opportunity for me to train Michael the Maintenance Man, versus Jimmy Kimmel, who I didn’t know, or really hear of at all. That was my plan.

I ended up getting Jimmy Kimmel to train. Then Michael the Maintenance Man ended up suing KROQ for, like, wrongful termination and blah blah blah. Then, of course, Jimmy Kimmel turned out to be Jimmy Kimmel (future business and performance partner). That was probably the best mistake I ever made.

Today, it seems like almost everything on TV and in movies are sequels, reboots, remakes. What’s your opinion on where we’re going with entertainment?

Adam Carolla: It’s funny. We have these big gigantic Wonder Woman reboots, and then we have these small indie kind of socially correct, politically correct movies. Maybe I’m missing the medium sized movies. It feels like Starbucks. They don’t really have a medium now, just large and small.

I think they fall into two categories. You have the group who is trying to send a social message. Then you have the group that wants you to believe that Aquaman is friends with Wonder Woman, and they battle a squid monster. It just seems like we are in exact polar ends of entertainment.

EXCERPTS FROMI’m Your Emotional Support Animal: Navigating Our All Woke No Joke Culture:

** “When the archeologists, or aliens, come here later to study our ruins, I just wish I could be around to see them be amazed at the stupid shit we cared about, and how much time we spent tweeting at windmills.”

** “For a group that crows incessantly about diversity, how about the diversity of ideas? I’m much more interested in having a variety of brains on campuses, than a variety of skin colors. There’s hell to pay on a campus now if the faculty, student body, and guest speakers don’t look like one of those fake multiracial bands or groups at rooftop parties you see in beer and credit-card ads. When it comes to multiculturalism, it seems to not include my culture, which is sane people.”

** “The increase in support dogs on planes is directly proportional to the decrease of dignity in our society… You are declaring from on high, literally thirty thousand feet high, that you are so precariously wired and emotionally fragile that you need a dog with you at all times to make you feel better. You’ve given a creature that eats its own shit the power over whether or not you can handle life. Your dog may be a carry-on, but you have checked your dignity.”

** “I hope we stop being triggered in general. Being triggered robs you of your life. Think about when you’re in traffic, and someone cuts you off. If you count to ten Mississippi instead of immediately flipping the guy off and honking your horn, that anger will probably subside. You don’t need half a day or even a fifteen-minute call with your therapist. One verse of the song you’re listening to on the radio is enough time for the microstorm in your soul to pass.”


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