Adam Carolla can talk about anything. It’s a little scary, really, how good he’s gotten at it.
He’s been on a standup tour that most people call untraditional because he “doesn’t have a set.” Topics come up and he has things to say about them. It sounds too easy, too unsophisticated. But if you listen to Carolla for a while, you start to understand that it’s unfair to say he doesn’t have a set.
Really, Adam Carolla has crafted something funny in his head for almost everything. He just lets you pick the order.
That’s why his new show, “The Car Show,” works. It’s usually about cars, but its focus is on being funny and getting you to relate, even if you don’t care about cars.
You probably know Carolla from “The Man Show,” but here’s a little background for the unacquainted: His podcasts dominate the iTunes chart right now. They’re No. 1, No. 3 and No. 7 respectively. He spent years on “Loveline” before that where he became sort of a magician of identifying deviant sexual behavior. He started to be able to pin listeners’ sexual problems within seconds of a call by the sound of their voice alone. (This has nothing to do with “The Car Show,” it’s just really impressive.)
We talked to him on the phone early yesterday morning—about being funny at that hour, how keeping shows on the air is like a bad ex, and why “The Car Show” is different—and we felt slightly crazy. It seemed like we were talking directly to the radio.
Hulu: First of all, I want to thank you for getting up at this ungodly hour. I remember you talking about how it’s impossible to be funny early in the morning.
Adam Carolla: Yeah, you can’t do it. In the morning, after you’ve woken up—no matter who you’re talking to—first, you’re in shock. Then you’re angry. But funny is way the f–k down the road. You don’t even think it’s possible to get there.
So are you shooting the show right now?
We’ve completed seven. We have a first run of, like, 12. You do 12 and if they like the first 12, then maybe you do another 12. But most places need to see a pilot. There used to be a pretty straight way of doing this. They picked you up, or they didn’t. Now, sometimes, they have you do a couple, or put you in the middle of the season. It used to be just this one way. Poor Paul Reiser found out, it doesn’t always work that way.
You’d never date a girl like this.
No, absolutely not. If you dated a girl like this, it’d be like, “Look, I’ll come over to your house at noon or 4 a.m. I’ll have sex with you—or i’ll hit you in the head with a cinderblock. Maybe I’ll have sex with you; maybe I’ll try to kill you.”
But this doesn’t seem like a crazy girlfriend situation.
I know. At first I was like, “Ah, yeah right, the SPEED Channel. Blah blah blah. Whatever.” I used to be very involved in everything. I used to want to see the finished piece. You get kids. You get busy. You get a podcast. Now, I’m more like, “When the check clears, just tell me where you want me to go.” I’m not going into the edit bay. I’ll be as funny as I can be when I’m on camera. It might work a lot better that way.
All of a sudden, I’m not thinking about The Car Show at all. I’ve become jaded and burnt out about these things. I’ve just become philosophical about it. Next thing you know, I’m watching ESPN and I’m seeing spots for this everywhere. During the All-Star Game, SportsCenter. Now, I’m thinking, “Damn, maybe I should’ve cared more!” I didn’t know it was going to be this sort of thing. I didn’t know they were going to get into it. I’m like, “Maybe I should’ve gotten paranoid about this.”
Actually, I think the show works because it’s so hands-off. The best parts, I think, are just you guys shooting the s–t about cars.
It’s funny that you say that, because we’ve got really good stuff. And the first show we did, if I remember correctly, I think we were running some of the weaker stuff. Remind me of what’s in there?
You race a ’94 Nissan Z in that lemon race. You test out a Rolls Royce…
Oh, man, no, we’ve got better stuff. But, the thing is, the cast is good, the chemistry is good. It might be best when we sit around and argue about cars.
The hardest part—the part that people don’t realize about television—is when you’re being judged the most harshly or critically is when you’re at your worst. It’s hard to be what you are with so many people judging you.
Watch the first season of “The Simpsons.” They didn’t even sound the same. They didn’t look the same. That show took a few seasons to find its footing. If you took a look at the first season of “The Simpsons,” you’d be like, “What the f–k is this?” It’s like factory equipment: You might have all the pieces, but if you don’t know how to set it up, where to set it up, it won’t work. If you do a good enough job—if you worked your ass off—you could be pretty good.
My dream is… well, we’ll never be as good as “Top Gear UK” right away. I love that show, but I want to see what the first episode of that looks like. It’s a completely different show. The catch-22 is if you can hang around long enough, you can find what works. But that rarely happens. It’s like if a player coming into the NFL said, “If you could just let me start at quarterback for a couple of seasons, I’ll probably end up very good.” But that never happens. If you have one game where you throw three picks, it’s over.
And this is the first time since “The Man Show” that you’ve had a real chance to be given a shot to go more than one season. It seems like they’re really invested in making this work.
Well, we had “Crank Yankers” but that was a little different. Places like Comedy Central or NBC, they just cut you and that’s it. But it’s nice, like I said, to have the support on network. With SPEED, they’re like, “You’ve got a good young prospect here. Let’s start nurturing this guy.” We just started, but we know what we’re doing. I’ve known John Salley for a little bit. It’s the chemistry usually takes three seasons.
The other thing about this show is that it doesn’t look like it’s trying to be Top Gear. It seems like there’s two different kinds of car shows: NASCAR-related, inside-baseball stuff or shows trying to be like “Top Gear.” This isn’t really either of them. It’s about cars, but it’s fun on its own, and it’s not trying to be British.
Yep, it’s very non-British. Well, (Pulitzer Prize-winner) Dan (Neil) may have a little of that in him, but you’re not gonna fool anybody. I love cars and I have strong opinions. We’re arguing about cars and with each other. We have strong opinions. We do need that dynamic.
My last question, I suppose, is if you realize how many times a day you’re starting a sentence with the phrase, “Now that I’m on SPEED?”
Oh, I never really thought of that. I’ll be sure to gain 50 pounds so people don’t get the wrong idea.