Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adam Carolla on stand-up, Celebrity Apprentice, and getting a podcast up and running

Adam Carolla talks about making the funny.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 8:04 AM

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Over the years, Adam Carolla has done TV (The Man Show, Crank Yankers, a recent stint on Celebrity Apprentice) and radio (Loveline, with Dr. Drew, who seems to be on every TV channel these days). He has also written two books and even made his own independent film, The Hammer. For the past two years, he has been cultivating a Web line to his resume, as the host of The Adam Carolla Show - the "world's most downloaded podcast," according to Guinness.

As if all that weren't enough, the car aficionado has recently been making the rounds on the stand-up circuit. He hits the Uptown in Kansas City this Friday, March 30, and recently joined The Pitch by phone to catch up before the show.

The Pitch: As a listener of the podcast, it doesn't really sound like you are too in love with stand-up - you seem to see it as a decent gig that you can do on your own terms, and it helps pay for your racecars. Is there anything that you like about performing live?

Adam Carolla: It's weird because I won't let myself really admit that I like certain things. I don't know why. It's this thing, honestly, where I've had jobs ... I've had jobs that have sucked very badly, that were dangerous or boring or backbreaking that paid almost nothing. This is a job that pays very well and is pretty easy and doesn't really require that much, but it's still a job. If you ask me on any given Saturday, would I rather be in Houston, would I rather be in Phoenix or Seattle or Portland, versus at home drinking red wine, the answer would be at home. It's also one of these things, too, where it's like we've decided when it comes to anything that has to do with the arts, we have to be in love with it every second of it. The reality of it is, for most comedians, writers, performers, whatever-ers, it's a job. Nothing beats doing nothing, but it's the only thing where you get paid thousands of bucks, you stand there with a beer in your hand, you crack wise, and you get paid. If you can do it, it's easy, but it still requires getting up at 5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, going to LAX, and taking your belt and shoes off and standing in line. To me, that's the part I get paid for. The 90 minutes onstage is the easiest part of the day.

Like TSA hazard pay.

Right. Basically I'm getting paid to go through two airports and staying in a hotel that I probably don't want to be at.

How has your act changed since you started going on the road?

I think fundamentally it hasn't changed. The point of view and the attitude is about the same. For me, it's just been about comfort, repetition, moving from clubs to theaters, and that kind of thing. I suppose anything you do enough of, you eventually start to get better at and develop more of a comfort level with. I've been up onstage pretty much on and off for coming up on 20 years. I haven't had to develop a whole new set of muscles to get onstage. My problem is, it's always supposed to be great, so that when it goes well, it's just going as planned. Like the Harlem Globetrotters ... I'm guessing they don't have a bunch of chilled champagne waiting in the locker room every time they beat the Washington Generals. I'm kind of the same way with stand-up, which is: You're supposed to be funny, people paid and came to the show, so if you're funny, it's a push.

Nobody's storming the court for a victory. So, you've been doing the podcast for over two years now — what has been the most surprising part of the endeavor?

I think just the support that people have shown for it, the dedication of the listeners and their willingness to go to our sponsors. I've been surprised at how many people are willing to do that, preorder books so that it comes out on the New York Times Best-seller List, and buy tickets to the live shows. In general, how many people have been willing to go along with the plan, which was to do the podcast for free. You support the sponsors, come to the shows, and I'll continue to do it for free. I thought surely this is a placeholder until another terrestrial radio gig comes along, because I thought that I wouldn't be able to pay the bills with this. But I'm building new studios now, have about 20 employees, and it's turning into a nice little American story.

What is the most difficult part of putting the podcast together or keeping it together?

The fact that when we began there was not much of a template for it. You don't know whether to do it five days a week or once a week, or have it be an hour, 45 minutes, 90 minutes. Getting advertisers. A year into it, people were talking about selling subscriptions or setting up something to donate versus giving it away. In life and in show business, that template where you know how to do it because there's a template for how to do it, is underappreciated. People forget just how important that is. The starting-from-scratch thing with no other business models in place was probably the hardest part about it.

One of the best parts about podcasting and radio is how connected your audience feels to you - many of them have listened to you for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of hours. Does the audience's familiarity with you ever creep you out?

No, I really never think about that any more than a dog thinks about what's really in that can of dog food. If they did, it would certainly ruin their appetite. But I do not. That's not my business. For me, my business is to do the podcast as if no one is listening and to do it on a daily basis. I've tried to approach it in such a way where I never picture anyone listening at any time, because the second you start thinking about anyone listening, especially certain people listening, it becomes stifling, you know? You just have to do it as if no one's out there. At least that's my feeling.

What was the most surreal aspect of being on Celebrity Apprentice?

You know, that boardroom was pretty damn hot, I gotta say.

Literally hot?

Yeah, literally hot in there. I'd watched the show on TV many times, so anytime you see something many times on TV and you're just kind of sitting in it, it really has an effect. It's sort of like if you're going to meet a very famous person, it's probably better that you don't know who that person is. You'll tend not to stutter, or say things like, "It's very nice for you to meet me."

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