The Man's Man

Adam Carolla has struck podcasting gold, but not without controversy.

Adam Carolla is not a polite man. The star of TV’s The Man Show, Loveline, Dancing with the Stars and (currently) Celebrity Apprentice has built a career on raunch and rancor. Now he’s taken that schtick to the world of podcasting — and he’s found himself on the defense.

After getting fired from his syndicated radio gig with CBS, Carolla began the podcast “The Adam Carolla Show,” which has garnered a surprisingly broad audience that ranges from theater kids to red-state conservatives.

“Usually, wherever you come from, you will recognize the truth, and you will recognize funny as a universal thing,” says Carolla. “Take movies that are funny. It’s not like, ‘Well, I loved Animal House, but my friends that are educated didn’t like Animal House.’ Or ‘My educated friends liked Manhattan, but I didn’t like Manhattan, because I’m blue collar.’ Usually when something has a truth to it, a reality to it, and it’s actually funny ... most people will find something to share in it.”

Audiences must agree. Carolla’s weekday podcast holds the Guinness World Record for the most-downloaded podcast (more than 59 million unique downloads in its first two years). While the show started off as long form one-on-one interviews, over time it’s grown into a traditional, mainstream morning radio show. There are sound drops, a newsgirl and a custom-built, high-end studio — none of which are hallmarks of the typical podcast.

“You can capture a certain audience with a format that’s non-traditional. But if you’re looking big-picture, you should probably try and come up with something that’s a little more universally accepted,” Carolla says. “If you want to call it ‘mainstream’ or ‘selling out’ — that’s kind of what it is. There’s a reason mainstream is mainstream.”

And while Carolla makes a living off of humorous impromptu ranting, his spur-of-the-moment comments occasionally cause controversy. Most recently, he was slammed by GLAAD last year when a news story on a petition asking for Sesame Street’s Burt and Ernie to get married led to a riff that included comments like, “When did we start giving a shit about [transgender] people?” and “Just get married, and please shut up.”

Carolla doesn’t regret the comments, but he says he’s weary of being accused of bigotry. “I never used to think about it, but now I do, because I never know who’s listening and what offends them,” he says. “There’s all these groups, and who knows how they’ll take whatever. I was making a joke about Chaz Bono. When did that become taboo? I thought Chaz Bono was on the top of everyone’s ‘can make fun of’ list, but evidently not. And sometimes I say things and go, ‘Is someone going to be offended by that?’ but I can never guess.”

Carolla has, in fact, been openly supportive of gay marriage on his show. But he sometimes feels that preconceived notions of him overwhelm his actual views. Labeling Carolla as homophobic or sexist likely strings back to his days as a co-host of The Man Show (though his partner on that show, Jimmy Kimmel, seems to carry none of the stigma).

“That’s me — the racist misogynist who never does anything,” he says. “Back in the day, if you were racist or misogynist you actually had to do something. Now it’s like you can be a murder and never pick up a knife.”

In truth, the real Adam Carolla exists somewhere between his critics’ oversimplifications of him and his own view of himself as a manly truth speaker. “I wish guys would revert back to being guys. And I don’t mean chugging beer and being a lumberjack, I just mean being a dude,” he says. “Reading comic books and getting your feelings hurt at age 45 is probably not what your dad had in mind.”

Adam Carolla • Sat, March 10 at 7 pm • The Knitting Factory • 919 E. Sprague Ave. • $39.50 • All-ages • • 244-3279

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About The Author

Seth Sommerfeld

Seth Sommerfeld is a freelance contributor to The Inlander and an alumnus of Gonzaga University.