In Pod We TrustBy David Jenison
Podcast prankster Adam Carolla may be the new king of all media—but he’s still pushing laughs and legalization
Adam Carolla knows how to take on a challenge. He made a name for himself dishing out relationship advice as co-host of the syndicated Loveline radio program. His forays into television included a home improvement show on TLC, a car show on Speed TV and puppets making prank calls on Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers. He hosted The Man Show alongside Jimmy Kimmel, and he took over Howard Stern’s timeslot when the shock jock jumped to SiriusXM. Carolla competed on Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Apprentice, and last April he actually won the Pro/Celebrity Race at the Toyota Grand Prix. He even wrote several books, including 2012’s New York Times bestseller Not Taco Bell Material, named after the fast-food joint that once shot down his job application. Still, the multi-tasking star truly challenged himself last year when he turned down a seven-figure radio deal in favor of continuing his own Internet podcasts.
This decision was quite a risk, but The Adam Carolla Podcast has proven to be quite a show. The right-leaning, pro-cannabis-rights Carolla—cited by the Marijuana Policy Project as a member of its VIP Advisory Board (composed of “high-profile people who are interested in being involved in and helping the cause in whatever ways they prefer,” according to the MPP)—started the podcast just days after his radio gig ended in 2009, and the inaugural show scored a quarter-million downloads in the first 24 hours alone. Two years later, the podcast reached 59,574,843 unique downloads, which pushed it past The Ricky Gervais Show as the most downloaded podcast in history. It is now officially etched into the Guinness World Records because Carolla decided to look forward with an emerging platform rather than look back with traditional media.
Some might call him the white middle-aged P. Diddy, and while he’s not dropping a rap album, Carolla is tackling yet another challenge. He is currently taking his podcast and stand-up comedy—plus his Loveline Tour with Dr. Drew—on the road. Despite racking up the overtime, Carolla peeled away enough time to talk with CULTURE about podcasting, hanging out with Snoop Dogg cannabis and why he thinks people should be able to use cannabis however they want.
You have taken The Adam Carolla Podcast on the road with live events. How are the live events different than the in-studio podcasts?
It is like doing a live stand-up comedy show in a weird way. We are up on stage with microphones. It would be like a four-piece band doing an acoustic show on stage or something of that nature. It is really part live radio and part stand-up comedy show. When we have someone like Graham Parker on the show, we have a little live music as well.
A few days after The Adam Carolla Show ended on radio, you launched The Adam Carolla Podcast and eventually set a world record for downloads. Did you suspect that podcasting had this much potential, and how is it going now?
It is sort of steady as she goes. We just try to keep moving forward by putting out product and being innovative and finding different ways to monetize our product. The challenge is how do we put out this daily podcast and keep it free for the listeners, and then how do I pay the mortgage at the warehouse and pay for the equipment, the studio, all the employees and all the other various expenses we have around here? The answer to that is people clicking through Amazon and buying my new Mangria—which I am very proud of. I always say, “It is like a thousand hoses on trickle going into one bathtub.” It is not about making a ton of money, doing live shows or doing stand-up or from advertising. It is a little bit here, a little bit there. Sell a book, sell a live show ticket, sell some Mangria, and at the end of the month, it starts to add up.
Tell me about Mangria. It’s a mix of red wine and vodka, correct?
Yeah. It’s actually grape-based vodka because there are legal issues, but yeah, that is what it is. You have to buy it online if you want to try it, but hopefully it will be in stores soon.
Did Ricky Gervais say anything about the world record you took from him?
No, I have never spoken to Ricky Gervais. I have no idea. To be honest, I really have no idea if he even knows about our podcast. The way I am wired, I would be surprised if he’s even heard of this podcast. I don’t know why, but that’s what I think. I guess that’s the way I like to think so that way I never get disappointed.
You are doing podcasts, live events, stand-up comedy and writing books. With so much going on, how do you divide up your time?
Right now I am at my studio getting ready to do my Ace on the House and CarCast shows, and tonight, after doing my regular podcast, I am calling the Nick & Artie Show and doing that on the ride home. I look at it this way—your show schedule is a lot of bricks, and your mortar is all the in-between stuff. It’s a hectic schedule, but no individual thing I do really lasts more than 90 minutes. Honestly, the cell phone has helped a lot.
When you did The Man Show, you and Jimmy [Kimmel] visited Snoop Dogg’s house and sampled some cannabis.
Yeah, that was fun.
Tell us, how potent was Snoop’s cannabis?
Good enough! It certainly worked on me.
The Marijuana Policy Project lists you on its Advisory Board, which is “composed of celebrities and public figures who support ending marijuana prohibition.” It includes Bill Maher, Jack Black, Adrianne Curry and Melissa Etheridge. Tell us about that.
They just put [me] on there. I support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.
What are your thoughts on the medical cannabis movement? In the past you’ve criticized the War on Drugs and said people should be allowed to use cannabis any way they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone.
My whole thing is to call it what it is. Someone says, “I want to smoke pot.” Fine, here is your pot. You don’t need a note from your doctor. If you want to smoke pot, smoke pot . . . it’s none of anyone’s business. If you want it, you want it. You can argue that a cigarette is good for you if it relaxes you, or booze is good for you if it helps you sleep. People argue that pot is good for you . . . It’s your business. I’ll stay out of your shit.
You had joined Loveline when Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge threatened you and got crazy enough that the police were called.
I knew there was going to be trouble at around 11:30 p.m., about 90 minutes into the show, but I was fairly calm about the whole thing. There are situations that people see as high adrenaline or that should be seared into your memory, but I kind of float above it all. I don’t mean that in a narcissistic way, but I have been in threatening situations that seem scary but haven’t made much difference to me. I don’t know why I’m wired in such a weird way. I don’t process trauma the way other people process trauma. I’m just wired not to react too much, but it’s not all good. It’s not good for anniversaries and stuff like that.
Speaking of traumatic situations, you once had to talk down a guy with a loaded gun. Do you think your wiring helped you make it through this?
Probably. It was a shotgun, and the guy was in his underpants. He wouldn’t let us into his apartment to do work on it. He was threatening people, so [my co-workers] called me up to deal with him. I just went into his small bachelor apartment and sat with him on the end of his Murphy bed. Once he calmed down, I remember he said, “I don’t know how to get the hammer back on this shotgun without it going off. I can’t make any guarantees.” I remember sitting on the bed with my hands over my ears so I wouldn’t have to hear the shotgun when it went off into the floor or wherever. That was a lifetime ago. I miss those days.
Speaking of bad jobs, you were a traffic school instructor. Were you a hard ass or totally lax?
I didn’t follow any of the rules, and I didn’t follow any of the regulations. I just was funny. If you showed up late, you showed up late, and if lunch took an hour and a half, lunch took an hour and a half. That is how I did it. I never clocked anyone in, and I never timed anybody. Sometimes people showed up two hours late, and I didn’t give a shit. I would just tell them to sit down. What do I care? Unless you are flying an airplane, everyone in charge just needs to back off. So the fuck what if someone shows up an hour late. Who gives a shit? It didn’t make any difference in my life I figured out pretty quick. As far as I’m concerned, they are all victims of this horrible, chicken shit, ticket clown circus we’ve worked out here with the whatever-PD. My feeling was that no one wants to be here, including me, but at least I’m getting paid 91 bucks. Let’s just get out of here as fast as we can with the least amount of pain as possible.
If you think Adam Carolla has an issue with the government . . just listen to his podcasts: “Politicians in both parties are guilty of perpetuating this, but the liberals are definitely on the correct side,” he podcast in 2010. “I go nuts when I hear about what the DEA spends on pot versus what they spend on crystal meth . . . when the history books are written, the prohibition of marijuana is gonna look like the prohibition of alcohol in the ’20s and ’30s. Our grandkids will think we were idiots . . . it should have been legalized in the 1970s.”