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The Self-Made Man: Adam Carolla

Man, last week’s column got a little teary-eyed, huh? Sheesh. You’d think I was campaigning for a daytime Emmy or something. I mean, it’s hard not to get into some real talk when the subject is a guy like Frederick Douglass, but I think we can lighten the mood this week by focusing on a comedian who built his own little podcasting empire after successful runs as a co-host on Loveline and The Man Show. Yes, in something of a 180-degree turnaround from last week, this week’s Self Made Man is Adam Carolla.

Carolla

Protip: for the purposes of this column, please ignore the fact that Adam looks like the biggest douchebag on Earth. I know his picture’s right there and all, but trust me, it’ll make this whole thing easier.

Anyway, Adam’s story is pretty well-known by now because he launches into it all the time, with or without prompting. But just in case you somehow haven’t heard it yet, Adam grew up in North Hollywood, which is like the upstate New York of Los Angeles. His parents, while not abusive or absent, were “apathetic,” so Adam turned to sports for some kind of engagement and was scouted by Marshall’s football program, among others (granted, Marshall was still recovering from the plane crash that killed their entire football team, but it’s still flattering).

Unfortunately, the lack of involvement or direction from his parents extended to his education, so Adam could barely read when he was supposed to be filling out scholarship forms for college, and ended up not going. Any ideas he had about playing football beyond high school were doomed.

Adam spent the next decade floating between menial jobs: construction, carpentry, carpet installation, and a stint as a traffic school instructor. None of these were atmospheres where his natural but undeveloped sense of humor was appreciated. On the advice of a friend’s mom, he started taking improv classes and liked the encouragement he got from his classmates. He also listened to Dr. Drew Pinsky’s radio show, Loveline, in his truck all the time, and wondered if he could steer his talents into a career in radio. Then, of course, he would get out of his truck to install a deck on some rich dude’s house and get right back to feeling depressed about where his life was headed.

Adam’s break finally came when he taught Jimmy Kimmel, then a young radio personality on KROQ’s Kevin and Bean Show, how to box in preparation for a publicity stunt exhibition match against one of KROQ’s maintenance guys. Adam and Jimmy became friends, and Adam developed a character for the Kevin and Bean Show, which caught the attention of Dr. Drew, who brought him on as Loveline‘s co-host soon afterward. Adam’s ten-year run on the show was its most successful and influential period, and listeners lapped up his observational rants about radio traffic updates, smoke detector batteries, and how much better pie is than cake.

He and Jimmy Kimmel also co-hosted Comedy Central’s The Man Show, which gave the world Jimmy Kimmel’s cupcake-pooping Oprah impression and Adam’s timeless description of marijuana as “a cheesecloth for your personality.” And I’m sure Adam’s neck is still bothering him from all those girls-on-trampolines segments.

Currently, Adam hosts his own daily podcast that holds a world record for the amount of episodes downloaded, and hosts The Car Show on SpeedTV. He’s also a success, a lot of which is due to his own personal initiative. He may pat himself on the back a lot, but he is a guy who worked really hard and didn’t let himself get discouraged from looking for ways into what he really wanted to do. And he built relationships along the way – with Jimmy Kimmel, with Dr. Drew – and used those as a springboard to make sure that his hard work got him where he wanted to be.

And in case you’re one of those people who thinks Adam is just a sexist blowhard (and, to be honest, there’s evidence to support that), watch some of his Adam Explains to 1780s Guy segments. Pure gold, those are.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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