“Let’s be clear in this article,” comedian Adam Carolla, 48, says. “I don’t give a shit. I sell out theaters. I have a business. I don’t need anybody. Twitter away all you want. I’ll be at the racetrack.” A few days prior to our interview, the host of the web’s most downloaded podcast, “The Adam Carolla Show,” was lambasted online for telling the New York Post that when it comes to comedy writers “dudes are funnier than chicks.” He spoke to me late last month for the release of his new book Not Taco Bell Material and his upcoming stand-up tour stop in San Antonio.
Are you getting any kickbacks from Taco Bell for using their name in the title of your new book?
You think I would, but I’m not. The good news about Taco Bell is that their food is essentially free anyway. If you go there and get a burrito and a taco, you’re not spending more than 85 cents. You want a steakhouse to give you free stuff, not Taco Bell.
Stephen Colbert the other day said the global economy could be fixed if more companies did what Taco Bell did and started adding Doritos to their products. Do you have a better plan?
I actually like that Dorito plan. I think it’s a marvelous idea. I’m definitely one of those people who want to see lower taxes and make it easier for businesses to operate. Businesses don’t want to do business on foreign soil, but if it’s cheaper they will. That’s how it works. That’s who we are by nature. You raise the taxes, people flee. You lower the taxes, people stay.
With the success of your podcast and the work you do in the TV and radio industries and as a bestselling writer, you really don’t have to ever do stand-up shows again if you don’t want to. What brings you back to the stage?
I like to go out and do it on my own terms. I don’t want to spend Thursday through Sunday in Poughkeepsie doing wine shows and sleeping in a Red Roof Inn. That’s miserable. But I have no problem coming into a town and doing one show at a big theater. That always feels good. Honestly, it’s like anything. It becomes work at a certain point. Going in and doing nine 90-minute shows over a weekend is taxing. Instead of doing seven shows with 300 people at a time, I’d rather do one show with 2,000 people. That’s a hell of a lot more fun and a lot easier. You don’t get burnt out by it.
Is it still as satisfying to make someone laugh as it was when you first started?
It should be more satisfying, but it’s not. But I don’t break it down that way. People pay money. They want to hear what I have to say. I want to make them laugh and if I don’t I’m disappointed. And if I do make them laugh, I’m supposed to. It’s like being a bus driver. If you do a great job, nobody says anything. If you screw up and take too many pain pills, then we have a problem.
You became Public Enemy No. 1 recently with your comments about female comedy writers. Were you surprised by the backlash?
I was thoroughly surprised. It definitely means I must’ve struck a cord. There’s no way this many people could be upset at something that’s completely false, right? I just talk and talk and people write it down. If I said something horrible to you right now and you wrote it down, I wouldn’t think about it. All of a sudden someone gets a hold of it and next thing you know I’m getting a bunch of crappy tweets. You can’t decide what goes viral. The internet decides that. And by the way, I wouldn’t pick something to go viral where I have to read 1,000 tweets a day about what a douchebag I was. What’s really funny is when someone says that I said something for publicity and to gin up some interest in my new book. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I’ve never tried to gin up controversy to try and sell a book. I don’t know if a whole bunch of negative comments about me on the internet sells books, honestly. My last book made The New York Times bestselling list and this book will make The New York Times bestselling list as well, with or without the negative commentary.
Of course, there were female comedians who took swipes at you and defended themselves online. Since we’re talking about female comedy writers, did you think any of those 1,000 tweets you read were especially funny?
Well, I did read one from Mo Collins, which I thought was a little bit of a low blow. She said something about seeing me doing standup and that the 20 minutes I was onstage sucked. I thought, “Where the hell did Mo Collins see me do standup?” And then I realized she saw me do standup when I was headlining a benefit for some horrible autoimmune disease or something. I had given up a Sunday night to perform for this charity I have no affiliation with. That’s how Mo Collins wants to take a stab at me? I was doing a benefit for sick kids. That, of course, didn’t get worked in to her comment. The only thing she said was that my standup sucked. You can think my standup sucks, but saying it sucks when I’m doing it for a benefit is a little below the belt.
Even though you think male comedy writers are funnier than female comedy writers overall, you’ve said yourself that there are some really great female comedy writers out there. What three female comedians would you ask to be on your writing staff?
I would definitely have to hire Tina Fey. Teresa Strasser who I used to work with doing morning radio is a great writer. Alison Rosen who I now work with doing podcasts is a great writer. Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman … the list goes on and on.
What three male comedians would you flatly deny?
I would flatly deny … on my writing crew … I would say … You know I’m probably going to get myself into more trouble if I mention a whole bunch of guys’ names. Let’s put it this way: I think Tina Fey is funnier than Tom Green and Pauly Shore. I’m not saying they’re not funny. I’m just saying there are plenty of women who I think are funnier than plenty of men.
Wow, Adam Carolla actually does have a filter after all.
Well, what happens is that I say this and Tom Green is probably supposed to do my podcast next week or something.
Well, I can appreciate people who speak candidly and don’t sugarcoat things just because they’re going to hurt someone’s feelings. Are you the type of person who can tell their famous friends that their movie sucked or do you let them off easy?
My comedian friends never make any movies for the most part. I’m not interested in hurting anyone’s feelings, contrary to popular belief. If I see someone’s movie and it sucked, I’ll pick out the three things I liked about it and focus on that. If you get a haircut, I’ll tell you that you look great even if you look like shit.
You admit that you are not part of the “in” crowd that gets to makes movies and say there are only a select few comedians who get that opportunity. Do you go out and support those mainstream comedies or would you rather just stay home and re-watch “The Hammer” (Carolla’s 2007 comedy) and “The Mole People” (1956 movie written by Carolla’s step-grandfather László Görög)?
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s all I do is stay home and watch “The Mole People” and “The Hammer.” No, I don’t go out very much. I stay home with my family. I don’t support or not support anything. I’m really into cars. That’s my passion. I’m into racing. I go out and race on the weekends. I have to prep these cars. That’s pretty much where my head is at nine times out of 10. I’m not really doing that much for good or for bad when it comes to art or movies or whatever. I don’t have that mindset at all. I don’t think of myself as an artist or an author or even a comedian. I just try to make money so I can go mess around with my cars.
You’re a self-described conservative. Why aren’t there more funny Republicans doing what you do?
Dennis Miller is pretty conservative and he’s pretty damn funny. Conservatives and the art gene don’t usually go hand in hand. It’s like saying why aren’t there more smokin’ hot female accountants? They just don’t go together. I got in trouble because I said men are funnier than women, but no one is going to say anything when I say Democrats are funnier than conservatives. Who’s going to give me crap for that?
Probably no one, but now you’re going to get tweets from frumpy female accountants.
Well, yeah, I guess I have that to look forward to.
What do you think about the news that Arsenio Hall is going to get another late night talk show in 2013?
I don’t believe there is any place for black people on TV. Ah, that’ll be my next internet sensation. I like Arsenio a lot. I know him very well. I got a chance to work with him. I’m happy for the guy. Honestly, is there room for a black man? Is there room for a Hispanic man? Is there room for a woman? Uh, if they’re good and they’re funny, yeah. When I did “Celebrity Apprentice” there were 16 contestants and at the end there was a black guy and a gay guy. Why? Because they were the best. Arsenio is good and there is room for good. If you’re a black guy and you suck, there’s no room for you. If you’re a woman and you suck, then there’s no room for you. Why is there so much room for Tina Fey and Oprah?