all words: Colin Wilhelm
all photos: Kevin Hulse
Most people originally know Adam Carolla as the guy who dispensed sex advice, 5-cent psychology, and, more often than not, completely off-topic rants in a distinctively nasal voice from 10 pm-12 am on weeknights.
The anti-Delilah, Carolla’s incarnation of “Loveline” [Probably NSFW audio] focused as much on his schtick as it did on the callers, sometimes to the bewilderment of addiction medicine specialist/contractually mandated star of every other reality TV show currently hastening the demise of Western Civilization Dr. Drew [Pinsky]. Since leaving Loveline for a failed morning radio show, only to then succeed with literally the most popular podcast in the world.
It should come as no surprise that his onstage persona bears no difference from his on-air personality, nor that he repeats a few anecdotes from his time in radio. Old listeners to Loveline might remember one of the Dixie Chicks asking him to the Grammy’s, or how he’s a connoisseur of his own fart smells. That’s not to say Carolla’s standup felt stale: it certainly wasn’t revolutionary or terribly distinct in its style, except possibly for the slideshow (a visual example of his sort of diagnosed/just as possibly made up hyper vigilance disorder) projected behind him to riff off of, but Carolla was consistently entertaining.
However, his real laugh out loud jokes came from unexpected asides, the subordinate clauses to his main material. For instance, during his set closing story about how he was a self-described loser until around the age of thirty, which he illustrates by going over his income tax forms, he briefly interrupted a story about his grandfather to call attention to his parents’ lack of warmth towards each other in the same picture showing a pre-unibrow Carolla and said grandfather.
Though his set was entertaining, one gets the sense that it could reach a higher level with further self-examination (and I promise that did not sound like a psychological analysis when I first thought of it). Most of Carolla’s funniest bits were when he touched on his family, both the one he’s started with his wife and the one her inherited upon birth, or his hardscrabble path before stardom, as a junior college dropout turned carpenter and boxing instructor. There’s a conventional wisdom that comedy’s at its best when pathos is present and Carolla has plenty of pathos to mine. Though he started out on (for lack of a better term) show business jokes about Queen Latifah on The Tonight Show, and drunkenly making Tom Cruise toss him a football (in order to show him his defecating a football touchdown celebration) at former partner-in-crime Jimmy Kimmel’s house, or the aforementioned Dixie Chick story, his stronger material, bizarre Tom Cruise story excepted, came from the less celebrity-focused jokes.
Before Carolla left the stage he ended with a familiar tone: that of tough love radio advice giver with a heart that’s some shade of light grey. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the journey,” he reassured the crowd, at a time when many crowds need reassuring of that. “This is Adam Carolla saying mahalo.”