The podcast universe was made for Adam Carolla. When CBS let him go he hit the ground running and hasn't looked back. My numbers may be a little off but as I heard it, the first three days of his podcast had 100,000 - 250,000 and 500,000 downloads respectively. I don't know what his numbers are day to day but let's say he competes with networks and gets an audience share that would generate enormous advertising dollars in any major US market.
OK, so Carolla is big time radio talk come to pod. He was personally anointed by Howard Stern hissef as the heir to the throne when Stern headed to Sirius. He gets whoever he wants and says whatever he wants on his show, in his studio, which is in his world. Being a force of nature, he's a dominating force in any conversation. He's also typically funny (though not funnier than his stand up guests) and he has an opinion about everything. I know that last one sounds like I'm saying something bad about him but I'm not. The fact is, everybody has opinions about everything. It's just that most people don't express every opinion without regard to collateral damage. Most of us can't do that because collateral damage would blow back on us. You can't scare Adam with that because he's pretty genuine when he says he couldn't give a rat's ass. He has a trade. He was in construction once. He can fucking do it again. So if the most you've got to hang over his head is that he may have to actually work again for a living, you got nothing.
So what about podcast?
OK, it's a lot like Stern's old show, Stern's new show and Carolla's old show on CBS. You get a lot in the way of opinion, ranting, pontification and story telling. I like the story telling and the opinionifying, and I understand the pontification as I'm prone to that as well. But unlike Stern's rants, Carolla's rants are the kind that if I was in the room, I'd actually be afraid of some shit hitting the fan. He's a big guy (yeah, I know, Stern is tall, but he doesn't come off as "Big") and he has some crazy in him. I'm 6'2" and go 235. I can make with the loudness and the posturing that makes people cringe and find a place to hide and I know how easy it is to go from feigned anger as a comedic device to full on wide eyed, spit spraying crazy in the blink of an eye (a crazy eye). Apparently, so does Adam. During one of the shows I listened to recently, Adam was happily tooling along in a low key rant about the Santa Barbara Parking Police (meter maids) and how one particular meter maid interrupted a short segment on KTLA's local news and started writing tickets for about 10 cars. OK, it was clearly a stupid thing for the lady to be doing but the more Adam went up the food chain on this situation the louder he got until as he's short stroking the process for getting a ticket dismissed, how much it cost, how long it takes and how nobody is every going to do that so they just pay the fucking ticket and that's how Santa Barbara gets you. At this point, Carolla is foaming at the mouth and screaming for this woman to be crucified. He may actually be fomenting a crime if one of his listeners decides to "rid me of this turbulent priest". (Too literal? OK. Carolla says, not actually meaning it, that somebody should do such and such about this woman and somebody, a listener, a fan, thinking Carolla's serious and will really appreciate and reward such a thing, does thus and so to the meter maid.)
So that's my only knock on Carolla; the ranting. I'm not fond of it in any radio or podcast when it turns to the scary anger type of thing. Going on a tear is good radio. Drilling home a point like Lewis Black is funny, but crazy is just scary and it usually makes people step back. The air waves and the Internet streams have enough of that from the fundamental righties and lefties. For folks in the middle, which is mostly where Adam seems to be, we don't need so much vitriol to make the point of pointless frustration and stupidity in our social machinery. Luckily, it is a place not often visited by Carolla.
Adam is a good interviewer in that it doesn't really seem like an interview so much as a conversation. I've said this before and it seems to be a consistant theme with me. I'm not fond of "interviews" since anymore they seem to be soooo prepared and predictable. The big name shows use a formula that works for the networks because it delivers nice little bit sized chunks of TV that can be book ended with commercials. The segment producers asks the guests before the show what they want to talk about and the host works from that list. That way, the guest has prepared stuff to talk about already vetted and ready to go. It's canned, it's boring and we've all heard it enough time to feel it coming from a mile off. Then we tune out and go to a far away place in our thoughts. Which is kinda not the point.
So it's refreshing that Adam doesn't do that. I don't know if that was a conscious decision or if, since he'd really rather not do the prep work, Adam just wings it. Either way, it's all same same for me. At least we don't get some SNL cast off saying, "So, what's this I hear about you and the Santa Barbara Police Department?.." setting up a story for the guest to do in 3 minutes and then break for a commercial.
As far as guests go, every actor with a SAG card or stand up who has done a 30 minute set at the Laugh Factory or musician who's band has sold a million copies of something has been on the couch with Adam. I'm sure he has a list of "gets" that he'd like to fill and hasn't yet, but seriously, if you can think of their name and they do radio chat type shows, he's probably had them on. Shows range a bit, time wise, but usually run about 90 minutes and he does 4 or 5 shows a week. Some of the podcasts available on iTunes are just the guest segments of some shows so they are obviously shorter. Also, there are times when Adam and crew aren't there and a friend sits in. Those days are usually treats for the listener. These folks are doing Adam's show they're not Adam Carolla so I'm not reviewing them. (but, just so you know, my favorite was Larry Miller. Kevin Nealon was a close second.)
The regulars on the show and in the studio are; long time friend and partner in crime Bryan Bishop and, the one time host of "While You Were Out", Teresa Strasser. Bishop is a capable side kick and foil for when guests are either late or missing or Adam just wants to hang for a while. Strasser, as the news girl, provides conversational fodder ripped from today's headlines. Both Bryan and Teresa are there to help fill up the air; they do a fine job of it and complement Adam's style. But really, without Carolla, nobody would be listening these cometent but average two people. I'm sure they're nice people but really, they just carry the water while Adam carries the show.
My Rating Scale
Was I Entertained? Yes, most of the time
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? Yes, I listen to several shows a week
Will I recommend this podcast to a friend? I have and I will