Adam Carolla on Obama's taxes, obese-shaming and Celebrity Rehab death Mindy McCready
Adam Carolla has not had a predictable career arc. After playing the role of the cynical sidekick in both The Man Show and Loveline with Dr. Drew Pinsky, he developed his own ready-made cocktail, Mangria, as well as one of the most popular podcasts on the internet, eventually landing a regular spot on The O'Reilly Factor, replacing Dennis Miller as America's premier conservative comedian. Recently teaming up with his old Loveline buddy for their Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew Reunion Tour -- which visits Denver this Saturday -- Carolla took time away from his numerous projects to catch up with us, discussing smoking vs. obesity, atheism and whether or not Dr. Drew is responsible for Mindy McCready's death.
See also: - Your vote doesn't matter: Why there are better things to do on election day - E.J. Dionne on the Supreme Court, cable news and evangelicals - A guide to DIY comedy tours with the Fine Gentleman's Club
Westword: Not that I'm complaining, but I can't help but mention that this is the earliest [9:30 a.m.] interview I've ever done with a comic.
Adam Carolla: Oh, really? I've been up for two hours doing them.
Well, I'm afraid my first question is probably nothing new for you this morning. I'm really curious about being a conservative and a comedian, and how that singles you out in an industry dominated by liberals.
They're mainly just scared and hypocrites. They don't send their kids to public schools, they live up in the hills in gated communities -- they're all incorporated, and they have tax people who work full time to look for what the president would call "loopholes." And they make as much money as they can possibly make and hang on to as much of it as they can, in terms of not giving it to the government.
You feel that liberal comedians don't pay their fair share of taxes?
Well, they pay as little as they can possibly pay. They're all incorporated. And they all have tax people.
So you think it's in their best financial interest to band together as comedians under the banner of liberalism?
I don't know what their full agenda is. I know their principles aren't often in line with the things that come out of their mouth. I was doing a show in Winnipeg, and someone said to me, "Samuel L Jackson is in the suite next to you." He was shooting a movie there, but he lives in Beverly Hills, and I'm guessing he's not playing the part of a Mountie-on-the-edge. So why is Samuel L. Jackson in Winnipeg? He was playing the role of a cop from Chicago.
You're saying he was up there for tax purposes?
Yeah. He's a huge fan of Obama, and wants people like himself to pay his fair share. So what's he doing in Canada?
And by the way, this whole thing about me being right-wing? I'm not right-wing at all. I was made right-wing by the media. I've always said: smoke as much pot as you want, have sex with whoever you want, I don't want to be in your bedroom, I don't want to be in your medicine closet, do whatever the hell you want as you're not hurting me or taking money from me.
All I said was, if you're making minimum wage, don't have a kid. If you do have a kid, and you're a dad, stick around and raise your kid: It'll make a better society. As far as [school] lunch goes, pack your kid a lunch, that's not my job. No one is so poor that they can't boil up some bouillon cubes and some rice with an apple. I don't need to pay for your kid's lunch.
I'm perfectly fine giving the government one third of the money I make, but when it approaches half the money I make, I'm not that happy. That's all I've said! That's common-sense crap.
Well, I think there's more to point to that could identify you as a conservative personality, such as your new spot as a commentator on The O'Reilly Factor. A few weeks ago on the show you made the case for shaming obese people for the betterment of society -- do you feel that we overlook harmful lifestyle choices that relate to food, while collectively mocking something like smoking?
The other day I posed a question on my podcast: Would you rather your kid be obese or a smoker? I mean, for life. And everyone was like: Well, shit, I don't want my kid to be obese, but he can't be a smoker -- that's awful! Obese, you're just a victim of society, but as a smoker you're a bad person! I said, "I'd rather my kid be a smoker. First off, I think a smoker is going to live ten years longer. And two, he's going to get a lot more pussy during those years. It's about the quality of life. An obese person has to walk around with it constantly. So who's getting a prom date? The guy with the cigarettes rolled up in his shirt like James Dean, or the obese guy?"
So yeah, obesity to me is a bigger problem than smoking. But that's a problem that doesn't have "big tobacco" behind it. There's nobody to pick on. You can't pick on the people who are getting the food, so you blame McDonald's. But the last time I checked, McDonald's was around when I was a kid, and nobody was obese. From a strictly scientific standpoint, you have to remove McDonald's from the equation.
Well, maybe not entirely. It's not the whole problem, but even in your scientific equation you'd have to look at how McDonald's has changed since you were a kid.
It's not the same? How is it different?
Well, the portion sizes of food are different, the size of the sodas, the ingredients have changed, the way meat is raised, where it's raised, the chemistry is much different.
Hold on, the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder has changed? It's the same Big Mac that it always was. Calorically. Go on your computer and check what the Big Mac was then and now, so I can sit back and laugh.
I promise I will as soon as we're done here.
But then I won't be able to laugh at you.
You can go ahead and laugh at me now, because I want to return to politics. On the same issue of obesity, you defended New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently on O'Reilly when the question was posed about his weight affecting his ability to be president. That does seem like a political move, contradictory to your stated opinions on fat people.
I just said everyone's fat now, and they vote for what they are. L.A. has a mayor that's, like, border-line retarded. But he's the mayor. And his last name is Villaraigosa, and since L.A. is half hispanic, that's basically why he's in. He knows what he's doing. If your constituency is of this group or that group, there's a much better chance of you getting in.
So all I was saying with Chris Christie is: If America's fat, then he's one of us. We're getting fatter by the day, and fat people love other fat people. I would argue that ten years from now Barack Obama will be too skinny to be elected.
You recently went after Obama for his minimum-wage increase proposal, saying we shouldn't make minimum-wage jobs so appealing, because you should want to climb out of that kind of employment. I'm wondering if you feel that upward mobility in this country is accessible enough for these people to crawl out of those jobs.
There's whatever opportunity you make. The idea of sitting around and deciding what your opportunity is is a very flawed way to approach life. People don't sit around and decide, "Well we have plenty of opportunity, but not for him, he's Hispanic, or not for her, because she has a vagina." The opportunity is there for you to make or squander, it's not for someone else to create for you. If you have a minimum-wage job and you don't like that job, you start figuring out ways to move out of that job, just like everyone you know did.
I think the argument from, say, Occupy Wall Street would be that there's a ceiling on opportunity in America, and there's no way you to circumnavigate that. Then you've got to kill yourself. I mean, if there's no way to get out of a minimum-wage job -- even though everyone I know had one, and worked their way out -- then you should probably take your own life. I would argue that there are ways to navigate that. This country is basically built on that. I never argue that banks aren't evil -- but they just want to make money, which is fine. That exists, and will always exist. As long as someone has money, power and more resources, then that will always exist.
It does seem difficult to nail you down culturally or politically: You'll go on Bill Maher's show, and identify with him as an atheist, but then you'll go on Bill O'Reilly's show, and identify with him as a conservative.
I don't identify as a conservative.
Well, with O'Reilly, you certainly are in step with him when it comes to Obama and taxes.
Fiscal issues, sure. Raise your own kids and let me keep half my paycheck.
But I think you're overthinking things a little bit. I'm basically asked to come on these shows because I'm funny. That's about it. They want me to come on and be funny. It's no different than The Tonight Show or Jimmy Kimmel Live - they don't have a political stance, they just want me to be funny. Same with Maher or O'Reilly. You may think of them as political, but they're in the entertainment business. They want to have a show that's interesting and provocative, but they really just want something that's funny -- which gets them better ratings, and they're only interested in ratings. The same reason Sam Jackson is in Winnipeg. Did I tell you about that?
Yes. But I would argue that O'Reilly and Maher want you on their show also because of your--
Quiet, quiet, quiet. Listen to me, Jackson goes to Winnipeg because he wants to make a movie and wants to save money. And Adam Carolla goes on Maher or whatever because they want ratings and money. There's not much more than that. You're reading more into it than you need to. Bill O'Reilly's a good guy, he likes me; I like him, same with Maher.
Lets get off politics and talk about Loveline. What are some of your fond memories of the show?
Oh, boy. Just having a job that I would do for free -- for over a decade -- talking to one of the more interesting guys on the planet, Dr Drew.
What do you make of the allegations that came with Mindy McCready's death, that his show, Celebrity Rehab, exploits people's addictions at their own peril?
Look, he tries to help people, and some people he helps and some he can't help. It's basically free rehab for them. They choose to go on the show. I think if you asked most addicts if they'd like to have free, world-class care for their addiction, they'd take you up on it.
I don't even know what exploiting means. You tell me what that means.
Having a nefarious agenda that you're not upfront about?
What's nefarious about it? How is it exploitative?
Maybe that the show doesn't have the patient's best interest at heart -- that having their therapy televised, when fame is so tied up in psychology, is counter-intuitive.
Let's put it this way, [host of Extreme Home Makeover] Ty Pennington shows up at the lady's house who's a single mom with five kids and one of them's asthmatic. And he's going to build her a brand-new home. Do you think he's doing it because he likes her?
Exactly. He's exploiting her. But, do you want to ask her if she'll take a free house? It was her decision. Do you not want her to have a free house?
Well, a free house and drug-treatment therapy aren't the same thing.
We're talking about exploitation here. Do you think ABC is giving her a free house because they like her? They're doing it to get ratings. But she gets a free house. Dr. Drew is doing it to get ratings, but you get free rehab. You chose, and you're getting your free service, that's the way I see it.
The Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew Reunion tour begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. Tickets are $34.50. For more information, visit www.paramountdenver.com .
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.