Cute as Shit
Lindy West Interviews the Ever-Testy Adam Carolla
Adam Carolla sounds tired. We've been on the phone for approximately 45 seconds, and someone has already buzzed his front gate four or five times. Each buzz makes a little blip on the phone line. "Jesus Christ," he mutters. "OLGA!" Pause. "OLGA!" Pause. "OLGA, SOMEONE'S AT THE GATE. SOMEONE'S AT THE GATE. SOMEONE. IS AT THE GATE!"
Olga is the nanny to Carolla's 4-year-old twins, Sonny and Natalia. I already know this, because every Adam Carolla fan already knows pretty much everything about Adam Carolla's life. He's been broadcasting for multiple hours every day for the past couple of decades, and it all goes in there: the wife, the kids, the front gate, the nannies. "The nannies of the neighborhood just sometimes walk around and buzz the gate and see if my nanny's hanging out," he explains. "The roving nannies, they don't tell you they're coming. They just rove over and buzz the gate."
Carolla's annoyed and apologetic, but he banks on exactly this type of exasperation. He's professionally fed up—by which I mean, he's made a living out of being fed up, not that he's fed up with his living. Or maybe a little of both. On the phone, Carolla speaks more slowly and quietly than I'm used to hearing him on the radio—a human version of that same nasal grate that's been drilling into my ear since I was 13 or 14, when I would fall asleep listening to Loveline at the lowest volume possible because it seemed just racy enough to get me in trouble. Today, conversation comes easily: We already know each other. Carolla's been yelling at me for more than half my life.
"It's just one of these things where it's not anyone's fault." (He's still on the nanny.) "It's just that the fuckin' nanny schedules her jamboree for the time I gotta do a bunch of phoner press, and she schedules it and then she doesn't—like, GO OPEN THE GATE, THEN! If you've got someone coming over!"
"It doesn't seem like it should be your responsibility," I concur, trying to be comforting. He sounds genuinely exhausted. (In the meantime, the gardener has arrived, parked in the wrong parking spot, blocking in Carolla's car, and for some reason is ringing the doorbell repeatedly. The nanny jamboree continues unabated.) "Oh. Let me tell you somethin', sister. If you are semicompetent, everything becomes your responsibility, because you end up fucking drowning in imbeciles and then you have to do all the shit."
I have no idea how to interview Adam Carolla. His daily podcast (The Adam Carolla Show, which began after his morning radio show was canceled, supposedly due to the station changing formats) runs for 90 minutes or so. Most of that time is taken up with Carolla talking: complaining, ranting, telling stories, sorting through the world with his own particular code. It's all out there already. So I ask him what he would ask him if he were me. He's thoughtful for a minute. "I think I would ask me about misconceptions about me. That's what I would ask."
"All right," I say. "What are some misconceptions about you?"
"I don't want to talk about that."
But that's a joke, of course. He does want to talk about it. "People think I'm different than I am sometimes, in some ways. And I think that if you have a couple of opinions on a couple of topics, you get sort of branded one way or another." I ask him to be more specific. "You do The Man Show, and everyone wants to know why you don't have a beer in your hand. And you talk about beefing up the border, and they want to know when you started blowing Glenn Beck. And it's this notion that you can't do something or have an idea or thought about one thing or another and—hold on—JAY! TO THE RIGHT, BUDDY! Fuckin' gardener—you do overhear my conversation, right? How the fuck can I relax?"
People sometimes don't get how I, a person who traffics almost exclusively in bitchy feminist rants, can be a fan of Carolla and (God for-fucking-bid) Howard Stern. But Carolla's not some virulent ideologue—he's not Glenn Beck, and people who draw that parallel are doing it wrong. He (and Stern, in much the same way) is smart, he's insightful, and, more importantly for a comedian, he's brilliantly funny. And Carolla's not playing a character—he's no Larry the Cable Guy—he's actually in there, bones and beak and flaws and traditional gender roles and the occasional racist comment about immigrants and all.
The next 20 minutes of our "conversation," condensed: "As far as the feminist stuff goes, or the gay movement, or the black movement, or the Hispanic movement, or something—you see, people mistake being against the general movement for being against the people. Like, I want women to have equal rights and access to abortions and lesbians should be able to get married and women should get equal pay for equal work and all that shit. I'm just so fucking tired of recognizing everyone's group. That's the whole point. All these groups, by the way, would be much better off without their groups. The people would be better off without their groups. Yeah, fucking Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are working wonders in the black community. Man, have they really turned things around. Imagine where they'd be without them. Fuckin' ridiculous. These guys are professional extortionists—that's all they are. The only group that should matter is your fuckin' family."
I ask how, exactly, he expects people to enact change in their lives against perceived injustices. "Oh, without a group?" He's quiet for a minute. "Yeah, well, how do you get off the ground with a topic like gay marriage, or how do you push an agenda like gay marriage if you don't have a group to back that? That's a valid point."
"Because that seems like the most effective means to get people to shut up," I offer.
"Yeah. I would love the gays to marry so they could shut up."
We're both being flippant, but it's a weirdly affecting moment of connection for me. I challenged him, and he actually considered my point. I'm having a real conversation with a real person. That's what's so great about Carolla: Even when you disagree with his conclusions (it's unavoidable), the logic behind them is so honest and bare and funny that getting offended would just be sour grapes. I ask Adam, this person on the other end of the line, about his family—the only group that matters.
"They're cute as shit. I love the shit out of those kids."