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Arts and Entertainment

Show Review: Adam Carolla Podcast Live

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It hasn’t taken long for well-known curmudgeon Adam Carolla to embrace his role has the new podcast king. Within months of losing his cushy CBS Radio job, Carolla had the most-downloaded podcast on iTunes, and vowed to keep content flowing fast and free. And while that model has continued to exist in some form, the year anniversary of the Adam Carolla Podcast brought with it a few changes, including the always popular ‘freemium’ option (where a small minority buy into enhanced content, and thus support the whole), and an expansion of the live podcast tapings that started up at comedy clubs around town. Now those shows make up a sizable portion of what Carolla does with his time; taking live shows on the road, wherever there’s demand. And with millions of downloads behind him, there’s always demand.

LAist was recently invited to catch the ‘homecoming’ Adam Carolla Podcast taping at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood, an old space so near to Carolla’s heart he joked that he could ‘coast down the hill from his house’ and still make it on time. On this night, Carolla’s much-maligned father warms up the crowd by playing trumpet over a few notable jazz tunes, before giving the otherwise bare stage away to the man everyone has come to see. And come they did - the audience, while maintaining a steady trickle for the first 15 minutes of the show, quickly fills to capacity and is more than willing to hoot, holler, and get real chummy with Carolla from the start. For his part, Adam runs through some stand up at the top of the show, before falling into the usual tropes of yelling at Donny (his right hand man) and getting suggestions from the audience for an improvised gripe session known affectionately as What Can’t Adam Complain About? The audience is quick to jump at the chance to interact with the longtime Angeleno, shouting out suggestions and generally staying at a low rumble for most of the show. The laughs come easily for Carolla on his home turf as he expands on the live show he’s been peddling in other cities recently, with an iPhone-controlled slideshow of images that get Adam all worked up. Throw in a six minute choppy Skype conversation with a tired-looking Greg Fitzsimmons and the audience is left clamoring for more as the clock strikes the hour-and-a-half mark. If nothing else, Carolla has built up his ACE Broadcasting podcast network while simultaneously boiling these lucrative live shows down to a science.

Overall, the show (while funny) lacks some of the early ethos found in those first live podcast taping gems. Perhaps it’s nostalgia towards that wonderful thing that always seems to get too popular and turn its back on you, but those early Irvine Improv gigs used to have a lot more frenetic energy and creative depth. The show now, despite those faceless back row figures who always want to yell out during a routine and then clam up when pointed out, despite the edgy racial and sexist tones that underscore much of the content, despite the freewheeling nature of Carolla’s storytelling, just feels a bit too safe. And while it is totally understandable that a show like this could be successful for a night or two in Seattle or Chicago, where familiar comedians he usually interviews aren’t as readily available, there seemed to be an unmet expectation that the local El Portal Theater show would mark a bit of a renaissance for the original Adam Carolla live shows, if only for one night. Alas, outside of the single Skype interaction with Fitzsimmons, this was not to be.

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Again, it should be underscored that Adam Carolla and his live podcast shows honestly are funny. His innate ability to tangentially riff an idea from such humble beginnings is truly a mark of an intelligent man. Like any great comedian, Carolla tackles the everyday around us in unusual and insightful ways, at times playing to our political and emotional sensibilities. He even closes with a highly personal and altogether affirming gesture, wherein he produces a large IRS statement showing a 10 year earning period that is pocked full like bullet holes with years of zero income. Yet, as the years advance, so does his overall earning, eventually ballooning into the millions. This honest financial assessment (so unusual for celebrities) comes with the simple message that following your dreams is not only possible, but will ultimately be rewarded. At least in that sense, nothing’s changed.