Some comedians, upon reaching middle age, decide it is time to drink from the revenue streams of partisan political comedy, or "satire," as they would have it. Thus Dennis Miller becomes a court jester of the right, and Bill Maher one for the left, among just two examples.
Adam Carolla, who is friends with both Maher and Miller, is something of a cross between the two, along with more than a dash of Howard Stern. Like Miller, Carolla's comic observations are often expressed in rants. Like Maher, he radiates the cockiness of someone who considers himself close to infallible. Like Stern in his pre-satellite radio years, he is often at his funniest when riffing about day-to-day life with his family.
Fans of the 48-year-old comedian, whose podcast holds the iTunes record for number of downloads, can power down their digital devices and see Carolla in the flesh when he appears Saturday evening in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts. (His podcast may be found at AdamCarolla.com.)
For all of his ranting and his eschewing of political correctness, Carolla refuses to commit to any political agenda. While promoting his new memoir, "Not Taco Bell Material," Carolla has been a guest on Bill O'Reilly's talk show on Fox News, where the host teed up some questions about why Carolla doesn't enjoy paying taxes.
And Carolla will gladly mount his comic soapbox to talk about family values, the importance of hard work or why he thinks certain laws in this country don't make sense. But you won't hear him demonize Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. He doesn't think he's qualified to tell people who to vote for.
"First off, I don't know enough about politics to really call people out," Carolla said by phone from Los Angeles. "I just hear policies, and [they don't] make sense to me. When I hear the law that Arizona is trying to enact that officers who pull people over for one infraction or another, not their citizenship, and then decide at some point during the interaction that they may be illegal, are able to ask for identification, I don't call that a controversial law. It just seems like common sense to me -- I don't get that part of it.
"I don't know who came up with this law. I'm sure most of it leans toward the right, so people then think, 'Well, you must be some sort of right-wing what are you, one of the Minutemen? Are you a tea-bagger?' No, I'm just a normal guy who realizes that when cops pull you over, they're allowed to ask you for your ID. That doesn't sound absurd to me."
Even if you never caught Carolla's TV work on "The Man Show" or "Crank Yankers," or his radio act on the syndicated show "Loveline," you probably heard his name come up in late June after he did an interview with the New York Post. Carolla was asked to compare men and women in comedy, and he replied that "dudes are funnier than chicks," along with some elaboration. Critics immediately took to Twitter to denounce Carolla for being sexist.
Asked to revisit that controversy, Carolla starts off by saying, "A couple things," which is the signal that another rant is on the way.
"I didn't say that women weren't funny; I said that men were funnier than women. I didn't volunteer it. The guy asked me who's funnier, and I told him. And I stand by that statement, because I think statistically there's more women on this planet than there are men, and I'd say there's quite a few more funny men than there are women. So I don't think there's any argument as to who's funnier.
"But I also went on and said that there's plenty of funny women, and I went on to name those funny women, but people weren't interested in that part of the story. It did not help whatever agenda they had. And more and more, this is what's going down. People cherry-pick their bits and pieces.
"I'm not saying I shouldn't have gotten crap for it. I should have gotten crap for it; it's my opinion. Look, Lisa Lampanelli is funnier than any guy I went to high school with, there's no doubt about that. Did I go on to mention Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin and Tina Fey as very funny women? Yes. But of course that wasn't included in the headline that said Adam Carolla says women aren't funny. Because there's an agenda."
Carolla sees that agenda in the news coverage over his comment about female comedians, as well as in much of the news media.
"When the 19-year-old gay student jumps off the George Washington Bridge, you just make the story that he was cyber-bullied by his roommate for being gay until eventually he killed himself, and that will be that story. We won't focus on suicide or depression or anything. You just go ahead and tape your story, and don't let the facts interrupt your narrative. And that's what's going on.
"So what they do is they take a statement that said men are funnier than women, they turn it into 'Adam says women aren't funny' and let the cyber-bullying begin."
Carolla said the age of comic immunity is over.
"If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: I'm not a politician or a school teacher, I'm a comedian. When did we lose that leeway of being able to get up on stage and tell jokes?"
Carolla details in his book a less-than-happy childhood in which he sort of raised himself while his semi-hippie parents were following their own bliss, or wallowing in their own misery, depending on what day it was. His show business career came about due to his drive, hard work and hustle.
Carolla was athletic, playing high school football and later working as a boxing trainer. When Jimmy Kimmel was appearing on a morning radio show in Los Angeles, Carolla stepped forward as a volunteer boxing trainer to get Kimmel ready for an exhibition bout the station was publicizing. Carolla worked his way onto the radio show playing a character named Mr. Birchum, a shop teacher. Carolla also honed his comedic skills working at the Groundlings improv troupe and the ACME Comedy Theater in Los Angeles.
Carolla uses his book to settle some old scores with his parents, some former employers, teachers and others. (The book's title comes from his being told that he wasn't worthy of being hired at the local Taco Bell in his mid-teens.) On the whole, though, he says his mom and dad's minimalist parenting style may not have been the worst thing for him.
"Look, I'm a believer in 'Let's not overdo it' when it comes to parenting," he said. "Provide a safe environment for them, provide sustenance for them, provide an education for them, and then stand back and let the chips fall where they may. I'm not going to pound my kid like a veal cutlet until they come out some direction or another."
One vice of both kids and adults today, in Carolla's opinion, is laziness. He said he has earned the right to tell people to get off their couches and get to work.
"Although a lot of people disagree with me, I feel uniquely qualified as somebody who's eaten plenty of welfare food, who's eaten at churches on their free spaghetti night and grown up with what I grew up with. I didn't grow up in a slum in Bangladesh, I grew up in the Valley, but we didn't have money. And when it came time to leave high school, it was time to get a job. The job I got was any job you could get, whether it was cleaning carpets or digging ditches or whatever it was.
"So I know what it's like to be out of work, I know what it's like to not have insurance, I know what it's like to live in a family that doesn't have any money. I know what it's like to work, and I don't have any problem telling other people to get to work."
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: University at Buffalo Center for the Arts
INFO: box office, Ticketmaster