Interview date: 06/27/2008
Run date: 07/08/2008
Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, Adam Carolla’s first leading-man role in a motion picture, “The Hammer,” is in no way what the average Adam Carolla fan would’ve expected from their hero. On the surface, it looks like it’s gonna be a boxing-themed comedy, but when you get right down to it, it’s really – gasp! -- a romantic comedy. Bullz-Eye had the chance to speak to Carolla about the film, his various TV gigs over the years, and his radio show, but we were warned ahead of time that we shouldn’t place any bets on the exact time we’d hear from him, as he’s a spontaneous guy who tends to follow his own schedule more so than anyone else’s. As such, I missed my first opportunity at chatting with him because I had to attend a screening of “Hancock,” and when he called the next day without any forewarning, I had to make a mad dash for my digital recorder.
Bullz-Eye: So how did your Virgin Megastore signing go the other day?
Adam Carolla: It went nicely, actually. It was a pretty big turnout; a couple hundred people showed up. I did a lot of…a lot of people had me sign five, six, eight DVDs, so that was kind of nice of them.
BE: Are you tired of people giving you the back-handed compliment that the movie was totally not what they expected from an Adam Carolla movie?
AC: No, I mean, that’s all I get, really, which is fine. I’ll take it. Go ahead, launch away.
BE: Well, since your resume includes stints as a carpenter and as a boxing instructor, a certain amount of the story is clearly autobiographical, but how much? For instance, did you ever send any power tools flying into your boss’s windshield?
AC: No, but we used to race…we used to sit on belt sanders and race them around. When we were writing the script, I was writing that scene, and everyone was kind of reading it, thinking, “How’s this going to work?” I said, “All you have to do is put it on a board, face it towards the window, plug it in, and it’s gone.” Everyone was like, “Huh? What kind of power tool has a thing built into it where you plug it in and it takes off?” And I said, “Oh, believe me, no problem.” I think all the people involved with the movie read the script and thought, “Well, we’re going to have to get some fishing line and see if we can cook this one a little bit.” I was like, “No, no, you’ll see. You plug it in and it’s gone.” I don’t think they were really buying it, but when we went to go do it, I sort of set the gag up and I plugged the thing in and…nothing is sped up. Obviously, we didn’t have the budget to fake anything. That scene is shot exactly how…if you did that 100 more times, that’s exactly how it would go. You would plug those things in, and they take off. They have a button that holds the trigger down on them, which is a scary little thing to build into a tool. But if you ever want to fuck with anyone, just go ahead and do it. Just take the belt sander, pull the trigger down, put the trigger lock on, and then unplug it.
BE: Let her roll.
AC: Let her roll. They don’t slowly pick up speed; they take off. You can sit on them too, if you’re good, and race them.
BE: I didn’t realize until I read the bio on your Web site that you had met Jimmy Kimmel because you answered an ad for a boxing instructor.
AC: Yeah, that’s how I met him. I mean, it wasn’t really an ad; it was more of a call-out for a boxing instructor. It was one of those morning radio show stunts, you know, where the sports guy was going to fight the maintenance man. Literally, that’s what it was. Jimmy was the sports guy, and he was going to box the maintenance man, and they needed a trainer.
BE: Well, given your boxing experience, I guess you didn’t actually have a fight choreographer on the film, per se.
AC: We did some work on it in advance, but not too much. And it ended up just kind of going out the window, anyway. We ended up kind of working it out. I mean, I knew how to do it, and we weren’t making “Rocky III” here. I mean, we knew the fight scenes were going to be…we tried to make them as effective as possible, but we knew with our budget…and the budget is really just about time constraints…you have to keep moving. We knew that stuff would be, like, hopefully realistic and effective, but not on a grand scale. Plus, I wanted to make something that was a little less theatrical in the boxing department because boxing matches don’t go…it’s, like, Mr. T doesn’t punch Sylvester Stallone in the face 10 times in a row and then Stallone yells, “Come on!” You hit the ground. You get hit that many times, and it makes you angry. Plus, it was amateur boxing. I was trying to make it a little…there is a little difference between the amateur and the pro ring. I was trying to kind of focus on that.
BE: So I’m guess you therefore didn’t have a jump rope choreographer for that great scene in the gym, either.
AC: No, that was a scene that wasn’t really even in the script, it probably just said “warm-up, jumping rope” or something. I would have to go look at the script. But it was a sort of a last-minute call, and the director was kind of, like, “What?” He wasn’t really down with the scene. He didn’t have anything against it, but …it’s sort of, like, when you have a low budget and you’re in a hurry, you just have to constantly move, and it wasn’t really in the script, so we had to, like, literally carve out about 10 or 15 minutes and just shot it. It was almost just shot in real time. All the jump rope scenes in the movie were almost kind of afterthoughts and kind of shot in real time.
BE: I forget where exactly it occurred in the film, but there is one specific jump rope scene that was pretty lengthy where I laughed pretty much from start to finish.
AC: Where I was sort of dancing for Heather Juergensen?
BE: Yes, exactly.
AC: That was one that nobody who shot the film but me knew I was going to be doing the “in-my-head” versus “outside-my-head” song gag (while wearing headphones). So it was weird when we shot it. No one knew how the gag was going to work out exactly, but it ended up working out quite well.
BE: Yeah, it played really well. Given that you were a co-writer, was there still a certain amount of adlibbing as you were filming?
AC: Yeah, there was a certain amount. Some of it is just my background in doing adlib stuff, and then the other part was…sometimes you just think of stuff that you like better and then sometimes it’s just, well, we’re all set up, let’s play around with it a little bit and we’ll pick the one we like the best. So that’s what we ended up doing. There’s a fair amount of adlibbing, but not as much as a lot of people think, which is good. If you’re delivering the lines correctly, it should seem like you’re adlibbing.
BE: Well, your natural delivery almost sounds like you’re adlibbing to begin with.
AC: Right. So I think it’s good that a lot of people thought that a lot of the movie was adlibbed, because the reality was that it wasn’t really that much of it adlibbed. There’s a certain amount, but also, because I co-wrote it, everything that came out was something that would have come out of my mouth, anyway, so it all seemed to make sense, I imagine.
BE: Do think Ozzie (Oswald Castillo, who plays Oswaldo Sanchez in the film) is destined to be as big as Pedro (Efram Ramirez) from “Napoleon Dynamite?”
AC: I think more Luis Guzmán. I feel Luis Guzmán has been getting a free ride for a long time. Like, he’s been in every third movie for the last 15 years, and his reign is officially over, because I don’t know anything Luis Guzmán brings to the party that Ozzie can’t bring to the party. So I’m just saying, Luis, look out. There’s a new
Nicaraguan sheriff in town.
BE: The reign of Ozzie has officially begun.
AC: Yeah, that’s right.
BE: Do you think Ed Begley, Jr. would have been able to say “you did that last year” any better than Ozzie?
BE: I’ve watched the special features. (Writer’s note: In a self-conducted interview between Adam and Ozzie that’s included on the DVD, Adam makes the preposterous claim that Ed Begley, Jr., was the original choice for Ozzie’s role. Also included is an audio clip of Ozzie requiring countless takes to properly deliver the line, “You did that last year.”)
AC: Oh, yeah. We did that last year. Oh, Ozzie. Yeah, I forgot that was…I haven’t even seen the special features yet. I did watch the DVD commentary, but that’s as deep into it as I got. Yeah, (the dialogue) was a challenge. Actually, there was only one thing I was trying to get Ozzie to mispronounce and he wouldn’t do it; he couldn’t do it. I wanted him to say “yab” instead of “jab,” and he kind of kept saying “jab.” It was pissing me off, because I was, like, “I don’t ask you mispronounce anything very often, but I’m asking you to mispronounce the word ‘jab’ and say ‘yab.’” And he kept saying “jab.” I was, like, “Really? You mispronounce every word you say, you can’t mispronounce this one? The one time I want you to mispronounce something?”
BE: I think I enjoyed the small subtle moments as much as anything, like the bit about how you basically got out of boxing because you were 19 and stupid and just wanted to play guitar and smoke pot.
AC: Yeah, I’m so glad you appreciated that, Will. When we were writing the movie, I wanted there to be…whenever you make a movie and a guy gets out of boxing, it’s because he kills a man in the ring, and that’s why we sort of joked about it. But I do think that part of life where…you know the part of life where shit just doesn’t work out, for no reason? Where you’re just, like, 19 and stupid? I don’t think that that gets covered enough. Maybe it’s not the stuff of movies, but there’s always something where it’s, like, “Somebody got sick,” or, “I killed a man,” or, “My dad died and I swore to him I would never fight again,” or some shit like that. My feeling was always like...I don’t feel life works that way. I think life just kind of gets past you, you know? You make bad decisions when you’re younger, not based on much, and it just kind of gets past you. I went to high school and played football with a couple of guys, a couple of my best friends could have been all-city football players and gotten free rides to major universities if they hadn’t gotten themselves girlfriends in the 11th grade and decide it was a lot more fun to smoke, fuck and hang out at the reservoir than it is to go to class, hit the books, and then hit the blocking sled. They just kind of went, “You know what? I’m 17, I’m getting laid, and I’m going to the beach instead of going to the shitty hot Valley and doing two-a-days. That’s kind of what happened, you know, but it wasn’t…if you talk to them now, they do realize. They’re my age, and they realize they probably could have gotten a free education at UCLA or Cal-Berkley or something if they’d hit the books a little, and they could have gotten that football scholarship. Talk to them about it now and it’s, like, at the time, they just didn’t feel like it.
BE: Yeah, I mean a friend of mine, now he’s a full-time archeologist with a master’s degree, but when he was originally in college, he basically just played around and that was it. Finally, when he was in his 30s, he just said, “Fuck it, I’m going back to school, and I should have done this a long time ago.”
AC: I mean, seriously, when you’re a guy, especially, and your family is a little hands off…like, my family was, and a lot of these guys’ families were, and you’re 18, 19…you just do what you do. I just like the idea that this character…as he says in the movie, he wished he had a good excuse for quitting, but he’s just stupid. In a way, I like that point, because I felt like that haunts you and punishes you even more in life. If you said, “I had a horrific injury, I had a detached retina and the doctor said I could never box again,” well, then, that’s not your fault, that’s the doctor telling you you can never box again. To me, it’s worse to have it be your fault, you know, so that’s kind of what I was going for.
BE: Well, clearly there’s a Comedy Central reality show called “Nineteen and Stupid” that needs to be made.
AC: Yeah, I know. And it would star every single one of my friends from the old days in the Valley.
BE: I’m actually going to be in L.A. in a couple of weeks, but having seen the movie, I think I’m going to scratch the La Brea Tar Pits off my list of things to see.
AC: Well, you’ve seen the movie; you’ve seen the La Brea Tar Pits. That’s it. That is literally it. We didn’t really get into it, but they make a big deal of…like, if you go there, they’re, like, “Two million years ago, wolves roamed this very area.” I’m always, like, “Oh, you mean the Bolax wasn’t here? No. And how about the 76 station? No. Wow! I’m assuming two million years ago, there were wolves everywhere, right? I can wrap my mind around nothing being here two million years ago. It’s not that absurd of a concept. Like, I’m used to it now. The house I live in was not here two million years ago, right? Neither was the phone or my dad, right? Like, I know there was other stuff here two million years ago; they try to blow your mind over that. They don’t have anything good over there. They dig through the tar and they pull wolf skulls out of it. In one of the deleted scenes, you will see the many, many wolf skulls pulled out.
BE: I’m sure you have had many women swoon over the “don’t go” scene.
AC: Yeah, actually, that’s the biggest laugh in the movie for my wife. She gets quite a chuckle out of that one. That’s really the greatest piece of acting, according to my wife, in the whole movie. Yeah, people have been moved to tears over that scene. They seem to really respond to that, which is nice. It wasn’t my idea. I think adding the deck on was my idea, but the “don’t go” was my writing partner’s idea.
BE: Did you have a hand in picking the songs for the soundtrack at all?
AC: Oh, yeah.
BE: The Jayhawks and Bad Religion song stuck out to me, personally.
AC: I love that Jayhawks song (“Blue”), don’t you?
BE: Oh, yeah.
AC: I don’t know anyone in the Jayhawks. I love that album that that song is on, it’s a great album, and we were looking for effective music. I thought that Jayhawks’ song, for that scene, was perfect. I thought it was great. I just thought it stood out to me as perfect for that scene. It’s such a beautiful, sort of melancholy song, and there’s this great line in it where he says…I think he says, “I always thought I was someone. Turns out I was wrong.” That’s, like, you just want to cry. If you’re ever in a melancholy mood, toss on a little Blue by the Jayhawks, you’ll break down into a heap. The rest of the stuff was Mighty Might Bosstones, I’m friends with them; Bad Religion, I’m friends with them. The Offspring are on there…and as a matter of fact, Dexter from The Offspring is going to…I’m cleaning up as I speak to you because he’s going to be here in an hour! So I had to call in a lot of favors to a lot of these bands. And to their credit, they’re all cool guys, and I told them, “We don’t have any money, we’re trying to make this movie,” and they did what they could do. They don’t own all the publishing to everything, but we definitely got a lot of help from those guys, lending what is a pretty cool soundtrack for such a small, independent movie, I thought.
BE: I’ll give you some rapid fire ones about some other projects. I know you were just selected to be a host of the U.S. version of “Top Gear.” Have you watched the original U.K. version?
AC: Sure, yeah. I mean, long before I was selected, I was admiring and enjoying the U.K. version because I am a car guy.
BE: Are you intimidated stepping into Jeremy Clarkson’s shoes?
AC: No. I don’t know why, but I feel about as intimidated as I did stepping into Howard Stern’s shoes. I don’t feel intimidated. I don’t know, it’s a philosophy I have in life, and it may sound pompous, but I would urge everyone else to adopt this philosophy which is…you should be nervous about doing shit you are bad at, such as dancing, like when I did “Dancing with the Stars.” If you are a bad dancer or you can’t dance, like me, then when someone asks you to do “Dancing with the Stars,” you should go ahead and be nervous. If you are good at something and someone asks you to do it, you shouldn’t be nervous about it. If you’re going to be nervous about shit you’re good at, what have you got left at this point? You know what I mean? The whole deal with “Top Gear” is that, in order to host “Top Gear” effectively, you have to be funny, you have to know a lot about cars, you have to be congenial, and you have to think on your feet. And I’ll say it again: you have to know a lot about cars, you have to be passionate about cars, and you have to love cars. And be funny. My feeling is, I love cars and I’m funny, so this is…
BE: …the perfect gig, basically.
AC: Yeah, it’s a set-up. Right. When it came to doing Howard Stern, it was the same thing. I love doing radio, I’m funny, I’ve done radio, I like radio, I’ve done Stern a bunch of times, I like Stern and, no, I’m not nervous. Why should I be nervous about shit I’m good at? I’ll be nervous about shit I’m not good at, and that’s the way it will work. I suggest everyone else…like, I can barely spell my kids’ names, and if you said, “Hey, we’ve got something called ‘Celebrity Spelling Bee,’” I would be nervous as shit because I am a horrible speller. But if they had a show called “Framing Condominiums with the Stars,” I would happily sign up with that and say, “Mario Lopez, I am going to kick your ass, because I am a former carpenter!” You know what I mean? I feel the same way about “Top Gear.” I don’t make any predictions. I’ll do a good job…we’ll do a good job…and the show will be a good show, and then either it will work or it won’t. But I’m not nervous about it.
BE: When you left “Loveline” and “The Man Show,” what was it that made you make the jump? Did you just figure, “Okay, time to be a headliner,” or did you just feel like you’d done your time?
AC: “The Man Show,” we did 100 episodes on. Jimmy got an opportunity to go do late-night on ABC and we did the show together; my feeling was we started the show together and we’ll end the show together. And I did 100 episodes and that seemed like, creatively and artistically, enough; it seemed like we said what we wanted to say. Comedy Central asked me to do a fifth season, and they threw a lot of money at me to do a fifth season and I did not want to do a fifth season. The only reason I say that is because some articles were written and…it’s a popular notion in this business that everyone is a leech and everyone is money grubbing and everyone has no artistic integrity. I read an article in “Entertainment Weekly” that said, “Comedy Central performed a Carolla-ectomy after Kimmel made his ill-fated move into late night television.” I was, like, “Well, actually, they begged me to stay on five different lunches, and I said ‘no.’” We did 100 episodes, I did it with Jimmy, and that was enough. I was going to go with Jimmy over to ABC and work on getting his show up and going, and that’s what I did. Maybe the same thing will happen, God willing, with “Top Gear.” Maybe after 100 episodes I’ll go, “Alright, well we’ve done 100 episodes of that, let’s go do something else. I mean, that’s the whole point. That’s the whole reason I got into the business. The whole reason I wanted to make a movie was just because I didn’t want to make the 101st episode of “The Man Show.” I wanted to do something different.
BE: Do you think “Too Late with Adam Carolla” died before its time?
AC: Um, no. I mean, I don’t think anyone…well I shouldn’t say anyone, but I don’t think almost anyone liked that show. Formatically, it seemed too weird for people. Part of the problem was I always said, “I don’t want to do a late night show with an audience. I don’t want the audience clapping and stand up monologue and all that kind of stuff. I want to do more of a Tom Snyder kind of sit-down, one on one. Kind of scaled back.” And Comedy Central didn’t really want that. They kind of insisted on the live audience. And I didn’t want the live audience, and we kind of went back and forth, and eventually it got to the point where we switched up formats too many times. Eventually, yeah, if you would have left me on with no audience and left me on, eventually I’m sure I would have found my audience on that show. I went back and looked at an episode or two and thought it wasn’t that bad. I think it was formatically too weird for a lot of people, and I don’t know that we can do what we used to do anymore. I had this notion that we could do “The Tom Snyder Show” in 2006. I thought we could do that kind of show, and I don’t think we can anymore. I think we’re too used to crawls coming across the screen and bells and whistles. Maybe our attention span is too short now. I thought you could do that, but, you know, I don’t know if you can do that anymore.
BE: I actually just got a DVD a little while ago with Tom Snyder’s interviews with the former Beatles. I was just fascinated by them. It’s structured in such a way that you just don’t see anymore. No one is pressed for time, and he talks as much as he wants.
AC: I don’t think that pace would work anymore.
BE: No, unfortunately, I think you’re right.
AC: I don’t think the sort of no-audience thing would work anymore. I basically misjudged…well, I don’t know if I miscalculated, but I thought I wanted to do an intimate late night show that’s quiet and not full of an audience warm-up guy just out of the frame, waving his hands for everyone to scream when some celebrity you don’t really give a shit about walks out there. But I think it bumped people too much, and it never got its tread. But, also, I realize too that the half-hour format is no good for me. I need the long form. So maybe Tom took that form to the grave with him.
BE: Was there ever an occasion on “Crank Yankers” where a call that you recorded just went so horribly wrong that you couldn’t use it?
AC: Oh yeah. Yeah, I called a guy…I said I had a morbidly obese wife, and I was going to take my morbidly obese wife and call a moving place and have her moved. The premise was she was going to get gastric bypass surgery and the hospital wanted, like, $3,600 to show up at the house with the big ambulance and the fork lift and everything and get her out of there. I didn’t want to pay any 3,600 bucks, and I was going to just…me and my brother-in-law were going to knock out the bay window in the living room and rent a fork lift and just wrap her bubble wrap and get her in the back of one of your flatbeds and move her for a couple of hundred bucks. And the guy was, like, joking and laughing and kind of saying…I could hear him chuckling with his buddy in the background. “So you’ve got yourself quite a big size wife,” he says, and he was, like, laughing it up. At a certain point, I got indigent and I was like, “Sir, my wife has a medical condition. She has a thyroid condition and that’s why she’s 800 pounds and I would appreciate you not making fun of her.” He backed off immediately and he kind of went, like, “Hey, no, no, no. Listen, believe me, I know, I have a two year old who had a tracheotomy.” And at that point, I said, “Well, she was a smoker, she brought that on herself.” And the guy went berserk. He starts screaming he’s going to find me and he’s going to kill me and all that stuff. Yeah, we’d have that all the time. Oh, yes, all the time. Those were probably the best ones, you know.
BE: Do you have a favorite voiceover job that you’ve done?
AC: Well, for me, I’ll just base it on the people and say “Family Guy.” I’ve done a fair amount of voiceover stuff, and although Spanky Ham on “Drawn Together” is a bit of a cult favorite, people seem to like “Family Guy,” so I’ll go with the people on this one.
BE: I’m sure you have several, but do you have a favorite guest on the radio show who’s just always the perfect guest, as far as always being “on” or being able to provide new anecdotes?
AC: The guys who just always show up and they’re always great and I always enjoy them are David Alan Grier, Norm MacDonald, Dana Gould, Lisa Lampanelli…
BE: Oh yes. We interviewed her for Bullz-Eye a couple of years ago.
AC: Oh, there you go. Joel McHale from “The Soup,” he’s good. I mean, there’s a handful of regular guys that always show up and are always ready to go. Those are the names that come to mind. I mean, there’s no such thing as a David Alan Grier or Norm Macdonald appearance, or even a Dana Gould appearance, where they just dial it in or phone it in.
BE: I’m actually supposed to do an interview with Vanessa Kay next week.
AC: (hesitates) Wait a minute. What is she from …?
BE: Lead Juggie is my understanding.
AC: Oh, Vanessa! That Vanessa! Sorry, the last name threw me. Why are you interviewing her? Because she’s doing sports radio?
BE: Actually, she’s done an exclusive photo shoot for Bullz-Eye.
AC: It’s funny, you put her last name on there, and it screws me up. Give Vanessa my love. She’s great.
BE: Were the Juggies pretty consistently fun to work with? Did they have a sense of humor about it all?
AC: Yeah, especially her. It was a fucking ball, and she was definitely fun. You know, the thing about it is, we hired chicks based on what they looked like and all that, but I swear to god, half of it was their attitude. They just had to have fun and want to party and be flirtatious. They just needed to…well, when you meet her, I don’t know if you’ve met her, but…
BE: Not yet, no.
AC: When you meet her, you’ll understand. It wasn’t all about what they looked like in a bikini, although they had to look good in a bikini. But it was, like, do they want to have fun? Do they want to party? Do they want to get the crowd going? That kind of thing. So that was half of it.
BE: Last question: did your reality show, “The Adam Carolla Project,” play out as you hoped it would?
AC: No. No, it didn’t. Because I ended up losing money on the house, and the show was not…it was a critical success, but it was not a ratings success. So, no, I lost money; we didn’t have the kind of ratings the network would have liked. No, I would not call it a success by any stretch of the imagination. The only thing that was successful about it was everyone really loved the show. I’ll take that into mind and go off into the sunset, 50,000 dollars short of what I put into it and take it as a moral victory. But, no, I didn’t make money, the networks didn’t make money. The network never ran marathons on it, and they never repeated it. They just showed it once a week, like Wednesday night at 10, and that was it. I never did get the full story about what went on and how it went down and why they didn’t, but everyone who sees that show is, like, “Hey man, it’s my favorite show!”
BE: Yeah, I loved it. I didn’t even know about it until I stumbled upon it accidentally, and then I started watching it regularly.
AC: Everybody asks, “When’s it coming out on DVD?” And I’m, like, “Never!” And they’re, like, “When are you going to do another season?” And I’m, like, “Never!” They’re, like, “How come? That’s a great show!” I’m, like, “Nobody watched it, it got no ratings, and the network looked at it as a failure!” So, y’know, a nice little moral victory for everyone who saw it, but it was really a failure.
BE: Alright, well, I think I got everything here. It’s been a pleasure. I’m glad you got back up with me.
AC: I’m glad we were able to hook up, and any love you can give our little movie…
BE: Oh, absolutely. Now, I have to admit, I am one of those people who walked in and was surprised at how the movie turned out to be, but I loved it. I’m trying to get my wife to watch it now. We’ll see if I win that victory.
AC: Well, I’ve got to say…I swear to you, I think if you had 100 guys watch it and 100 women watch it, I think women would like it better. I think it is a chick flick. At the end of the day, when the dust settles on it, I really do think it’s a chick flick. I mean it, I’ve done an informal survey, and I think women like the movie a little more than guys.
BE: Well I can imagine they would. It looks like it could be a boxing movie, but ultimately it’s as much a romantic comedy as anything.
AC: That’s right. So tell your wife to drop the attitude!
BE: I’ll go tell her right now! It’s been great talking to you, Adam.
AC: Thanks for the help.
BE: No problem.