by Ryan Meehan
Over the past month I’ve had the pleasure of reading the new literary offering from radio personality and podcaster Adam Carolla. Although many people find a lot of the things Carolla says to be offensive, I’m a huge fan of his because I believe as a culture we’ve become so oversensitive that reality is slowly turning into this bizarre after school special. And I say that with no intent to offend those who produce after school specials, in fear that I will be deemed an after school specialist. (See how out of hand this is getting?)
For those who only know Adam Carolla as the former host of The Man Show or the guy from the internet video where Steve-O from Jackass seriously loses his shit, regardless of what your opinion is of the guy you have to admit it’s a true rags to riches story devoid of any BS whatsoever. Carolla grew up in a very poor area of Southern California and once slept in a utility room of one of the houses where his parents raised him. He was a contractor for many years and was part of an Improv troupe in Hollywood which was far from Shakespearesque talent level. He was a boxing instructor when he would leave the work site and one of his students was a young guy who did the sports reports on KROQ by the name of Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel let Adam have one weekend to come up with a character that he could use on the air, and Carolla came up with the retired shop teacher “Birchum” that would eventually be seen on the television show Crank Yankers. He stuck with it, and worked his way up the entertainment ladder one step at a time. He successfully hosted “Loveline” with Dr. Drew Pinsky for years, and now holds the official world record for number of podcast downloads.
I know all of this information because I own Carolla’s last book “Not Taco Bell Material”, as well as his first one “In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks”. I was intrigued about this book because I happen to agree with several of his positions on social issues and government policies.
The format of this book is not new. A lot of people have either written books about or composed rants that are hypothetically based around the “If I Were President” idea, so I was pretty familiar with the concept and what to expect. After announcing his fictional candidacy, explaining the graphics, and briefly educating the reader about the Vice President and the Federal Election Commission, Carolla moves through the different Federal Departments and the changes that need to be made regarding each one. The Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, The TSA and FAA, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Interior and National Parks Service, Education, Labor, and of course – the FCC. As you can imagine, the section regarding the Federal Communications Commission is quite entertaining coming from a guy who’s at the top of his radio game and probably sees a lot of garbage. For each Federal Department, Carolla gives several pages of a good natured ribbing to each group in question. In most cases, it seems to be an issue with too much government or abuse of power within said department. (I know, shocking – right?) When that has been taken care of, he appoints a Secretary for each one. I’m not going to give away all of them away, but I will tell you that the Carolla administration can guarantee that our national parks will be in better shape than ever thanks to Huey Lewis. That’s news you can use.
The difference between this book and some of the stand-up comedy bits that you will hear about the government is usually in most of those bits there is a lot of complaining and no real solution offered. Because of the format of standup, there really isn’t a whole lot of room to provide solutions without the pace of the show being disrupted. But writing a book allows you to suggest as many solutions as possible, no matter how ridiculous or unreal they might seem. An example of this would be for the immediate stop in production Adam suggests for hair dryers, which in his defense do waste a whole shitload of energy. Another one of my favorites is to have a lighted buzzing placard on the headboard of every bed that displays the silhouette of a condom, an idea that will hopefully put a dent in the countless unwanted pregnancies that you encounter in your daily struggle to get out of the grocery store without having to listen to a screaming recital.
But the book is not all strictly based on government-structured problems. There are a lot of funny rants that are sort of related to the chapter that aren’t particularly solution oriented. My favorite has to be the part in the TSA/FAA chapter where he talks about an odd choice of decor at the Burbank airport in California, where you can see a life-size statue of none other than one aviation legend Amelia Earhart next to a propeller. Because, as Carolla says “Nothing instills confidence in the flying public like a large depiction of a woman who ditched her plane in the Pacific never to be seen again leaning against a part that broke off upon impact. Let’s rub her for good luck before getting on this twenty-seven year old Southwest regional jet.”
By far my favorite parts of the book are the transcripts of two would-be speeches by the guy who would be our first porn-friendly president. The first is his address to the United Nations, and the second is his Final State of the Union Address upon completion of the presidency. For some reason these seem to be very commanding in nature, and the way he addresses the different delegations of the UN is priceless. He even lists the reactions of the countries offended, which of course adds to the humor tenfold.
One of the things that continues to impress me about Adam is his ability to communicate great jokes even when someone is not familiar with the subject matter. For example, the part at the end of the book where he goes off on all of the children’s programming is great even though I don’t have a kid. But I understand it because he explains the shows very well, and he paints the picture without the stereotypical comedian’s bullshit “Boy, changing dirty diapers sure is smelly” stock take on being a Dad. I’m so tired of hearing that stuff in stand-up and well…pretty much everywhere else.
At the same time, not everything between the binding is so out of left-field that nobody has any idea what the hell he’s talking about. It’s all pretty straight-forward and easy to understand, yet at the same time can provoke a conversation about the many ills of society. Carrola is by no means a stranger to controversy, and this book is not for the faint of heart – There’s nothing in here that is super safe or sappy by any means. It doesn’t exactly contain any dialogue that could be put to a Wilson Phillips song or used in a sexual harassment training. If you can handle it, it’s a great read. And if you can’t, maybe it’s time to ask yourself: “Why can’t I?”
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