Adam Carolla on His First Stand-Up Special & the ‘The Man Show’ 20th Anniversary

Adam Carolla

Adam Carolla has never forgotten being turned down for a job at Taco Bell. That rejection at age 16 helped fuel a drive to succeed. Since then, the 54-year-old has obviously made it, acquiring quite the resume, from Loveline and The Man Show to Crank Yankers and a record-breaking podcast.

The Los Angeles native reflects on this life journey through his first-ever stand-up special Not Taco Bell Material, based on his New York Times best-seller of the same name. The show was taped on June 9 at the Aladdin Theater in Portland. Before watching the comedian take the stage, enjoy our Q&A with the outspoken host.

Is there a reason why Portland was chosen for your special?

Adam Carolla: Well, L.A. usually sucks. Most guys who are based in L.A. go somewhere. It’s no different for me, so I ended up going to Portland. Portland has always been good to me. It always is a good audience. I’ve always drawn well and had a very good reception there. It was kind of a no-brainer. There are places that are good on the East Coast, but Portland is within striking distance from Burbank Airport. It’s a good town and a good town for me. Not much more complicated than that.

With this being your first standup special, why was now the right time for it?

I don’t know if the time is right, but I’ve been doing stand-up pretty hard for almost the last 10 years. I just thought I had all this material, I should have a special. I would turn on the TV and see everyone else doing a special. I interview a lot of these guys. A lot of these guys are friends of mine. A lot of these guys I’ve known for a while. I thought, “All these guys have specials. Where is my special?” I just went out and made my own special.

Did you approach the set differently knowing that it was going to be for a special?

There are little bits and pieces that are different. I put a little powder on before I go out and worry about getting the lighting right. That kind of stuff. Other than that, I would get my setlist in order and work it out a little bit, go out and do it.


You chose to base the special on Not Taco Bell Material for this. Did you have any other concepts in mind?

I wrote a book, a New York Times best-seller a few years back called Not Taco Bell Material. It was kind of a story of my life. This stand-up special was the story of my life, too. So, it’s standup special meets-one-man show-meets-motivational speech. I just thought, “Why not just name it Not Taco Bell Material?”

You use a lot of visual aids including photos of your family and good friend Jimmy Kimmel. Did you prepare those people beforehand about how you would infuse them into your set? Have they watched it yet?

Jimmy liked it. My family is unaware that I’m doing a standup special or not seen it. My family, I don’t know if they see the stuff I do or not. I don’t talk to them about it. I have no idea. I hope they don’t see it, but you never know.

Since the book came out and now the special, has Taco Bell reached out to you?

I did talk to someone from there a while back. They gave me a Taco Bell t-shirt or something. The answer is kind of no. I don’t think they like being associated with me.

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When it comes to taco fast food, where does Taco Bell rank for you?

I got them at or near the top. I like a Taco Bell bean burrito. Here is the key: Get some extra cheese, tomato and onion. Then it’s a halfway decent burrito. It’s no Chipotle, though.

You mentioned really getting into standup 10 years ago. With social media so prevalent now, how do you think it has affected the standup game?

Standup is being affected, obviously, by all the woke people out there who are finding the jokes “problematic.” So, standup comedians are worried a little and taking heat. It’s affecting their choices in material and jokes and that kind of stuff.

To me, I don’t think that is a good trend. I’m not sure we want our standup comedians or comedic voices editing themselves that heavily. So, I just go out and do the jokes that I think are funny. And if someone has a problem with it, I sort of look at it as their problem. I don’t look at it as my problem. I look at it as something is wrong with them, because I’m just telling the jokes I want to tell.

I also don’t work for ESPN or Sony or anybody like that. So, I don’t really care. Many people, you work for some corporation. The corporation is scared. They aren’t social justice warriors or anything. They don’t care who is offended. They just have to pretend they care. And so, you’ll get fired in an effort to pretend like they’re caring.

A lot of people are scared. There are also a lot of networks like HBO that are becoming, sort of progressive socially. They don’t like a lot of old-school jokes and stuff that used to go on in that world. For me, I don’t have a boss and have a platform. For me, it just made sense to do my own special, say what I wanted and launch on my own platform.

Part of your promotional tour was appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. We’re coming up on 20 years since The Man Show first aired. How do you look back on that time?

I’m glad I did it. It was just a chapter in my life. Jimmy and I wanted to do a show together. That’s what we came up with. It was really just an excuse to work with Jimmy.

If you go back and look at those bits, I think everyone thinks that it was some sort of misogynistic, beer-swigging, whatever. The reality is we were always the butt of the joke. A lot of the bits didn’t have anything to do with women or beer or trampolines or anything. A lot of it was like me trying out for the Oakland Raiders or some parody of some deodorant commercial.

I had a good time doing it. We did 100 episodes, and that was enough. Jimmy went on to late night TV fame, and I went on to podcasts, and I guess everyone landed on their feet.

Do you think The Man Show would make it to air if it was pitched today?

Probably not. I mean, if it was hosted by maybe two bi-curious women of color, then I think they would get away with it. But I’m not sure hosted by two straight white dudes, I don’t know if The Man Show would be embraced today.

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What’s the one thing you want people to walk away with when they see this special?

I think if you watch it, you’ll get a few laughs and maybe forget about a few of your worries for 72 minutes. That’s first and foremost. Secondly, you’ll see anything is possible. Not many people start much lower than I started, either financially and spiritually.

It shows you can do whatever you want in a fairly short period of time if you put your nose down, keep walking and get to work. When I bust out my social security statement, that’s what I’m trying to show everyone. Where you start, and where you can finish.

Not Taco Bell Material is available now via iTunes and on-demand via Chassy Media