Performer Carolla survives the school of hard knocks

Adam Car­olla spent many of his form­at­ive years with just one plan in mind for his fu­ture.

“And that was Plan A,” said the 47-year-old ra­dio per­son­al­ity, tele­vi­sion host, comedi­an and act­or, who will take cen­ter stage at the Bor­gata in At­lantic City on Sat­urday. 

“Grow­ing up in Cali­for­nia I al­ways loved sports, and all I ever wanted to do was play pro­fes­sion­al foot­ball. I played Pop Warner foot­ball for sev­en years, so why couldn’t I play pro­fes­sion­ally?” he said. “I guess you’re kind of na­ive when you’re ten, and I was no dif­fer­ent. I was just think­ing of a fun way to make a liv­ing when I grew up.”

Even­tu­ally, Car­olla did grow up, spent one year in col­lege and quit.

“Trouble was,” he ex­plained, “I didn’t worry about edu­ca­tion or study­ing or ap­ply­ing my­self or fo­cus­ing on any­thing but go­ing the pro foot­ball route, my Plan A. Un­for­tu­nately, I nev­er had a Plan B.” 

So for the man whose Plan A nev­er did work out, Car­olla was forced to take meni­al jobs just to get by. He worked as a car­penter, a car­pet clean­er, a ditch-dig­ger and a box­ing in­struct­or, among oth­er jobs.

“I didn’t come from the kind of en­vir­on­ment that en­cour­aged you to get out there and chase your dreams, and that with a little hard work and a little luck you could make it hap­pen,” Car­olla said. “Things like that wer­en’t really dis­cussed in my house.”

And al­though Car­olla had a def­in­ite funny streak, he be­lieved com­edy was just for oth­er people.

“I ob­vi­ously was aware of George Carlin and Richard Pry­or, but they were not me. I mean they were George Carlin and Richard Pry­or and I was not. I didn’t real­ize there was any­thing in between,” he said.

But in his mid-20s, Car­olla grew des­per­ate to make something more of his life, and knew if he wanted some kind of suc­cess, he’d have to fig­ure out what he was good at.

For ex­ample, he ex­plained, “Be­fore I was a car­penter I didn’t know how to be a car­penter. It took me ten years of train­ing to be a good car­penter. But I real­ized I had a strong back, a good head for num­bers, was good with my hands, so there was no reas­on I couldn’t be a car­penter. And even­tu­ally, I was.”

Later, real­iz­ing he might have a true flair for com­edy, he de­cided to ap­proach it the same way.

“I didn’t have any stage pres­ence,” he said. “I didn’t know what ‘up­stage’ or ‘stage left’ meant. I didn’t un­der­stand the phrase ‘break­ing the fourth wall.’ I had no ex­per­i­ence on­stage, or writ­ing or de­liv­er­ing jokes. But I did have a good mind for com­edy and a good sense of hu­mor.”

And so he set off on his quest to be the best com­ic he could be, be­liev­ing that with the right train­ing, ex­per­i­ence and re­pe­ti­tion, he could take it all and turn it in­to something suc­cess­ful. He star­ted tak­ing classes and do­ing open-mike com­edy nights.

“I didn’t judge my­self too harshly in the be­gin­ning be­cause I knew I was pretty bad at it,” he said, “and why wouldn’t I be?”

But even­tu­ally his nat­ur­al abil­ity and be­lief in him­self began to shine through. In the 1990s he co-hos­ted the ra­dio show Love­line with Dr. Drew, and he went on to co-host the tele­vi­sion pro­gram The Man Show. As co-cre­at­or and per­former on the tele­vi­sion pro­gram Crank Yankers, he con­tin­ued his comed­ic climb.

Cur­rently, The Adam Car­olla Show, his talk show dis­trib­uted as a pod­cast, has made the Guin­ness Book of World Re­cords, of­fi­cially tak­ing the re­cord from comedi­an Ricky Ger­vais for the most down­loaded pod­cast in the world.

“It’s crazy to have your name in that book, es­pe­cially grow­ing up and be­ing a real fan of that pub­lic­a­tion,” Car­olla con­cluded. “I’m a lucky man — for that and also to make money with my hu­mor and not wor­ry­ing about hav­ing to punch a clock. Next up? Who knows?” ••

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