Authors: Adam Carolla
Tags: #Essays, #humor, #American wit and humor, #Form, #General
Copyright © 2010 by Lotzi, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Archetype, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Crown Archetype with colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
This is dedicated to everyone who paid retail for this book.
For far too long I’ve stood idly by and watched a problem in this country get worse and worse. I’m talking about the pussification of America. We’ve become self-entitled, thin-skinned, hyperallergic, gender-neutral,
viewing little girls. What we used to settle with common sense or a fist we now settle with hand sanitizer and lawyers.
Masculinity by any definition is disappearing. My fear is that in fifty years we’ll all be chicks. I’ve written this in hopes of a course correction. If just one person reads this book and demands a salad
a hard-boiled egg and
goat cheese; if just one person reads this book and decides to change his own oil; if just one person reads this book, slips in a supermarket, and
call an attorney, then I’ve done a horrible job and my family is going to starve. I need to sell a shitload of these things.
I grew up in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley in the seventies. I was a product of separation. I would have been a product of divorce, but divorce involves filling out paperwork and paying a county clerk sixty bucks to file it. And since there were no assets to divide, and no dog to argue over, that just left me and my sister. And the chances of my parents having a custody battle over us are about the same as two vegetarians having a custody battle over a pork chop.
The reason it took so long to write this book is that in an earlier part of my life I was a jock and a builder that lived a very blue-collar existence, not the kind that would inspire a book. I was always funny and had interesting ideas, but between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the un-unified Carolla family, I never heard the words “That’s funny, you should write that down.” In class my jokes and wisecracks just earned me the label of “disruptive,” and at home my jokes fell on depressed, distracted ears.
My only salvation was football. I finally found something I was good at. I started playing at age seven. Football for me was an island of camaraderie and discipline in a world of depression and chaos.
My family was a devastating combination of cheap and poor. When you’re cheap, poor is a great excuse. It’s like if a guy is really lazy and in a wheelchair. He wouldn’t have helped you move even if he was able-bodied. I was splitting time between the dilapidated shack that my mom was squatting in (it was her mother’s second house, which she bought for ten thousand dollars in 1951) and my dad’s one-bedroom apartment in a crappier part of North Hollywood. We were on food stamps and welfare. My mother was severely depressed and unable to keep up the house. Thus it was always a source of embarrassment for me. I slept in a converted service porch that was a little smaller than a prison cell and that housed the water heater, the washing machine (no dryer), and the electric meter. We were the only house in the Valley where the meter reader did his job from inside the house. It was very
. The house was a hundred years old with one bathroom, no air-conditioning, a lawn that was dead, and a roof that was sliding off. The final insult came in ’71 when the earthquake took the chimney down into the neighbor’s yard and never was replaced. The house didn’t even have a garage to hide my mom’s pile-of-shit car.
To compound my embarrassment, I couldn’t read or write. As a child of the seventies, I spent first through fourth grade attending an “alternative” school. It offered a practical alternative to learning. It was pretty much one long ceramics class with a little acoustic guitar and some face painting mixed in. By the time I entered the L.A. Unified School system, even though I was entering the fifth grade, my reading level was at zygote. This was a great source of shame for me. It was a secret I kept like a survivor of incest. Except I was raped by a potter’s wheel. Happily, my dirty little secret dovetailed nicely with L.A. Unified’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. My only salvation was sports and a sense of humor.
By my senior year at North Hollywood High, I’d managed to make the All Valley football team and was offered a number of scholarships to midsize colleges.
Why didn’t I just take the SATs, fill out the paperwork, and take the free ride to a good university? As I mentioned above, reading and writing was not my strong suit and to be fair to my parents, I’m not sure if they knew about the scholarship offers.
Cal Poly Pomona no longer has a football program.
The next five years were a montage of carpet cleaning, crappy apartments, and ditch digging. One night, sometime in my early twenties, I decided to honestly assess myself. I came to the conclusion that I was good with my hands and had a good sense of humor. Since I was working with my hands at the time and miserable, I decided to pursue the latter. I decided I’d give myself until my thirtieth birthday to make something happen.
The first time I tried stand-up comedy was at an open-mic night at the Comedy Store. I won’t tell you how it went, I’ll just tell you the story of what happened a couple hours after my first time onstage. After the show, I went back to my friend Jaynee’s house, and before we headed out again she said she wanted to check her messages. It was the old-school message machine that would keep recording when somebody picked up. I stood next to her while she checked her messages, and one of them was from her friend Kim. It started with “Hey Jaynee, it’s Kim. How was Adam’s show?” Then I heard Jaynee’s sister picking up the phone: “Jaynee’s not home yet, but I was at the show.” Kim said, “How did it go?” At that point Jaynee reached for the pause button, but I told her to let it go. And then I heard an honest, long, horrible evaluation of my stand-up potential. Imagine a seasoned hooker describing a roll in the sack with a fourteen-year-old virgin, and you get the idea. I was demoralized. I learned two important lessons that night. Just because all the guys are laughing on the job site doesn’t mean you can walk onstage and achieve the same result, and Jaynee’s sister is a bitch.
You have to understand, this is the mid-eighties: There was no Comedy Central, no FX, no YouTube. The only outlets for comedy were stand-up,
Saturday Night Live
, and that stupid sitcom with Cousin Balki.
A friend of mine’s mom suggested I take improv classes at the Groundlings. That came easier to me, and I enjoyed the collaborations. When I was done with the basic class, they said, “You’re funny but you’re raw. And the only way we’ll let you move up to the next level is if you take an acting class,” which I did. I enjoyed doing group improv immensely. It combined the camaraderie I missed from football with comedy, and for the first time I was exposed to smart, funny, articulate, educated people. It was quite a pleasant culture shock going from the poverty, addiction, and illiteracy of the job site. Although it always made for funny conversation with the other idiots I was swinging a hammer with.
“You’re doing comedy at the Improv?”
“No, I’m doing improv comedy.”
“With the groundhogs?”
“No, they’re called the Groundlings. They’re named after the guys who couldn’t get good seats to a play in the 1600s.”
“That’s gay. How much do they pay you?”
“Actually, I pay them.”
“Now that’s gay and retarded. Mike, get over here, you gotta hear this!”
I swung a hammer by day and took improv classes by night. After four years, it was finally time for my advanced class. The class consisted of two performances over the course of three months, and twenty-four hours after the second performance they would tell you whether you made the Sunday company or if it was time to turn in your whoopee cushion. I, as luck would have it, had a great first show and a horrible second show. They’re supposed to weigh them evenly, but the good show was a month and a half before and the shitty show was only twelve hours earlier. Even so, I kept my fingers crossed. When the word came that I didn’t make the Sunday company, I was devastated. It felt much the same as when I stopped playing football. I had invested so much time and money and made so many friends, and it was all over. To make matters worse, by this time I was living in a no-bedroom apartment. I know they call it a studio, but if a two-bedroom apartment is called a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom apartment is called a one-bedroom, you get the idea. So living with my stripper girlfriend in a crappy part of Hollywood, I was five years away from my thirtieth birthday and a million miles away from a career in comedy. One day my girlfriend was reading through the free ads in the
and came across one entitled
FORMING AN IMPROV TROUPE
. So I showed up the first night. There are pros and cons to being one of the first people in an improv troupe. The bad news is there are only eight of you, and at least five of you suck. The good news is you just made the main company. The theater was directly across the street from the Italian restaurant where Robert Blake didn’t shoot his wife. Me and the director, Mark Sweeney, used to stand in front of the restaurant on Saturday nights and hand out flyers only to watch people fold them in half and pick their teeth with them on the way to the car. The average attendance at a Saturday-night show was four and a half people, and one night we did a show where the only people in the audience were my grandparents. We decided to call ourselves the Acme Theatre because we knew the
did their theater reviews alphabetically and we wanted to be at the top. Plus the
would run the same review every week and we would only do two productions a year, so it was important to be front and center. The first review we ever got in the
featured this line, “Mark Sweeney’s bloodless conception is dead on arrival.”
This review ran for eight months. Still, we kept moving forward. I even built our new theater in my hometown of North Hollywood. Logically it made no sense to continue, but instinctively I knew that all the writing, improvising, and performing would pay off one day. Even if it was just for my grandparents.
I was basically flatlining. Even though I was one of the founding members and had built the theater, I realized it was time to quit Acme. My thirtieth birthday was just around the corner—the imaginary line in the sand for my career. (Next life I’ll make it nineteen.) I quit the Acme Theatre, I was still living in the house with no heat, I was making twenty bucks a pop teaching the 6:30
. boxing class at Bodies in Motion, and I was doing freelance carpentry jobs. One day I was driving over Laurel Canyon into Hollywood to deliver an entertainment unit I’d built. I was listening to newly employed Jimmy Kimmel doing sports on a local morning show,
Kevin and Bean
. He told the story about Bobby McFerrin breaking his leg on the ski slopes and then said, “What’s a brother doing skiing anyway?” Michael the Maintenance Man, a brother who was less interested in skiing than he was in fighting, charged into the studio and started an argument with Jimmy. The next thing you knew, the fight was on. They put a call out for boxing trainers. I thought this could be my chance to see the inside of a radio studio. I’m not into feng shui or karma, but while sitting in my truck-ma, I felt something come over me. A cosmic mandate that said I had to be a part of this fight. But not to train Jimmy the Sports Guy. He was new, didn’t seem to be well liked, and let’s face it, white. I was really hoping to train Michael the Maintenance Man.
Just to the left of this review was a large picture of a theater owner who’d lost his battle with AIDS.
That week I called the radio station constantly, but I couldn’t get through. So one morning before class I showed up in person. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the building. Somebody told me they opened it at seven
. So I stood there by the elevators until somebody with a key card headed toward the back door. I flagged the guy down and asked if he could tell the people inside that there was a boxing instructor waiting by the elevators. Twenty minutes later, Jimmy came out. Our exchange was short since he was still working. I said, “I’m a boxing instructor.” He said, “Fine, when do you want to start?” I said, “How about today?” He said, “Fine.” I gave him directions to the gym and he said, “I’ll see you at noon.” He pulled up in a piece-of-shit RX-7 that had two different-colored fenders.
The fight was in just two weeks. That meant I had fourteen days to teach Jimmy to box and to convince him I was funny. I didn’t come on too strong with the comedy at the beginning because I didn’t want him to think I was some nut job just trying to get on the radio. But our daily boxing workouts quickly turned into twenty minutes of punching the heavy bag followed by two hours of drinking Snapples and talking about Howard Stern. Before I knew it, it was fight night. (Actually, the fight took place at seven forty-five in the morning, but “fight night” sounds better.) Here are the things I remember from the fight. The judges were Adam Sandler, Pat O’Brien, and John Wayne Bobbitt. Jimmy lost the fight, although it was close and I sent him out for the second round with no mouthpiece. I also remember telling Jimmy’s then-wife before the fight, “Don’t worry, they’re wearing sixteen-ounce gloves and headgear. He won’t get hurt.” And she looked me in the eye and said, “I hope the guy beats the shit out of him.”