Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Podcast Review: Adam Carolla

I'm not a big podcast guy, but I do have a few regulars. I'm a fan of Bill Simmons, the ESPN Sports Guy and probably the most read sports columnist in the US, and I love the CBC Radio: Search Engine podcast, but lately I've found myself regularly tuning in to the digital musings of Adam Carolla.
It seems to me like Hollywood works in posses. I'm not sure if this is a certifiable trend, but the Judd Apatow phenomenon is not unique to Seth Rogan and Co. In fact, this phenomenon might be another instance of viral marketing - or maybe "marketing through networking" is a better term. With Apatow films (and some mimickers, like Zach and Miri Make a Porno,) the same cast of actors each take turns starring and guest starring and making cameos in each other's movies. Even Kevin Smith, with Porno, got an honourary pass into the Apatow guild when he got Rogan and Elizabeth Banks to star in his film. Hollywood loves this because it garantees a certain minimal box office and makes marketing easier for them.
The same could be said for the Jimmy Kimmel crew. Kimmel and Carolla started off in radio, but they eventually hosted The Man Show together. Kimmel has gone on to great success on ABC, while Carolla went back to early-morning talk radio on CBS. Carolla's show was #1 in many parts of the US, but CBS pulled it recently when they shut down their radio operations (or at least the station that was producing Carolla's show - I'm not sure of the details and it's not really that important.) I only caught the last couple of days before the show went off the air, but it was consistently funny and surprisingly touching at the end. Carolla plays the persona of a a-hole with a heart of gold down to a tee. Carolla, Simmons, Kimmel, Sarah Silverman (who dates Kimmel) and others, including Dave Dameshek, have all worked together, hang out together (we hear and read about the Sunday afternoon football games at Kimmel's house from multiple sources) and give each other props by supporting each other's projects.
The day of the announcement, Carolla was on Bill Simmons' podcast (see how that works?), who coincidently worked with Kimmel on his show in the early days before returning to his post as a fulltime columnist at ESPN. Carolla announced that he was fine with the layoff, since CBS will pay him out for 2009, so instead he's going to do a podcast for free and have some fun with that.
Which brings us full circle. Carolla is now pulling in the biggest numbers of any podcast available via iTunes, ever, and he's almost done it by accident. However, this is not really surprising - he's getting plugs from Simmons (who has a several million per column readership) and Kimmel. He's also gotten some very good guests. And finally, since he's doing this all on his own, he's producing a semi-professional show with professional entertainers that has no limits to the conversation - anything goes. No FCC, no sponsors, no nothing. The result is a surprisingly intimate (if you want to call it that) experience. You get the feeling that you're sitting in a room with these guys, just shooting the shit. But the guys are real stars - some of them are the best at what they do.
What's also intriguing is that you're getting that feeling with some recognizable personalities: Kimmel, Simmons, Andy Dick, Seth McFarlane, Tom Arnold, Dave Dameshek, Aisha Tyler... these are pretty big names. And what's more interesting is what they talk about - Andy Dick goes into his substance absuse issues, Tom Arnold discusses his relationship with Roseanne Barr and why he hates Jason Alexander, Seth McFarlane explains the origins of Stewie from the Family Guy (my girlfriend was thrilled to find out that he based him on Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady), and so on and so forth. And throughout, Carolla uses his radio host experience to draw out interesting tidbits from his guests, while chipping in some hilarious stories of his own.
But the best part is the regularity - I think one of the most underrated reasons why podcasting isn't the new radio is consistent scheduling. I'm a creature of habit, and I like the idea that every morning I can wake up, and before I step out the door to head to work I can grab the latest Carolla podcast from iTunes. He's managed to do this on a daily basis during the week - and has a bonafide guest to boot. If you have the discipline to produce content that regularly, you'll beat out everyone who only drop a podcast whenever it's convenient for them.


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