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Carolla takes the shock jock guard

The raunchy comedian eases into Stern's old as-bad-as-FCC-allows morning talk radio slot.

January 04, 2006|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

There was no brass band, no releasing of a thousand white doves and generally nothing fancy Tuesday to mark Adam Carolla's taking of the morning drive-time reins from Howard Stern in Los Angeles and other key West Coast radio markets. Instead, in the opening seconds of his new show, the 41-year-old construction worker turned comedian offered a simple greeting to his new audience and a sincere thanks for "popping our cherry."

Carolla, who broadcasts from the Miracle Mile studios of KLSX-FM (97.1), may have the toughest radio job in America, along with former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth, who took over for Stern in New York and other East Coast cities this week. The pair are being closely watched and listened to -- at least for now -- as they attempt to fill the void created by the departure of their pioneering and wildly successful predecessor and to see whether new radio talent can keep terrestrial radio relevant in an era of iPods, podcasts and other new media.

Stern, who blames the Federal Communications Commission for chasing him off the public airwaves, is set to unveil his new and uncensored show Monday on Sirius Satellite Radio. His listening audience, which will have to pay about $13 a month to get an earful of the King of All Media, will shrink from about 12 million to a potential 3 million.

Meanwhile, Carolla's universe just got bigger as his 6 to 10 a.m. show is also being carried on CBS Radio (formerly known as Infinity Broadcasting) stations in San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland, Las Vegas and Seattle. Judging by his first day's show, Carolla, a longtime radio veteran whose career began as a bit performer on KROQ-FM (106.7), isn't out to reinvent radio, but rather is banking on his sharp-edged, often dry wit to win over listeners. Much of the comedy was built around Carolla's riffs on his personal life and the day's news with phone calls, guests and a cast of characters to round out the show.

Carolla's KROQ gig led to a job co-hosting the nationally syndicated radio program "Loveline" with Dr. Drew Pinsky. Carolla said last year that he'll no longer co-host that show.

His first official guest was ABC late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who also serves as the show's creative consultant. Carolla and Kimmel became friends working together on KROQ's Kevin & Bean morning show more than a decade ago and have closely collaborated ever since. The duo gained a reputation and a dedicated following for their brand of raunchy humor on Comedy Central's "The Man Show," and today they run their own production company called Jackhole Industries.

Kimmel said he was sure his partner's new show would "be a success for months to come." Carolla replied that if Kimmel's television ratings sank any lower, he'd save a menial job for him on his radio show.

In addition to Kimmel, who for the most part will remain behind the scenes, Carolla spent much of the morning introducing his on-air morning crew, Rachel Perry and Dave Dameshek. Both are comic foils, but Perry, a former VH1 host, is there primarily to read the news. Meanwhile, Dameshek, a former writer on "The Man Show," concentrates on sports. Both were forced to sing a song parody about themselves -- and both, as hoped for, were horribly off-key.

The first day was not without its glitches. A technician had to explain to Carolla where his headphone volume controls were, and Dameshek started a report without his microphone on. Producers had trouble communicating with those in the booth, a problem sometimes when it came to taking commercials. But all in all, there were few noticeable audio snafus.

Another first-day guest was Carolla's longtime friend Azarius O. Castillo, a.k.a. Ozzie, who is taking on a part-time job as a film reviewer for the show. Audiences may recognize the Nicaraguan immigrant's name and heavy accent from TLC's "The Adam Carolla Project," which chronicled the renovation of the comedian's North Hollywood boyhood home. Carolla and Castillo, whose English is difficult to understand, became friends as construction workers more than a decade ago.

Castillo's first assignment was Steven Spielberg's "Munich," being hailed as one of the year's best films. But Castillo, who read from handwritten notes, found it "not funny" and "a little tragic."

Kimmel interjected that Castillo should go review "Brokeback Mountain" next time.

Some observers including Stern, who is friends with Carolla, were concerned that the new host famous for vivid and colorful language would be a frequent victim of censors. But the first show was light on bleeps. In describing a professional massage he received over the holidays, Carolla cracked wise about the stock observation most masseuses make about storing tension in the lower back.

"No S, Sherlock," said Carolla avoiding the long form word. "What do you think, I have a hamper where I store my tension?"

This is not to say the show skirted bathroom humor topics that have drawn cries of indecency from conservative groups in recent years. In fact, one of the first show's running jokes revolved around a present Kimmel gave to Carolla for Christmas: a bidet-like toilet device that shoots out a jet of warm water to the appropriate body areas.

"You never felt fresher as a man," said Carolla.

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