Adam Carolla does occasional live podcasts from the El Portal Theatre,… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)
Adam Carolla was driving through North Hollywood, where he grew up, when he stopped his car in front of a gray Victorian home.
"This was where I lived as a kid," he said last week, as his car idled on the street. "It looks nice now, but don't be fooled. In 1974, it did not look like that. I lived in the service porch in the back. The meter reader used to come in my room to read the meter. It's not like, 'Oh man, I have all these great memories there' or anything like that. It was just poor and depressing."
Carolla, 45, had been driving his Audi around NoHo for about an hour, pointing out the Taco Bell where he applied for a job but was swiftly rejected; a theater he helped build in the '90s that is now the Sanford Meisner Center. None of the locations seemed to inspire positive memories.
And then he arrived at the El Portal Theatre, where he was slated to perform the coming Saturday. As a teen, Carolla would collect bottles door to door to turn in at the liquor store until he had the $1.10 it cost to buy a movie ticket at the theater.
Now he had decided to bring his most recent endeavor, a live podcast with guests like Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jimmy Kimmel, to the theater of his hometown, with which he has a "love-hate relationship."
"He hates North Hollywood," Pinsky said with a laugh after last weekend's show. "I listened to 10 years of disdain and disgust toward NoHo. But there's been a renaissance out here, and this is a nice theater, so why shouldn't he come back?"
Carolla thought the El Portal would be the perfect venue to host a live version of his daily podcast, the one-hour daily show he launched last year in which he talks to guests and friends about, well, anything he pleases.
In 2006, Carolla was tapped by Infinity Broadcasting to be the host of his own West Coast radio show, after Howard Stern left the spot vacant and departed for satellite radio. Carolla's show was canceled in February 2009 due to a radio station format change, and the comedian -- known to many for his former gigs co-hosting the popular radio show "Loveline" with Pinsky and the television program "The Man Show" with Kimmel -- was out of a job.
Donny Misraje, one of Carolla's childhood friends, had long suggested that Carolla become more involved with the Internet.
"Adam would always go on these rants about things that bother him, and I was like, 'I've gotta record this and put it on the Internet,' " said Misraje, now the executive producer of ACE Broadcasting, the network Carolla has since launched. "When the radio station folded up, he told me, 'Hey, I've been thinking about this Internet stuff, and I'd like to continue talking to my fan base.' "
So Misraje went out and bought a couple of lavalier microphones and began recording shows out of Carolla's Glendale warehouse, which now houses both a recording studio and a garage in which the host and his buddies work on old cars.
"There wasn't any special podcast technique or finishing school; there's no certificate of completion from Podcast Academy or anything like that," said Carolla, jumping into his Audi and brushing a handful of plastic bottles onto the floor to clear his seats. "You just talk and record it, and instead of coming through your car speakers, it's coming through your ear buds or computer speakers."
The one-hour podcast, which was voted iTunes' best audio podcast last year, is downloaded by about a million listeners a week. Currently, Carolla funds the podcast himself -- the rent on the studio and bandwidth have so far totaled around $100,000.
"I'm not worried about it. I think if you create something and you get an audience for it, then the monetization part is really secondary," he said.
Most who work for him do so on a volunteer basis -- even those who host their own podcasts, like former NBA player John Salley.
"You know what I get out of it? I get to relieve stress and say what I really, truly believe, and this is one of the only places you'll ever be able to do it," said Salley, who co-hosts a weekly sports podcast called "Spider & the Henchman."
Carolla, unsurprisingly, has taken the success of the podcast in stride.
"I really didn't have any expectations, but I never do. . . . I get excited about stuff having to do with cars and building. I don't get excited over this kind of stuff. I don't have that feeling that a lot of performers get or crave. I wish I did, but I don't."
Though in an interview before his show he was exceedingly laid-back and continually self-deprecating, on stage at the El Portal last weekend, Carolla proved to be radically different. Clutching a beer and dressed in a suit, Carolla seemed in his element as he smiled and threw out his trademark sarcasm at a rapid-fire pace.
Kimmel, for one, feels the podcasts and their live shows are a medium well-suited for his friend.
"He's got an unbelievable number of people listening to the podcast," he said at the El Portal last weekend. "It's an outlet for him, and it's great because there's no time limit. And Adam never stops talking, whether he's on the podcast or we're all trying to watch football and he's talking through the entire game."
In addition to the podcast -- Carolla is slated to return to the El Portal for another live show in June -- he will also star in a pilot that has been commissioned by NBC this fall. He described his character as a divorced contractor who is trying to rebuild his life.
"It's nothing," he said, shrugging. "The reality is, it's just business. I'm in it for the money, don't get me wrong. I never think of myself as overly motivated or anything like that, but yeah, I guess we do figure out a way to do what we want to do in life -- for good or for bad."