Comedian, radio personality and author Adam Carolla is widely accepted as the godfather of podcasts.
He is to your iPhone app what James Brown is to soul; what George Clinton is to funk; and what Vito Andolini was to the Corleones.
How was Carolla’s designation determined?
He popularized the medium in 2009 when his show’s ad-libbed structure earned millions of listeners and laid the groundwork for thousands of podcasts that followed.
And he claimed the Internet’s most downloaded podcast per the Guinness Book of World Records (with 60 million downloads) in 2011.
And, as he did during a 90-minute show at UB’s Center for the Arts of Saturday night, he delivered unfiltered opinions and irreverent comedy for both his in-house and smartphone audience.
Carolla – a former construction worker, boxing instructor and carpet cleaner – was introduced to television audiences as a co-host on both MTV’s “Loveline” and Comedy Central’s “The Man Show.”
He has earned his fleet of listeners with both frantic wit and an unapologetic debate style often found on afternoon barstools. Whether debating the merits of Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday” or his own creation of sangria for men called “mangria” (a mix of red wine, orange juice and a kaleidoscope of liquor), Carolla keeps listeners attentive and entertained.
The show’s live performances have the feeling of a stripped-down version of NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” performed in a roadside sports bar. This comparison was on display when Carolla and Co.– which includes co-host Alison Rosen and sound effects engineer Bald Bryan Bishop – took the UB stage on Saturday.
Introduced with his team under his show’s signature Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Someday I Suppose,” Carolla started the night with a 30-minute long dissection of his airport and flight experience to Buffalo. As is his approach, he picks a specific topic, then spiders off into a variety of loosely connected (albeit amusing) directions. Within his retelling of an attempt to sneak into first class from coach, he provided insightful commentary on clip-on ties (Why are they considered less classy than clip-on bowties?) and seamlessly inserted comparisons to Nazi characters from both “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Inglorious Basterds” when referring to an airline employee.
On paper, this probably seems disjointed. In person, it rolled hilariously.
Carolla’s act is built on casually questioning the relevance, intelligence or rationality of anything. Why is technology continuously changing just for the sake of changing? Why have airport security measures – which used to require us to scour our bodies for metal and remove our shoes – suddenly become more relaxed? And why do TSA agents demand that we dispose of water that may be nitroglycerin in a trash can next to their feet? He doesn’t do it in an observational, Jerry Seinfeld- “what’s the deal with” style. He does it in a conversational style, one that lays out his view, but elicits feedback.
Throughout the rest of the show, this Buffalo-hosted discussion continued with Carolla, Rosen and Bishop bringing up topics or comic bits that branched off in entertaining directions. One of the podcast’s popular games, “Nerd Walking,” started with questioning anonymous geeks, but deviated into topics as unrelated as the size of wine bottles and the wisdom of black jack dealers. Rosen’s regular news update began with details from Howard Stern’s 60th birthday party, then accommodated an explanation for why Carolla doesn’t like David Letterman.
Wherever the show veered, Carolla’s stories, observations and interjections steered the wheel. Is it organized yet insightful chaos? Maybe. But that’s just his podcast style – and that’s why he’s the godfather.