Who would you rather share a cross-country car trip with? The know-it-all beetlebrowed guy who wears a t-shirt under his buttoned-up oxford shirt and always recites the same comedy bits in a droning monotone? Or the nasal, braying “sports guy” with the annoying Midwestern accent who kisses beetlebrow’s ass and is always yelling and running the same dumb jokes into the ground? It’s a hypothetical question. There’s no wrong answer. And if you listen to Adam Carolla, the intellectual lunkhead comedian who took over for Howard Stern in Los Angeles and other markets, you know the answer anyway.
Radio in wake of Howard has been a vast wastland, indeed. Who’d have thought that Stern would disappear from the public consciousness so quickly? It’s like he’s dead, reanimating every once in a while (a lot more frequently than when he was a fixture) with a publicity stunt like the CBS lawsuit or revelations about his plastic surgery, then retreating. Whither Robin, Bababooey and Artie? Sad.
Sadder still is what’s left behind. A lot of attention has been leveled on poor David Lee Roth struggling to replace Stern in NYC, but the real shame is what’s going on in L.A. Carolla has experience on radio with that Loveline sex talk show, and as a comedy producer with his cohort (and consultant) Jimmy Kimmel. So it's especially disappointing to find how unlistenable this guy is once you remove the discussions of genital warts.
In Howard’s day, a visit to the show by another comedian, from Gilbert to Belzer to Brenner to Schimmel, promised comic gold that would make you drive around the block to hear more before heading into the office. Carolla, of course, is inexperienced and insecure, so comedy guests from Dane Cook to Kevin Nealon are left to chuckle and answer in monosyllables while Carolla butts in and launches into his memorized riffs. (In January, the day before his show debuted, the station ran hours of his monologues as a preview. Little did we know he'd recycle them word for word, over and over.) Soon, they’re itching to leave the studio, which is one reason Carolla's forced to fill hours of airtime with unfunny “characters” like the Deaf Frat Guy, the Republican Congressman and the Wacked-Out Rockers, or ridiculing the speech of a punch-addled boxer or poor immigrant worker named Ozzie by having them read scripts and laughing at how they pronounce the words.
One bright spot is a gal named Rachel Perry, who does the Robin Quivers bit and reads the news. She’s young. She’s bright. And she’s occasionally funny. So Carolla wedges her into regularly-scheduled two-minute bits followed immediately by his sportsguy, and when she tells a joke, Carolla jumps in and squashes her with one of his memorized bits. On the show's website, they have her pictured wearing a dog leash. (We found an easily-viewable collection of the photos here).
Ah, enough about Carolla. He’ll soon be gone, back to creating junk shows on Comedy Central.
Another bright spot, because we're always seeking them: Carolla has literally driven us away, leading us to try other stations, and that led to a recent surprise from Dicky Barrett (coincidentally the announcer on Jimmy Kimmel’s ABC TV show), who does the “Mighty Morning Show” on the supposedly hip Indie 103.1. Dicky always plays good music, and for a while he was featuring commentary from Tabloid Baby pal and rising talk radio star Johnny Wendell. When we tuned in last week, Dicky was interviewing, seriously, a female DJ in South Dakota about the state’s new law banning abortions.
It was smart. He was good. Later, he was funny.
That day, the station fired him!
It’s like a big conspiracy to force us to subscribe to Sirius.
At least we have Paul Harvey, the greatest writer in any medium. We have to make do in short bursts, but we await them eagerly.