Episode 3: Adam Carolla (Voted #2 Ep of 2011)
Adam opens up about his living with a condition called Hypervigilance, being raised in a joyless environment, getting out of ruts, Adam’s book and Hitler!
Paul: Welcome again to The Mental Illness Happy Hour, my guest is Adam Carolla. Do you prefer Adam or Ace?
Adam: You can call me Ace, Paul.
Paul: It’s nice to be talking to you when I’m not being Richard Martin. Although, I do enjoy coming on your show and being Richard Martin, it’s—it can be a little constraining sometimes.
Adam: I always find it hilarious. I’m trying to think of some of my favorite—I like that your wife drinks the Sunkist… or is it Slice—
Paul: No, Diet Sunkist—
Adam: Diet Sunkist.
Paul: But only if she’s good.
Adam: Yes, I like the idea—I like the words of wisdom that your papa gave you through the prison glass.
Adam: Always enjoy that. I can’t remember if you live in a double-gated community—
Paul: It is double gated.
Adam: I think we stumbled onto that on this podcast. A multi-gated community.
Paul: If they get by the first gate, what happens then?
Adam: Yeah, I like that, and I like being interviewed for a change.
Adam: Tired of talking to everyone else.
Paul: Good, good. Well, I’m so glad that you found time in your schedule to do this. Let me also thank you, speaking of the Richard Martin character, I made the mistake of going on the message boards a couple of times after being on here, and seeing how many of your listeners fucking hate that character. And despite that, because you find it funny, you have me on. And I just want to say I appreciate that.
Adam: Well, I never read the message boards, and if I think something ‘s funny… then it’s funny.
Paul: Well, I appreciate that. Uh, enjoyed your book. I read it. For those of you who don’t know about it, it’s called In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks and it’s your first book?
Paul: I think it’s great. I think it’s insightful, which didn’t surprise me, it’s provocative, which didn’t surprise me. Or the fact that it’s unapologetic and funny. All things that you’re known for being. I think the part of it that did surprise me a little bit was, there was some vulnerability in it, and some, kind of… I don’t know how to put it… masked spirituality in there—
Paul: that I don’t think, when people think of Adam Carolla, they think of those things. Maybe the fact that it was in the format of writing a book allows you to reveal that side of yourself that normally you wouldn’t? Or, am I just not listening to your show enough?
Adam: You’ve tuned out, Paul. Umm, when it’s put in a context—yeah, I think the book, I think it’s a combination of both things. People are more revealing via print than they would be on a late night talk show.
Paul: It feels a little safer.
Adam: It feels safer. You know, everybody’s more complex than anyone else wants to give them credit for. And everyone does that with everyone.
Adam: Like if you’re for Obama, then he’s a great guy. If you’re against Obama, he’s just a douchebag who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Each side—not to be political, but, I mean, people on the left will go, ‘Oh, Bill O’Reilly’s an idiot, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’ And people on the right are, ‘That Bill Maher, he doesn’t know—he’s an idiot, he’s—‘ And of course neither of these guys are idiots by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no yard stick where these guys would be buffoons or idiots.
Adam: But it’s so easy just to kinda go, ‘Oh, it’s that guy’ and I understand it. Like people don’t have time—
Paul: Time—what were Hitler’s good qualities? He put on a nice parade. He was a go-getter.
Adam: Aesthetically, I mean, as far as the outfits went?
Adam: Kicked the shit out of Russians. And the Japanese outfits, don’t get me started—
Paul: He was an electric speaker. You know, you could go on and on.
Adam: If you had a guy deliver—you know, if you were looking for a Best Man, and someone to deliver a toast—
Adam: The Führer—you could do worse than The Führer.
Paul: He got a little carried away—
Adam: Some argue he did.
Paul: He serves a great purpose in my life, because when I’m feeling bad about my life, I fire up the History Channel and go, ‘I’m a good guy!’ It’s good I’m lazy, look what happens when you’re a go-getter!
Adam: Not only are you a good guy, but you’ve got it good.
Adam: You can go on one side or the other—
Paul: That’s right. I’m not a Hitler, and I’m not a Jew in Nazi Germany, so what the fuck do I have to complain about?
Adam: Right. You’re just sawing away in your garage.
Paul: Uh, let’s go back to the first chapter in your book and you talk about your—probably the only problem I had with your book was I wanted more of your story. I wanted more of your childhood and your relationship with your parents. Tell me if you could—
Adam: Well that’s interesting. I hope my publisher’s listening, because I had about sixteen, eighteen, twenty-two pages worth of, sort of “About the Author” because I’d never written a book before, and I didn’t know really what to do, but I thought, ‘If I’m gonna be laying out all this stuff that I’m laying out and a lot of it is stuff people disagree with, they need to know where it’s coming from and where I come from, otherwise how do they know what my perspective is?’ So, I did a “About the Author” chapter just at the beginning, and I got it back from my editor and she said, ‘Eh, let’s just cut that out.’ And I was like—
Paul: I would disagree with her.
Adam: Thank you, thank you.
Paul: Because I think that’s a really interesting part of your story.
Adam: It’s nice when you do twenty pages about basically your life, and somebody in New York goes, ‘Alright, well let’s get right to the eating chapter.’
Paul: Yeah. Coz even your twenty pages of your life is too much—
Adam: Yeah, bored the shit out of me, and I read for a living. So I was like, ‘Wow.’ And then I thought, ‘Aren’t you supposed to have an “About the Author”—don’t you at least get the courtesy of the “About the Author” chapter at the beginning of your goddamn book?’ And she’s like, ‘Eh, it’s kinda boring, let’s move on to the fun stuff.’ And, she sent it back to me, along with some other deleted chapters. What they don’t tell you when you write a book, you go—couple things. You go, ‘How long does this book need to be? Because I’m a bad student.’ They go, ‘I don’t know, between two hundred seventy-five two hundred and eighty thousand words?’ You’re like, ‘Is that nine pages?’
Adam: ‘I don’t know, how many words are on a page? By the way, sweetie, I don’t know what a thousand words looks like.‘
Paul: And I hope you called her Sweetie.
Adam: I do. Monkey Nipples or Sweet Cheeks. So I said, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ She’s like, ‘275-280 pages.’ Just like, holy shit. So, you end up sending over—probably sent over about I don’t know a hundred thousand words or something like that. Yeah, I think they want about eighty thousand words or something like that, I sent over about an extra four or five chapters, a hundred pages or whatever. They just start, ‘Eh, let’s get rid of this.’
Adam: Stuff you worked on all day and night, ‘eh, get rid of that.’ So, she said, ‘Well, let’s get rid of this “About the Author” thing’ and she sent it back to me and I said, ‘I think it’s important that people know where I’m coming from, and even if it doesn’t get me out of the gate with a whole bunch of laughs, it’ll help sort of set the table—
Adam: for the stuff that comes after this.’ So, I gave her an abridged back—I trimmed out a bunch of stuff and gave her like a nine page version of it, and that’s what you got. But you said, you could have used a little more.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. Well I wanted more. It sufficed to give a tone to understand where you’re coming from, but I’m somebody who wants to know how—on Loveline what happened, on Kevin and Bean, what was it that Mr. Bircham did. I wanted more description of the improv. There was a lot of stuff too that I related to, being a comedian. But, since the focus of this show is about creative people who have been affected by depression and other mental illnesses—
Paul: I’d like to try to focus on that if we could.
Adam: Depression. Yes.
Paul: So you grew up in a depressed household. Your mom especially… was a depressed hippie, which I find to be a really unique combination.
Paul: And was always telling you about the man, and—
Adam: Depressed hippie is like if one of those… one of those Styrofoam flavored corn puff patty things you get at the health food store—it’d be like if one of those calorically was the same as eating a hot fudge sundae.
Adam: It is lose-lose. It is no money, what about the man, what about the crying Indians. What about—did you see Billy Jack, did you see Roots, did you see what we did to our indigenous people? Do you see how we treat our brothers? Mixed with, ‘I’m too goddamn lazy to get up and change the channel.’
Paul: Yeah. So a lot of lack of joy—
Paul: in your childhood.
Adam: Yeah. That’s dead-nuts on. I’ve never seen my mom celebrate or jump up and down, or high-five anyone. As a matter of fact, to this day, if you call my mom, and you just do the sort of perfunctory ‘Hey, how ya doing?’ you know, the same thing you do, ‘Hey, how ya doing Paul?’ ‘Good, how you doing?’ ‘Good.’ You ask my mom, ‘How you doing Mom?’ ‘I’m okay...’ She literally says “okay.” She will not commit to good, even if you don’t—people in traction will say I’m good, just because it’s a figure of speech.
Adam: No, ‘I’m okay…’
Paul: My dad, who when he hit his bottom in his alcoholism, tried to commit suicide in New York. He was there on business, didn’t show up to a meeting. They committed him to Bellevue, and the only way to contact him was through the pay phone at Bellevue, it took us like two days to get through to him and I said, ‘Dad, it’s Paul. How are ya?’ He goes, ‘Oh fine.’
Paul: That describes my family in a nutshell. I tell people that my family was like the movie Ordinary People without the big laughs.
Paul: So when I—I hate to say it, but when I read about your family, it made me feel good in that, I always feel better when I see somebody whose childhood was as joyless as mine was. And it reminds me that I’m not alone.
Adam: Yeah, you’re not.
Paul: And you can be successful and overcome it. And that’s one of the things I hope with this podcast is for people to feel less alone. To learn some myths about depression, how to recognize it, how to live with it. Because, generally, it’s not something that you’re going to get rid of, but it’s something that you’re gonna realize how to treat—
Paul: healthily. Because, most people treat it unhealthily, you know, they—for me it was getting fucked up everyday, was my way of treating it—
Paul: for years and lashing out at people instead of looking inward at myself. So um—
Adam: Well, I can tell you that joyless is a very important thing that you hit on Paul, which is, the expression of joy in front of your kids, um—my family didn’t have an ounce of that. And, it is so important for a child to feel like you’re happy that the kid is there and that you’re just happy in general.
Adam: And you don’t have to be dancing a jig constantly, but the slow low-grade exposure of the just completely zapped and bummed out parent is debilitating.
Paul: It is, it is.
Adam: And, I mean, the important thing, as long as you’re getting a message across, is when you grow up and you’re sort of indoctrinated into that world—and for me it was welfare and food stamps and listen you can’t get ahead, and even if you did it wouldn’t matter—still the Indians are crying by the side of the road, and Billy Jacks getting those poor students beat up at an ice cream parlor.
Paul: But he can kick.
Adam: Got a hell of a crescent kick.
Paul: By the way, the only good part of that movie.
Paul: I’m going to take this foot, and put it on that side of your face.
Adam: Ain’t a thing you’re gonna do about it Bernard. But, you get sucked into that world, and you know, it’s no different than if you’re some pygmy tribesman or something, whatever world you grow up in, you get sucked in—
Paul: You have nothing to compare it to.
Adam: Nothing to compare it to, and once in a while you see things, like you hear stories, and I… you know… just even stories of travel and stuff. Like when I would come back to school after summer vacation and people would be wearing shirts that said Hawaii ’79 or I went to Mammoth and Climbed a Rock or something. It’d be like, ‘How does this work?’ ‘Well, you buy airplane tickets and you get a hotel…’ ‘Airplane tickets. Hotel. And your Mom and Dad together on the same plane?’
Adam: ‘Yeah, we all went.’ Ten days in Maui, what goes on over there? Like, I would go to people’s houses and I’d see pictures of them on ski vacations, just on top of a mountain—
Adam: And I’d be like, ‘How did you get there?’ ‘We have a station wagon.’
Paul: ‘And your dad wanted to drive it?’
Adam: ‘But doesn’t it overheat every several yards?’
Adam: ‘No, no.’ ‘And those skis? Where do you—who lends you those?’ ‘You buy them.’ ‘Your dad bought you skis!?’ Like everything seems insane when you come from this super low-grade depression that you come from.
Paul: And the other thing, I’m curious to know if you experienced this as well, is when depressed people see somebody around them showing glimmers of joy, they feel the need to snuff it out.
Paul: So then you build these coping mechanisms where you keep your feelings locked away inside, because you’re afraid that if you’re happy, or you show happiness, that’s gonna get picked on.
Adam: Yeah. I don’t even know if it’s an intellectual pursuit.
Adam: I don’t think—I don’t even think you think about it at a certain point. My family was a lot of, you don’t ever—you know, any nail that’s sticking up is gonna get the hammer.
Adam: And you never brag about yourself. You never talk about yourself. Anyone who drives a nice car or makes a lot of money, believe me they’re going home and they’re miserable and they’re hitting the bottle. It’s a lot of that sort of talk.
Adam: Like anyone who had anything—my whole family—I had to become an adult to realize, ‘Oh, these fucking guys are nuts. I got to do a hundred and eighty degrees away from—‘
Paul: At what age do you think you realized this is an unhealthy relationship, this is not the norm, and I’m on my own.
Adam: I realized I was on my own immediately. I mean, I—my mom would not come out of her room very often, so I used to, as a nine year old, think, ‘If somebody breaks into this house, I’m gonna have to grab a fireplace poker and fend for myself’ because I can’t see her—I’ve never had one of my parents say ‘That’s my son, you don’t talk to him that way!’
Adam: Or, ‘That’s my boy! Come here!’ ‘Yeah! He scored the winning touchdown!’ There’s no celebrating. There’s no celebrating of anybody of any kind and they make fairly hysterical stories really just told—
Paul: They give you the fear but not the protection.
Paul: Which is the worst of both.
Adam: I could tell you some stories that are very indicative of the sort of down trodden family. I remember—there’s a million. The most famous is, you know I had two shows on cable television simultaneously for a number of years and I had my entire family sitting around a table for my mom’s birthday at a Thai food restaurant and my mom at a certain point—my mother chimed in and said, ‘I got another flyer for cable in my mailbox today… I don’t know’ And she looked at the table, in earnest, and she said, ‘Can anyone give me one good reason—
Adam: She said the word “one”. She said, ‘Can anyone give me one good reason why I should get cable? Anybody?’ “One good reason” she said. Ironically I had two shows on TV at the time.
Adam: And everyone at the table looked back at her and said, ‘They got those gardening shows.’
Adam: And that was it. And, here’s the scary part of being indoctrinated into that lifestyle. I said ‘They got cooking shows.’ I didn’t think for a hot second—I didn’t think about Man Show, Loveline, I didn’t think about it for one second.
Adam: Later on, when I was driving to Loveline, I almost had a nervous breakdown in my car thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have two shows on basic cable.’
Adam: Umm, no. You learn real quick not to talk about yourself and not to brag and any—I had my grandmother and my mom and a couple other family members were sitting around the table with a couple that was from out of town. They were from Texas. And, my grandmother just made some comment to me where she said—we were talking about past phases in life or something, and she said, ‘You look—I like the way you look now. You look good now. Not like when you were in high school, all big and bursting out of your clothes.’ And everyone just sort of sat there at the table. My mom never… doesn’t talk, so she’s looking down at her potatoes. I said, ‘I wasn’t fat in high school.’ ‘Well, you were big and just bursting out of your clothes.’ And I said, ‘Hold on a second, Grandma.’ And then I said to the couple, ‘No one else at this table’s going to speak up, so I’m—I’ll have to straighten you out. I know when the grandmother says big and bursting out of clothes, you’re picturing a kid with a thyroid condition—
Adam: who is has a serious issue finding a prom date. I was an all valley football player—
Adam: in high school. First team, and I lifted a lot of weights and I was a big guy. College scholarships. It’s sad that I have to point this out—
Adam: but I will tell you all that I was a first team all central valley football player at North Hollywood High, that’s why I was big and bursting out of my clothes. Any way grandma, you can continue with your rant, I just want you to know, that you people are picturing three chins and a lot of tears—
Adam: and a big gut spilling over, I know you’re not picturing the captain of the football team right now. When Granny’s saying big and bursting out of clothes.’
Adam: And she said, ‘You were.’ And I said, ‘Yeah! Because I lifted a lot of weights and ate a bunch of whey protein.’ And she said, ‘Yeah I know.’ But I said, ‘Grandma, you understand these people here don’t know how we operate, they’re not picturing the jock.
Adam: they’re picturing a fat kid right now.’ So I’ll say it. And by the way, it’s not like my mom ever looked up. So that’s how—one more good one. That’s how my family operates—
Paul: You know, we’ve got a limited—
Adam: Jesus Christ.
Paul: amount of time, there’s so many questions that I want to get to you.
Adam: You know what, go ahead.
Paul: So I hope you don’t mind if I shoot you down on that.
Adam: I don’t mind.
Paul: Talk about hyper vigilance, which is something that you have said that you—I don’t know what the right verb would be… you’re afflicted by? You have? You tend towards? Describe what it is and how it manifests itself in your life.
Adam: You notice everything. And um, mostly it bothers you. But so would everything if you really noticed it.
Adam: It’d be sort of like knowing the ingredients of a hotdog.
Adam: Or just, everything you ate, if you knew how many hands had been on it, I’m sure it would bother you.
Paul: Mhmm, right.
Adam: So the more information tends to bother you.
Paul: Is it almost like a hyper neuroses kinda, not that that’s a thing, but it sounds to me like a—
Adam: It’s not—
Paul: Because isn’t a neuroses where things bother you that maybe don’t the average person?
Adam: You know, the bothering part is a secondary condition to noticing everything.
Paul: I see.
Adam: And the noticing and the hyper vigilance comes from—part of it is just physical, which is like really crazy peripheral vision, and crazy sort of—I’ve never been in a car accident in my entire life and I drive like an asshole.
Adam: And the reason I’ve never been in a car accident is—and I’ve had plenty of opportunities driving like an asshole—is I have this hyper vigilance where I see what’s going on down the road.
Adam: And it almost makes you, there’s a part of it that makes you a little bit clairvoyant, in that you’re so tuned in that you can tell people’s professions by the sound of their voice, and you can kinda tell if they’re married or straight or gay or what have you. There’s this weird thing where it’s just super tuned in, and I don’t mean in a necessarily positive way. But I mean, it’s like this: if I’m sitting and watching TV, and the wind blows and there’s a window almost behind me and a tree branch moves, I’ll jump.
Adam: Because something—there was some movement. And it’s also the kinda thing where—it’s a few things. You’ll never fall asleep in front of the TV, you’ll never fall asleep like on an airplane, you can’t—
Paul: Do you have trouble sleeping at home?
Adam: You have trouble, you have to put in earplugs and eyeshades. You have to essentially block out any stimulation that could possibly come in.
Adam: You notice everything. You can’t get around things. Things will—you’ll notice things like, you and I could be having a conversation—I’ll tell you where it comes in a lot. We’ll go to a restaurant, and we’ll be sitting there and you know, I’ll hear some song piped in through a speaker that’s eight tables away over the sound of all the clanging of the glasses and the silverware. I’ll just be talking to you and I’ll go, ‘Oh, I like this song.’
Adam: And the person I’m eating with will always say, ‘What song?’
Adam: And I’ll go, ‘You don’t know this Beach Boys song?’ and they’ll go, ‘I don’t hear anything.’ And I’ll go, ‘No, seriously, you don’t hear anything?’ and they’ll go, ‘I don’t hear anything.’ And I’ll go, ‘Hold on a second, just quiet, just listen.’ And they’ll go, ‘I can hear… something, but I don’t know what it is.’ And I’ve been like—I’ve been enjoying this song for five minutes in our conversation.
Paul: You would have made a great hockey player, because hockey is one of those sports where it’s so fast paced and there’s so much going on, the guys that were the incredible players were the guys like Gretsky who could anticipate what was gonna happen.
Adam: It was funny because I grew up in North Hollywood and I never played hockey because that would have involved—
Adam: skates and a stick and pads and whatever. Uh, but one of my weirdest, most hyper vigilant moments was on a hockey—was in a hockey rink. We were playing like broomball, which is, take duct tape put it around a broomstick and run around in your tennis shoes and whack around a—
Paul: And by the way, a hundred times more dangerous than actual hockey. You don’t have helmets!
Adam: It’s hockey minus—if you removed all the padding from hockey and added a twelve pack—
Adam: that’s broomball.
Paul: It’s the worst idea on the planet.
Adam: I was playing broomball with a bunch of assholes, like guys I didn’t know, just dickhead dudes from the valley, and one guy was just a sort of lead dickhead. You know, every time I got the broom, he’d shove me in the ribs with his elbow or whatever. That guy was just a douchebag. At a certain point, the ball sort of went into the corner, and I turned my back to the action and I was trying to dig the ball out of the corner and I wasn’t looking behind me or anything. And at a certain point—remember to ask Donnie, who’s in the next room about this story because he was there—at a certain point I just jumped straight up in the air and this douchebag just slid right under. And by the way, you wonder what’s going through these guy’s heads. I never met the guy before. He runs full speed drops down into a hook slide, and is just planning on going right up my ass. Just elbows out full speed hook—he’s just going to go right into my back and I coulda just wacked my head against the ice and got a concussion. I just went right up, straight up, he went straight under me, and right into the boards.
Adam: And, I landed on my feet and continued playing. When I was done, Donnie and several other people went, ‘You’re head wasn’t even—you weren’t even looking!’ And I was like, ‘I could feel that, I could feel the guy.’
Paul: Wow. Wow.
Adam: I could feel him coming up behind me. I just felt it.
Paul: So I’m sure other people listening to this are thinking the same thing I am, that this was probably a result of your coping mechanism as a kid feeling like you’re not safe.
Adam: I, I, it is. I was never in a situation where I felt—I didn’t feel like my parents would protect me. My parents made it clear that they were looking out for themselves.
Adam: And, nothing personal—
Paul: It was sad the day they sat you down and told you that. That was totally unnecessary.
Paul: Thought they were going to tell you about how people fuck but—
Adam: Hallmark has a section for folks who don’t care.
Paul: You’re on your own! It’s a wilted flower.
Adam: Actually it was a guy in raft adrift in the sea, just hanging onto an inner tube with air coming out of it.
Adam: Just over the horizon, the steam from a liner that was going over the horizon. “So you’re on your own.” No, it’s pretty you know—all they’ve got to do is miss a couple of football games and have a couple shitty birthdays. It’s pretty clear—you know, my parents aren’t bad people. It’s more like, ‘Look, we’re gonna have a hard enough time taking care of ourselves—
Adam: much less you guys.’
Adam: Meaning the kids. ‘And we’re so overwhelmed by every facet of life and so deeply depressed that just getting our shit out of bed in the mornings going to be a full time job.’
Adam: ‘So I’m going to need you to kinda—‘ and you just become like a feral cat. Like, you go, alright. Monday night I’ll eat at my buddy Ray’s house, and Tuesday night I’ll eat at my buddy Chris’ house.
Adam: You just start floating around. You start eating out, hanging at people’s houses, begging for scraps. It’s sort of a panhandling of life. Lot of lunch time at school, ‘Hey, you gonna finish that sandwich? How bout you give me half that sandwich.’ It’s a lot of sort of bumming rides, and bumming food, and bumming stuff and yes, when I was at home, I was doing a math that I don’t think anyone’s coming out of their bedroom and yelling, “Not on my watch” when the burglar breaks into the house. So I’m gonna sort of sleep with one eye open. I think that’s probably where that comes from.
Paul: Right. Um, right before that, what were we talking about? I had a question that I was right on the verge of thinking. Oh! I know, you said “my parents aren’t bad people” and I’m glad you said that because to me—most of us probably grew up to some degree or another in a situation that was less than ideal.
Paul: But to me, the really important thing, is when you get to that point in your life, and it’s usually as an adult, where you can say to yourself ‘they weren’t bad people they were just continuing the cycle that they were exposed to, because they didn’t have the tools to do what they did. And so I need to get over this and I need to learn how to start taking care of myself and if not forgive them, at least accept that that’s who they are, and it’s not going to change.’ As much I love my mom, I stopped going to her for joy, and I stopped going to my dad for approval.
Adam: Maybe Joy, the dishwashing detergent, but not the actual feeling.
Paul: Yeah, right.
Adam: No, you know, it’s so funny because sadly, but they don’t really notice, I made a conscious decision never to really say anything to them about anything.
Adam: They have no idea what I do, you know, this warehouse that you’re sitting in now is two and a half miles away from my mom’s house in North Hollywood and she’s lived there for forty years. She’s never been here. She has no idea where this is.
Paul: You know what’s so—
Adam: She’s not seen this, she has no idea what this is.
Adam: I mean, I could say—when I used to do the radio, I called my dad a pussy ten thousand times on the radio, it’s not like he ever confronted me, he never heard it.
Adam: As a matter of fact, I gave my dad ten thousand dollars—the first day I ever did KLSX when I took over for Howard Stern, the first day I did the show, I had my dad in on the show. I said, “Dad, I have a check here for ten thousand dollars, all you do—all you have to do is name the former radio station I was on for over ten years in Los Angeles. You name the call letters and the number on the dial, and I’m gonna hand you ten thousand dollars.”
Paul: Oh my God.
Adam: And he lived in North Hollywood the entire time I was on KROC, he had no idea.
Adam: He wanted to come on Loveline once, I said, “When you want to come on Loveline?” and he said—
Paul: “When’s it on?”
Adam: He said, “Friday about seven-thirty or so?” I said, “It’s on Sunday through Thursday and it starts at ten, but anyway...”
Paul: You know what’s amazing to me is you’re one of the pioneers in podcasting, you know. I was just thinking as I looked around the studio, a lot of the ways of developing the business model for podcasting are happening here in this studio.
Paul: And your parents are two miles away, and have no idea that their son is one of the pioneers of a new medium of entertainment.
Adam: Well, yeah. [laughs] You gotta understand, they can’t celebrate anybody’s achievements including their own, and they can do it with strangers. But this downtrodden-ness is so beaten into them, it’s systemic and it’s very sad. And, the story I was gonna tell you which illustrates this is, you learn, and you should learn, and you people should all learn. And whether you’re a woman in a relationship trying to get something from a man, or vise versa, your whether you’re married to the person or you’re, it’s a mother or a sibling or whatever it is. It’s hard to change people, and you should stop going to this place to try and get validation if you never get validation from this. Grow up, mature and understand that it ain’t going to happen. And I stopped very early, very early on and I never spoke about things. And so, what happened is, I got—once in a blue moon I would get bated into it, which is to say, sitting around having dinner again with grandma celebrating her birthday, got the whole family sitting there at the table. And my sister who’s been indoctrinated into this mess as well said, ‘Hey, I was at the supermarket the other day and I saw your picture up at the supermarket.’ And I said, ‘Uh, what was it?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know.’ And I’m thinking to my self ‘well didn’t you go over there and look and like see what it was?’
Adam: And she’s like, ‘I dunno, your picture’s up somewhere.’ She’s as bad as I am, she was raised by these ferrets as well. She’s like ‘ehh something’ and I’m like, ‘Was it a picture behind the butcher counter? Why is my picture up at a supermarket?’ And she said, ‘I dunno’ and then she said, ‘something to do with cheese.’ And I said, ‘Something to do with cheese?’ And I thought, ‘What?’ and then I thought, ‘Oh, it’s the precious cheese—‘ Feast of San Gennaro. Alright, Jimmy and I started the Feast of San Gennaro. And you close off the streets and it’s three days and thousands of people come through there, and we raise thousands of dollars for needy kids and there’s ferris wheels and—
Paul: I go every year.
Adam: all that stuff, and we essentially started a parade. Ninety percent Jimmy, but I remember we were sitting at our desk one day and we just got back from New York, and we went to Little Italy, and I said, ‘we don’t got a Little Italy out here’ and Jimmy said, ‘we don’t have a Feast of San Gennaro’ and we started a Feast of San Gennaro and it’s bigger than the both of us now.
Adam: And a hundred years after we’re dead, there’ll be a Feast of San Gennaro in LA because of me and Jimmy. And my entire family lives in Los Angeles and we’re going on ten years now—
Paul: Never been.
Adam: Never been, never discussed it. So, I went five years, at this point I’d been five years, and I never brought it up. And I know better, I just don’t say anything.
Adam: Because if I say, ‘Hey, aren’t you proud of me? I started a Feast of San Gennaro.’ When I told my grandmother, when I told her I bought a big house up on the hill, she said that her maid didn’t have a dining room table. Which, that was her—not ‘what style is it?’ It was just—And when I said to my family, ‘I’m thinking about renting out my other house’ since I bought this other house in the hills they all said, ‘what if a band of bikers move in and destroy the place?’ It’s like everything—
Adam: So you don’t bring stuff up. So I said—my sister said, ‘I saw your picture, it’s on this cheese thing.’ I said, ‘oh, well that’s for the Feast of San Gennaro.’ And my mom has been through enough therapy now where she said, ‘What’s the Feast of San Gennaro?’
Adam: Now I’m sucked in. I said, ‘Well, actually, it’s kind of a big deal. They close off the streets, and it’s over three days, and as a matter of fact we have a scholarship and we raise money for high school students that—‘ and I realized, ‘Oh God, I’m bragging.’
Paul: Uh oh.
Adam: I’m bragging in front of my family. And they all just sat there for a moment while I went on for just about thirty seconds about raising money for the kids, and my grandmother dove into the conversation, and she said—she yelled, “Bon Jovi gave a million dollars to Katrina relief.” And I was like, ‘what?’ And everyone just turned to her and said, ‘that’s a lot of money’ and then someone said, ‘a million dollars to Katrina, that’s really good’ and then I realized, you old bitch, you couldn’t take it.
Adam: You couldn’t take thirty seconds of your grandson holding his chest out—
Adam: and talking about some accomplishment.
Adam: My grandmother, at the time, literally ninety one years of age doesn’t—not from New Jersey, doesn’t give a fuck about Bon Jovi, she just could not tolerate somebody in the family—and then the great thing is, is a couple years later I was talking to my mom and said, ‘Well I can’t go on Saturday night, I gotta go do the Prima Notte for the Feast of San Gennaro.’ She said, ‘What’s that?’ And I said, ‘The Feast of San Gennaro.’ ‘Oh, I don’t know what that is.’ I said, ‘I told you about it when we were eating dinner a few years back.’
Adam: She says, ‘I don’t remember that.’ And I thought, ‘Mission Accomplished Grandma.’
Adam: That is awesome. So yes, we’re going on our tenth year of the Feast of San Gennaro, it is in the middle of Los Angeles, my entire family lives—I could hit any one of their houses with a cannoli, probably have to use one of those water balloon launchers.
Adam: Semi-homoerotic I know. And no one has gone to it—
Adam: and I don’t know that they know about it.
Paul: Let me ask you this, because a lot of times when people grow up in that type of environment, um, they get all these negative thoughts placed in their head that they spend a lifetime then trying to shake loose. Or trying to replace with positive thoughts.
Adam: Mhmm, mhmm.
Paul: What are some of the negative thoughts that go through your mind to this day that you try to shake loose. That sometimes you will catch yourself thinking and realize that’s not the case, that’s just a lie.
Adam: I, you know, it’s funny. My family was not neurotic, that would burn too many calories.
Adam: It’s like I said, they’re not religious because that would have burned up—that would have meant getting up off the sofa on a Sunday and going somewhere.
Adam: They never filled my head with anything.
Paul: Uh huh.
Adam: The things I have to battle is nothing.
Adam: No one ever said, you’re dumb or you’re ugly. No one said, you’re smart—
Adam: or good. No one ever said anything. And so for me, my battle is—I don’t walk around thinking negative thoughts, I walk around thinking no thoughts.
Adam: And, nothing matters. People say, ‘Ooh you did The Tonight Show last week.’ And I’ll say ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, why didn’t you tell me?’ and I’ll go, ‘Why?’ And they go, ‘Because I would have liked to have seen you on television.’ I go, ‘How come?’ They go, ‘You don’t understand? I’m your friend or your wife or your kid. I’m your neighbor, I wanted to—I’d like to hear this news.’ And I go, ‘Oh, sorry. I didn’t know why you would care.’
Adam: So for me, my own family didn’t care, why should you care?
Adam: And, so personally, why didn’t I tell my wife that I got this show picked up on Speed Channel. I don’t know. Why should she care?
Paul: Not used to sharing information with people.
Adam: I never talked to anybody about anything, but not because I’m an ass—
Adam: it’s more like, ‘why would they care?’
Adam: So I sort of have to train myself to be a human being.
Adam: And it’s not to get rid of the negative thoughts, I don’t have negative thoughts. I don’t have positive thoughts. I just have no thoughts. It’s more about, hey, when it’s somebody’s birthday you’re supposed to get them a card and you’re supposed to get them a little gift—
Adam: and there’s something called hugging, and there’s something where you say to someone, ‘Nice job.’
Adam: or ‘I’m glad I know you’, or ‘I love you.’
Adam: are all the things that human beings do. When it’s your anniversary, first off you’re supposed to know what date it is, secondly you’re supposed to get them a card—
Adam: you’re supposed to say ‘I love you’ you’re supposed to take them out to dinner. All the things that is completely—there were no anniversaries, there was no anything.
Adam: It was just—we just got along. We just went along. There was no—so it’s not so much about drowning out the negative, it’s almost about acknowledging the positive and the negative.
Paul: Don’t you think though when your parents ignore you, what they’re basically saying to you is, ‘You don’t really matter that much.’ And don’t you think that that plants a negative seed in you that—
Adam: Yes, in this case, nothing is not zero, it’s negative fifty.
Adam: If that’s what you’re saying. Yeah, it gives you low self esteem obviously. It’s a sort of a math—
Adam: which is, if my own parents don’t give a shit—
Paul: Right, how the fuck is the world ever going to care about me?
Adam: Yeah. How the hell is this chick I’m trying to impress going to care about me, or why should this boss or school teacher or counselor—Yeah. There was a long time in my life where I just did a simple math which is—where if my own mom doesn’t appear to give a shit, why should I ask this guy who I don’t even know for anything. And yeah, I did a lot of therapy, and I probably worked my way back to zero on that.
Paul: Uh huh.
Adam: But I never—I didn’t have a self loathing or a neuroticism, I just had a ‘who cares’—
Paul: Dead. A feeling of deadness.
Adam: Whatever would happen. I would get a football trophy that would say ‘Best Defensive Player-North Hollywood High’ and I’d just take it and throw it somewhere, and it’d just get thrown out or something, like I didn’t have anything.
Paul: So what excited you when you were a kid. Before you became and adult—
Adam: Well I loved sports.
Adam: And I loved sports and mechanical things, you know, go karts, mini bikes and stuff like that, but we didn’t have any money, and nobody had any time or wherewithal or anything like that. The mechanical stuff was sort of something that had to be put on hold for quite some time. And, other than that, it was all athletics. I just—I excelled at football and I loved sports, but it was a sort of a thing where I had to celebrate that alone for the most part. And then I had this situation happen, where I had this horrific shoulder injury playing football, playing Pop Warner football when I was a kid that was just a freakish, dislocation. It was dislocated for four days and I had to have surgery, and it was a real mess. It was a real serious injury. And I was like eleven or something like that, and it was funny because it was the only time—it was the only time my parents ever—it was the only time they ever really parented.
Adam: Like, at a certain point the next year came around to play Pop Warner football, and I said, ‘Oh I’m in.’ and they were like, ‘You can’t play.’ And I said… first off, since when are we having a discussion, it was a weird thing. My parents were sort of even handed in that, look we’re not cooking any meals, and we’re not paying for college. But, we’re not going to be hypocrites and tell you what to do.
Adam: We’re not going to do it both ways. This stranger thing, we’re taking this thing all across the board.
Paul: We’re just really cheap landlords—
Paul: We basically just don’t charge you rent.
Adam: It’s not like, you know, no dinner, no homework, no college, and a curfew.
Adam: No curfew, there’s just no anything.
Paul: They had to know subconsciously, that’s not gonna fly.
Adam: There is a deal you make with your kid—
Adam: where, at a certain point, if you’re not making any pork chops, he ain’t coming in before the street lights come on. And that’s how it worked out.
Adam: So, but I did have a freakishly bad injury, that was potentially, you know—arthritis, and my arm wasn’t going to grow right. It was a freakish bad injury. At a certain point, my parents just said, we’re decent people, said, ‘Oh no, you can’t play Pop Warner football again, because if you injury your shoulder again, you could be disfigured.—
Adam: you could be screwed up for life over this fucking Pop Warner football. You’re eleven.’ And uh, I said, because we had this tacit agreement being—I’m not a son and you’re not a dad and you’re not a mom—I said, ‘Oh I’m playing.’ And they said, ‘You’re absolutely not playing.’ And I said, ‘For sure, I’m playing.’ I mean, I couldn’t sign myself up, but like I’ll bring the paperwork, you sign it. You don’t have to go to any games—
Paul: Yeah. Right.
Adam: you don’t have to drive me to practice, I’ll carpool with the Gallaghers or the Boams, but I’m definitely in this year.
Adam: And they’re like, ‘No you’re not.’ And I said, ‘Well then you don’t have a son. You may have had half a son before—
Adam: you’re going to zero.’ And I didn’t talk to them for about two or three weeks.
Paul: Uh huh.
Adam: Literally wouldn’t answer them. And eventually they just grabbed the paper and they signed it—
Adam: and threw it back at me. And, later in life, people said to me, ‘Why did you play? You had a freakishly bad injury that fucked your shit up, why—did you ever think for a second like ‘hey, I could get fucked up again, why would I play?’’ and I thought, never crossed my mind. And then I thought, ‘Oh my God I was so desperate.’
Adam: My home life was so bankrupt and just so devoid of anything positive and there was no feedback and there was no male figure or anything. I needed that structure so badly. I needed that feeling of walking off the field with my hands raised in victory, or having a teammate slap me on the back of the ass, or some coach tell me, ‘Great job!’ and smack me on the helmet. I needed that so badly, that the idea of not playing, even though I had the freakish injury, never, never for a second—and was willing to just move out at age eleven—
Adam: to play more Pop Warner football.
Paul: Yeah. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left—
Paul: so I just want to ask you a couple things before we wrap this up. If you could talk to somebody out there who’s feeling stuck, through depression, or low self-esteem, or whatever, what would you—what advice would you give them? Because you’re somebody who has really beaten the odds, and uh—
Adam: Yeah, I have. I don’t say that in a self-congratulatory way because you’re not allowed to do that as Carollas, but yes, I should have just been digging ditches. The feeling I have toward my family and in terms of negativity, this is the number one thing where I think, ‘I have a gift, I have ability, I have something to share with the world, and you assholes were going to watch me dig ditches or fucking roof houses in Van Nuys for the rest of my life.’
Adam: Goddamn. That’s what you—you tried. You didn’t burn calories doing it, but you still set me on a course where you took my voice and you basically doused it with sand and said ‘go ahead and get on a roof.’ And I mean, when I said to my dad, ‘I’m digging ditches for a living.’ He said, ‘Yeah, okay. What about it?’ There was never a second where anyone said, ‘Hey man, you got something there. You should write that down. That’s a good one.”
Adam: It was always just, ‘Yeah get on the roof. You’re lucky to have a job.’
Paul: So obviously—so they never found you funny?
Adam: I don’t know.
Adam: It was never discussed.
Paul: That’s just amazing to me.
Adam: I never had a discussion with them about it. I don’t know.
Paul: Well would they laugh when you—because obviously you were—
Paul: people don’t start cracking jokes at twenty, they do it when they’re kids.
Adam: No. They didn’t laugh.
Adam: And no one I knew laughed.
Adam: It was a non-issue.
Adam: When I said ‘I’m gonna start cleaning carpets or digging ditches for a living’ everyone said, ‘Good.’
Paul: Right. Right.
Adam: The advice I would give is, you’re never going to feel the way my buddy Donnie in the next room feels about himself.
Adam: Because, he grew up with a family that—I think they had his first solid BM put in Lucite and his mom still uses it as a paperweight.
Adam: Or it’s hanging from the rearview mirror of her Denali. Either way, you’re just never going to feel the way about yourself that other—I’ll liken it to this. It’s like a car that got… that rolled over a few times—
Adam: and, uh, no matter how much paint and bondo you put on it—
Adam: that door on the passenger side is always going to be a little sticky.
Adam: It’s never going to shut—it’s never going to shut like a car door that never got rolled.
Adam: You’ve been rolled.
Adam: You got t-boned by a drunk driver at some point—
Adam: and that door’s always going to be a little bit sticky. That ain’t a death sentence. The first way to get out of that is, you’re the only one who truly knows what’s going on inside of your head.
Paul: And what makes you happy.
Adam: And what makes you effective.
Adam: The point is, the rest of the world, you show them a winner, you show them an efficient person. You show them a happy person. You show them a person that’s a good employee. You show them a person that’s a good husband or a good father or a good neighbor. You show them that person, they’ll take your word for it. So, first things first, whatever chaos is going on in your head, it can stay in your head. It does not have to be projected onto the rest of the world.
Adam: You can climb the corporate ladder and be CEO of Nabisco, and have all the negative thoughts in your head fucking running, bouncing around like a ball inside a spray can, if you show up to work on time everyday, if you clean the gravy stains off your suit lapel, if you act “as if.” I always talk to Drew about this. Maybe you’re crazy, maybe you’re depressed, maybe you feel like shit inside, act as if you’re successful, act—there’s a certain way where—and eventually, you will become that person. Meaning, okay you have a certain amount of sadness in you, and you have a certain amount of depression, and you have a certain amount of… you fill in the negative blank. Um, get up, and do twenty push-ups every morning. And I know you feel like shit, and I know maybe it’s twice as hard for you to do twenty push-ups as the guy who feels good about himself. But I want twenty push-ups.
Adam: And by the way, tell your biceps and your shoulders you haven’t done twenty push-ups. They don’t listen. They don’t care. You do twenty push-ups, your shoulders will respond the same way a happy, well adjusted, athletic person’s body will adjust.
Paul: Right, right.
Adam: Get up and do it. Just get the fuck up and do it. You feel depressed? Go for a jog. You feel too depressed to go for a jog? Go another mile. Just push your ass off, and start pushing yourself. And, I know it sounds sort of—it’s a little ‘pie in the sky’ and it’s like ‘you don’t understand depression.’ I understand depression. I had many years of physically feeling like I couldn’t get out of bed. Like—
Paul: You ever feel suicidal?
Adam: No, I never felt—again, that would have been burning calories on myself. I didn’t have those kind of calories to burn on myself.
Paul: Just flat. I call it the grey blanket where it just feels like—
Adam: Yeah. If I die, I die. And who cares? And you know, I rode a motorcycle—I would ride my motorcycle with a bald back tire in the rain, and my tool bags around my neck to work—
Adam: and, you know, it was like, look if I get killed, I get killed. If I don’t, I don’t. It was no—I had no worth, and it didn’t matter. And so I would do things that were inherently dangerous, but I didn’t think about them.
Adam: And, I was never like, ‘you don’t deserve to live’ and I was never like, ‘you deserve everything in life’—
Adam: I was just, life’s a bitch and then you die. And I just want to tell anyone who’s listening to this, who doesn’t feel like they deserve anything, act “as if.” Just start physically moving, because the depression brings you down, and it physically atrophies you, and you have trouble getting out of bed. My mom spent the better part of her life, just unable to move. And I will tell you, that once you break through that gillnet that you feel, that wet gillnet of depression that’s on top of you—
Paul: What is a gillnet?
Adam: A gillnet is what dolphins get caught in that are dragged behind Japanese trawlers. It’s easier than pulling them up one fish at a time.
Adam: That net, that’s just hanging over you, well at a certain point, when you become productive, and you start breaking out of that depression and you start accomplishing things in your life, it becomes addictive. And just as addictive as eating the Häagen-Dazs and spending the day in your bathrobe, and beating off twelve times a day, and not picking up the telephone. Just as addictive as that may have felt at a certain time, well then writing a book and working on an independent movie and working on podcast and an idea for an invention and a—whatever it is, whatever your thing is, will become equally as addicting. And you will start taking on life in the exact opposite direction that you’re going now. But the first part is just—you have to beat yourself up because people beat you up coming up. Meaning, you need to kick your own ass. You need to go to your own—you need to create your own boot camp, which is get your ass out of bed, and start moving.
Adam: Pick it up, don’t look at it, don’t think about it. For me it started always with the coffee mug that would be rattling around the passenger floor of my truck.
Adam: I’d stare at it, ‘pick it up.’
Paul: ‘I can’t possible pick that up.’
Adam: ‘I’ll get it tomorrow. No get it now. You know what, it can stay till tomorrow. Yeah but then you’ll bring another mug in there and it’s gonna clank around and the handle’s gonna break.’ And I realized, I just spent twenty minutes sitting in my—
Adam: Don’t spend twenty minutes staring at the mug—
Paul: Just do it.
Adam: go get it. And eventually, you’ll just be that person that grabs the mug and brings it into the kitchen. Maybe you’re insane, maybe you’re lazy, maybe you’re depressed, but you know what? The mug’s in the sink.
Paul: Yeah. Well, that’s great advice. And I also think talking to people about what’s going inside you is a huge help too. Thank you so much for—
Paul: taking time out of your schedule to talk about this stuff with me and hopefully we’ll uh—there’s a bunch of questions that I didn’t get to—
Adam: Well, we’ll do a part two.
Paul: We’ll do a part two. But thank you so much for being my guest. And if you’re out there and you’re feeling like nobody understands you, you’re wrong. Because there is help and you are not alone.
Adam: I think there’s more people that understand you than don’t. And the ones that seem like they’re the furthest away from understanding you—
Adam: probably were deeper into it than you are at some point.
Paul: That’s probably true, that’s probably true. Thanks a lot Adam.
Adam: Sure Paul.
Paul: And don’t forget to go to the website mentalpod.com, you can also type in mentalillnesshappyhour.com but you might get writer’s cramp. So, go check it out, read the message board, post, ask questions, answer questions, take a survey, get crazy. Or just stare at the wall with your jaw open.