I first saw Adam Carolla, as many of us probably did, back when he was the irritatingly bombastic sidekick of Dr. Drew on MTV’s LoveLine, and the only purpose he served seemed to be to interrupt any discussion that verged on becoming interesting or genuinely informative. He had the personality of a two-bit morning show radio host (which is maybe where they drudged him up; I don’t know), and his ubiquitous references to his own compulsive masturbation and his perpetually itchy ass made the show truly unwatchable. I’m not a squeamish or easily offended girl, and, to be honest, I find sex and toilet humor funny to a degree that I probably ought to be more embarrassed to admit than I actually am. But, like anything, there’s good lowbrow and bad lowbrow—and I love good lowbrow. When it’s well-done, lowbrow humor can just be relentlessly funny (Dumb and Dumber), and the truth about good lowbrow is that there’s a sweetness to it, a fondness for its foils. (Good highbrow, especially a well-crafted black comedy, conversely, often depends on the absence of such sweetness.) Adam Carolla is the worst kind of lowbrow humorist (a term I must use loosely here)—one whose nasty insults and infantile jokes are infused with no love whatsoever for their targets. But, too unsophisticated a comedian to discern that good highbrow substitutes apathy for the sympathy of good lowbrow, Carolla has instead substituted contempt.
Another lesson Carolla has failed to learn, and understandably so, cloistered in the bizarre world of The Man Show for years, is that being a post-feminist man isn’t especially impressive. On his new show, he ends a riff about fat girls with a grin that clearly anticipates a big reaction from the audience, and instead receives scattered chuckles. His material on gays and Jews is met with similarly unenthusiastic responses. Part of it is his terrible delivery, but the biggest problem is that it’s just not funny.
In front of an audience stacked with men who would hoot and holler about anything that degrades women and gays, simply pointing out women are so womany or that gays are so gay, was plenty to elicit a laugh. But that wasn’t comedy—the post-feminist man is a ruse; The Man Show is no more than a last-gasp outlet for pre-feminists, men clinging to a time of undeserved primacy that is slipping away, to flex and flaunt their quickly waning cultural superiority before it slips away into the ether, and they’re left (the horror!) equal to the rest of us. Carolla seems to think we haven’t cottoned on. Or maybe he hasn't.
The result is that he comes across as a boor and a jerk, and worse than that, painfully unfunny—a state of affairs accentuated by Comedy Central’s strange decision to air his disastrous new show directly after The Daily Show, whose host, the inimitably charming and likeable Jon Stewart, can effortlessly move between low- and highbrow, and rarely hits a bad note. Stewart can project either the intrinsic nice guy-ness or aloof detachment required by either end of the spectrum, leaving him able to serve as the centerpiece of a show that makes fun of everyone and everything (even fat girls and gays and Jews—and when they do, it’s funny, because they know how to do it well). The juxtaposition of the two men leaves Carolla looking like a mean-spirited amateur.
Mr. Shakes, who will never be accused of being politically correct, finds him utterly unbearable, and especially can’t stand to listen to him talk about women, because, as Mr. S. astutely noted, “He hates them.”
And that’s the problem with Carolla’s whole show. It doesn’t matter about what or whom he’s talking—he holds his subjects in such low regard that anything he says about them seems altogether devoid of the affection required for good lowbrow. And as he sits with his desperate grin plastered on his face, clearly wanting to be liked as he embarks on a new show that is wholly his own, I can find as little fondness for him as he finds for his marks.
I really hope Comedy Central ditches the mess he’s made and gets busy getting the Colbert Report on the air ASAP instead.