i have abandoned the sunken pirate ship

A pirate ship, no longer.
First off, I have to admit that some part of the reason for my dropping the Adam Carolla Podcast from my podcast listening may have to do with my own feelings of underachievement, but I'll touch on that later.

Adam Carolla is funny. He's got a sharp, quick wit. He might even be the best comic improvisor there is today. Might. I don't know. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, but I liked his show. He made me laugh and got me to consider his worldview, even if I didn't always agree. And I've tried my best to not just listen to people with whom I always agree. Listening to opinions not in line with my own is a good thing. It helps me understand others and I might even discover I'm wrong and change my mind.

So, I had been listening to Carolla's podcast almost from the beginning, seven or eight years ago. This is the world of podcasting. A world that doesn't need to conform to the same rules as regular over the air broadcast radio. Swearing and cursing is allowed. Edgy talk is encouraged. The old boundaries of talk radio can be and are pushed as far as the creators of content want to push. And Carolla pushed.

He had no program director breathing down his neck. No one telling him to give the time more often, to kick through the phone calls faster, to stop having Zach Galifianakis and Joel McHale on so many times. He could espouse his views on politics, parenting, poverty, social issues, sex, racism, anything he wanted. All the while he could drop f-bombs and s-bombs and c-bombs and any other word bombs he wanted to use.

And do you know what he said made that possible?

Carolla would say it was because he built a "pirate ship". His podcast was his pirate ship. It was his podcast. He paid for everything. He was the master. The captain of his very own pirate ship. He didn't have to answer to anyone.

And it was great.

Then came the sponsors.

Now, I suppose we listeners can't expect Adam to not try to monetize his show. Of course, there would be sponsors. Small ones at first, with only minor interruptions of the show. But as time went on the number of sponsors increased. As did the size of the sponsoring businesses. As did the number of interruptions of the show to "give a little love" to the sponsors.  And with Adam Carolla you can't just fast forward through his live reads of the ads, because he might go off on a interesting tangent. So, I would listen to him do the ads because I didn't want to miss anything.

As a skeptic, I give advertising a very critical eye and ear. Carolla would have some sponsors making dubious claims. There was a multilevel marketing outfit. There was the company flogging some brain training game. Yeah, it trains your brain to play the game. There were snake oil products. It doesn't seem to matter to Carolla. It seems his vetting process for sponsors boils down to whether or not their checks clear.

And as a regular listener I would catch some of Adam's intellectual inconsistencies when it came to his sponsors. He would often tell his listeners to not use Chapstick or any other lip balm. That stuff just gets you addicted to it and your lips don't need it. Well, except when he had a sponsor selling a line of skin moisturizing products. Adam would say that his lips would get dry overnight due to his sleeping with a fan on, so he put some of that sponsor's product on his lips when he went to bed. Oh, really?

Later, after that sponsor stopped advertising on the show, Adam went back to complaining about people using Chapstick. See what I mean?

In March of this year, Adam Carolla announced the pirate ship had sunk. Well, he didn't say that exactly, but that's how I'm taking it.

He talked about wanting to get big money sponsors, but his foul mouth might scare the big money away. He had done terrestrial radio and he had to watch his language and he was still entertaining. So, he decided he would to not swear on Wednesdays and Fridays to appease the big sponsors. Not censoring exactly, but hardly a pirate ship if Adam allows sponsors to influence the presentation of content.

How will this work? Big sponsors on those days only? Will the swearing days stay that way or will big money want five "clean" shows a week? Will this compromise go no further than curtailing swearing? This might just be the thin edge of the wedge cutting into the Adam Carolla Podcast.

Whatever it is, I consider the pirate ship to have sunk.

But that's not why I've stopped listening to the show. I haven't even mentioned some of the other things bothering me about the podcast: The unceremonious firing of Alison Rosen, the multiple visits from the salesman of a premature ejaculation snake oil product (in which Carolla had invested), the turn to weight-loss talk. For Pete's sake, Adam! Dieting advice? You know, I didn't watch Oprah and I don't watch Dr. Oz in large part because I don't give a god damn about bullshit weight-loss advice!

All those complaints I had were stacking up, but still I listened. That is until the last straw happened this week.

Carolla is a rich guy. He's talented and ambitious. He's had some lucky breaks in his life and he used those breaks to their fullest extent. He worked hard to get where he is and works hard to stay there.

I don't begrudge him his wealth and fame. I know he came from a sad and poor beginning. He is an example of how the poor don't have to stay poor in this country. They can better their lives through hard work. I mean, right?

What got me was Carolla's misdirected shaming. When he gets on a caller to his show for being lazy and unambitious, he uses a bit of shaming on them. Most of the time I think it's a good bit of tough love, a kick in the behind to maybe get that caller off their lazy ass. That may be part of my own situation that I see reflected in Carolla's shaming.

I work three jobs (one full time, two part time), I write two weekly blogs, I do a weekly internet radio show. Only the jobs pay. And not much at that. The other things are hobbies. And having a wife who is a stay at home mom and a son, things get pretty tight money wise. So, maybe I'm feeling the shame of not doing better. After all, Carolla is only a few months older than me and look how well he's doing.

But I mentioned it was his misdirected shaming.

Carolla has a rant he'll pull out occasionally on his show. It involves him imagining he's taking his kids to a Home Depot and grilling the 73 year-old greeter as to what went wrong. There could be no other explanation other than the greeter was some kind of loser who just didn't do well in life, obviously because they didn't work hard enough.

That bothers me.

And this week, a person Adam called for a bit on the show got the shaming. This fellow was 63 and he was selling some shoetrees on craigslist. Carolla was curious about that, it's part of the bit. It turns out the fellow shines shoes for a living and he was selling some things for a few extra bucks. Shining shoes doesn't pay great.

That's when Adam asked it. "Can I bring my kids to your shoe shine place and have you tell them what went wrong?"

That was it. This guy worked for a living. He wasn't living off his parents or undeserved disability. He worked. Why are you shaming him, Carolla?!

This blog has already gone on pretty long, but indulge my fantasy if you will...

Adam Carolla and his kids walk into a Home Depot, they're greeted by a cheerful 73 year-old man. Adam stops and asks the man, "What went wrong? Why are you, at your age, working here as a greeter for minimum wage? Could you explain to my kids what happened, so they'll understand they need to do better in life?"

Greeter: "What went wrong? Well, kids, three years ago I retired after 52 years of working at the architects firm I helped get started. I worked a lot of hours there, but I was able to put my three kids through college. They all have families of their own now. In fact, I have seven grandkids!"

"After being retired for a year or so, I thought it would be nice to get a little part time job in a hardware store. I always wanted to work in a hardware store. It's just a little something to get me out of the house and help people get the things they need to work on their own homes. I really enjoy my time here greeting people."

"What went wrong? Well, I guess what went wrong was you youngsters were born to a rich asshole who thinks that if someone doesn't appear to be successful, it's because they're losers and they don't work hard enough. I may not need this job, but what your father forgets is that life happens to people, even if they work hard everyday. And they might need to work even when they're older."

"Oh, and good luck pleasing your old man if you aren't as successful as he thinks you should be. He's going to be very difficult to please."

Adam Carolla doesn't know who I am and he won't care if I quit listening. But I'm just done.

Now, if only Gilbert Gottfried would make his podcast a daily one.

Updated 6-6-16: I made three edits. One to explain that Carolla believes Home Depot greeters didn't do well in life because they didn't work hard enough.

The second was to clarify that Adam Carolla doesn't actually go to the Home Depot with his kids and shame greeters. What he does on his podcast is a thought experiment speculating as to why anyone would be doing such work later in life.

The third was to make the greeter's announcement of having seven grandkids less awkward.

Oh, and for you math pedants figuring the greeter helped start an architect firm at age 18 would be awfully young, he was a child prodigy who graduated college at age 15. He's just too humble to brag about to Adam's kids.              

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