Daniel Schechter is an indie filmmaker living in New York City. His micro-budget feature Supporting Characters is now available on iTunes and Netflix and his latest film, Life of Crime starring Jennifer Aniston, will be released on August 29th, 2014.
I’m sick of it. I’m sick and tired of that goddamn look I get whenever I tell someone I’m a massive Adam Carolla fan.
I presume their false impression is like mine was originally: He’s The Man Show guy, he’s a shock jock and a misogynistic, low-brow D-lister.
To be honest, I wasn’t at all a fan before I started listening to his podcast religiously about four years ago and found Carolla to be easily one of the most underrated and prolific thinkers, comedians and businessmen alive today. He’s an expert on carpentry, cars, music, sports, comedy and, above all else, human nature and psychology. His mind is simply remarkable. If you think I’m exaggerating or I’m wrong: fuck you, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
By the way, here’s what Adam Carolla’s 2014 looked like… He wrote and released his third New York Times best-selling book, President Me. He directed a feature-length documentary about Paul Newman. He produced and starred in the second season of his Spike TV series, Catch a Contractor (which just got picked up for season 3). He expanded his personal liquor brand, Mangria (now available in 26 states). He hosted The Adam Carolla Show, the world’s most downloaded podcast ever. He ran Carolla Digital, which hosts a bunch of other major podcasts. He toured the entire country, doing about 100 live shows. He crowdfunded, co-wrote, co-directed and starred in his second independent feature film, Road Hard. Even for most successful people, that’s not a year, that’s a decade.
Last year while promoting my last film, Life of Crime, I got to appear on Carolla’s podcast. It was the only bit of press I specifically fought to do, just so I could meet the guy and his two amazing co-hosts (“Bald Bryan” Bishop and Alison Rosen, who I felt were friends that I had never met). I knew, as a frequent listener, that I probably wouldn’t have jumped to check out the episode if it’d only had my name on it, so I asked the nicest human being I know, Will Forte, to come on the show with me. You can hear Will and me at about the 50-minute mark of the episode. (By the way, if you’re not watching Will Forte’s new Fox series, The Last Man on Earth, you’re missing the ballsiest, most innovative and funniest show network TV has ever had the stones to make. From the directors of The Lego Movie!)
As I tend to do, I arrived early to the taping and parked outside Adam’s studio/warehouse in Glendale, California. Then, as if in slow motion, I watched him as he drove up in his Jaguar (he was coming directly from a Catch a Contractor shoot in Pasadena), walked directly into the recording studio, put on his headphones and jumped right into the recording. His crew and co-hosts were standing by, so as not to waste any of his time.
I didn’t necessarily make the greatest face-to-face impression with Carolla (as I had often rehearsed in the car and shower), but he did not disappoint. Watching him rant in person, while holding engaged eye contact with either me or Forte, was thrilling and even more impressive in person. Afterwards, he left too quickly for me to get to say what I had hoped to say to him privately. So I stuck around and I wrote him a sincere hand-written letter and left it on his desk.
The final line read: “The truth is, I would’ve never made it onto your podcast if I didn’t listen to your podcast. So thank you.” What did I mean by that? Well, since I love lists, let me list for you a handful of the many great lessons I’ve learned as a fan of Mr. Adam Carolla:
You Are Not Lucky: Adam loves to tell his seven-year-old twins that they should not consider themselves lucky when it comes to business. In the many times I have heard Adam discuss his two un-picked up sitcom pilots, he seems clear on two things: 1) His was easily better than the half-dozen the network did go with that season, that were quickly cancelled; and 2) his pilot was not perfect, and therefore he couldn’t depend on good luck to go his way to get the show on the air. I think about this endlessly in relation to my own work. I think we can feel true bitterness about our failures only after we’ve done everything in our power to assure their success. Another way to put it: Don’t expect anyone to see your “potential” when you get a real shot.
Make More Eggs: Adam estimates that for every one project he has going (film, podcast, book, TV series, etc.) he has probably nine others that failed or died in the womb. In a particularly fun example for film nerds, listen to this anecdote about working with Kevin Smith to make an unproduced TV series that turned into an entertainingly bitter feud. This overall philosophy here is not particularly original, but it is true: “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket, diversify your shit, basically, and don’t be discouraged by failure.” Sounds easy, but I’m only just starting to do that now, at 33.
Most People Don’t Have Follow-Through: A recent story I keep thinking about is Carolla discussing his “funny friends” and his early radio days. They would ask to come on Adam’s radio show (a hard-earned job Carolla won through persistence, starting out at the bottom) and Carolla would quickly agree, saying, “Great, write 10 bits, let’s sit down and discuss the ideas.” He said none of them ever followed through. When it came to getting laid, those guys were all follow-through, but when it came to their career goals they were a no-show. I think about this all the time, as well. While Carolla is truly one of the most naturally talented human beings I’ve ever seen, I believe it’s his incredible work ethic that has led to his success.
Float Your Own Pirate Ship: When his KLSX morning radio show was cancelled in 2009, Adam went off and started his own private business. A podcast where he had no one to answer to, he didn’t have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and he could connect to any audience, anywhere in the world, at any time. Two years later, The Adam Carolla Show surpassed The Ricky Gervais Show in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most downloaded podcast in history and continues to be the top-ranked comedy podcast in the world.
Most recently, I think this philosophy manifests itself in the making of Road Hard, his latest narrative feature (which he co-wrote and directed with frequent collaborator Kevin Hench). In case I’m the only Adam Carolla fan you currently know, it might surprise you to learn that he crowdfunded about $500,000 more than his $1 million budget to get the semi-autobiographical movie produced, and that’s the film I’m (sorta) talking about today.
According to Rottentomatoes.com, Road Hard (rated at 50% among critics) didn’t fare as well as Carolla’s previous film, the underrated and very funny romantic comedy, The Hammer (80%), and that’s roughly where I’d also rank the two, if I’m being honest… but I love Carolla, so I enjoyed the film and recommend it.
But what I love to take away from Adam’s work and work ethic is this: If the “business” tells Carolla they don’t think he’s a movie star, he’ll go make his own damn movie in the middle of the busiest year of his career. And that’s just what he did.
When I was younger, it seemed like these people won lottery tickets. They were “selected,” or else, “once you’re in, you’re in.” Now I see that every victory is so hard-fought. Every film, every success story is a miracle, whether it’s any good or not. Nothing guarantees you the next job, and it’s often up to you to create it.
So work hard. And when you take your next break: Road Hard.