His is a career predicated on desperation more than aspiration.
At least at first.
This was back when Adam Carolla was making a living -- albeit barely -- by removing stains from upholstery.
The plan was to become a pro athlete -- a football player, maybe a boxer.
But then his DNA went and got in the way.
"I was slowish and not too big, but because I played so many years of Pop Warner football, I was a very good football player even though I had no real tools," Carolla recalls. "So, I just put all my eggs into the athletic basket, 'I'm gonna focus like I'm going to the NFL,' even though, clearly, I was never going to the NFL. I didn't study. I didn't do anything. I just worked on sports. And, of course, as soon as high school was over and sports was over, there was no plan B. Plan B was that I started cleaning carpets."
So, how did he get here, to today, where he's selling out concert halls and theaters on his current tour, "Adam Carolla Hates the Holidays," a mix of stand-up, storytelling and visual aids that Carolla describes as a "comical Power Point presentation"?
By approaching comedy the same way he did sports.
"Athletics is a business where you work for free," Carolla says. "I played 11 years of organized football, probably seven, eight years of baseball and a lot of years of boxing, and I never made a penny. Not one penny. So, are you willing to do pushups and chin-ups and run laps and not get paid? That's kind of what show business is. Are you willing to wait in line, do open mics, take classes, train, do improv troupes? Are you willing to do a ton of stuff with the possibility of never getting paid?"
There was a humility to be taken away from it all, and that's what still sticks with Carolla years later.
"I learned how to be tough," he says of playing sports. "I learned that when some guy would yell at you, 'It's not good enough, do it again,' I wouldn't be like, 'Why are you ridin' me, Pops? What's up? My dad's a lawyer, man, I'll sue you.' You just do it again. It's humbling. It really is."
Carolla got used to the grind of competition, of working toward far-off goals, which he'd translate to building a career in comedy.
He'd get his first significant break in 1995, when he became the co-host of syndicated radio advice show "Loveline," which would eventually lead to a slot on "The Man Show," his own full-time radio gig, movies, books and the Adam Carolla podcast, which the Guinness Book of World Records named the "World's Most Downloaded Podcast" this past spring.
Carolla has won himself a large, dedicated following with a no-nonsense, everyman approach to comedy. He's the kind of guy who lots of dudes want to have a beer with, and with whom lots of dudes probably have, the guy on the construction site cracking the jokes that take the edge off the day.
What makes Carolla different from many of his peers practicing a similar strain of blue-collar comedy is that he's actually been there, he's dug ditches and roofed houses to pay the rent, and so he doesn't have to try to relate to us working stiffs.
That's just who he is.
And he's well aware of the fact that his life could have turned out differently.
"If my dad had had a successful stucco company and he wanted to make me a crew leader and then eventually move me into wearing Dockers and going out and giving estimates and driving a company truck, I would have done that the rest of my life," he says. "But I had nothing to do. I had nothing to fall back on. And I just realized that the construction stuff is sporadic and dangerous and dirty and it doesn't pay well. Comedy would be a really cool thing to do, and I was broke and uninsured. It was either give comedy a try or sort of languish."
It took awhile, but Carolla eventually made it happen, and these days, life is good.
So why then, does he hate the holidays?
"They started off OK," Carolla says. "My family was sort of semi together and intact and trying to be normal and all that stuff. Then there was divorce and welfare and food stamps and things just kind of got splintered and fell apart. Then, at a certain point, I just started saying, 'Look, everyone's poor and you're giving away crappy presents and I want stuff.'
"By the time I was 8, everyone just gave me money," he continues. "My dad was good for 20 bucks and my mom was good for 20 bucks and my stepdad was good for 10 bucks and my grandparents were good for 10 bucks. Then the day after Christmas, I would just go shopping and go get what I wanted."
So, in a roundabout way, things would have a happy ending, right?
And the same could be said of the career that would follow.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.