I’ve been fortunate enough to see both Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla when they’ve appeared live in Toronto. When I heard they’d be taking the stage together for one night in California, I could only envy the folks who’d get to attend.
For the rest of us who couldn’t make it, Carolla’s team has put out an audio recording of their February 25 shows. (After the initial 8pm event sold out, they added a second for 10:30.)
Pairing up these two broadcasters for a “between two ferns” evening of “wit and wisdom” seems counterintuitive only if you’ve never listened to either of them at great length.
Superficially, Carolla and Prager couldn’t be more different.
West coast atheist Carolla grew up in an atmosphere of semi-benign neglect by a welfare mom and a passel of “step” relatives; he cared more about football & partying than grades, and barely finished high school; and at the age of thirty, he muscled his way into showbiz (The Man Show, Loveline and now the world’s most downloaded podcast) via the unlikely route of boxing and construction work. (Carolla relates the long, familiar and still entertaining tale during the show, prompting Prager to remark, “After hearing that story, if anybody should not be an atheist, it should be you.”)
Prager, a native New Yorker, intellectual, 0ne-time yeshiva student who has traveled the world, speaks a dozen languages, hails from an intact and loving Jewish family — and, as Carolla likes to say, “is practically a rabbi.”
Yet as Prager realized when they first chatted together on each other’s shows last year, these two men share many of the same values: patriotism, family, capitalism, and freedom.
Proving that great minds think alike, they teamed up for an “evening with” event on February 25.
Radio creates a one-of-a-kind intimacy between host and listener, so both men have cultivated profoundly loyal, if dramatically different, fan bases. It’s fun to picture elderly Jewish ladies shuffling past tattooed frat boys in the lobby of the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Fans from both camps came from as far away as Arizona and Hawaii to see and hear their heroes.
As an example of the fond relationship fans have with Carolla: When he mentioned his Guatemalan nanny, you can hear someone say, “Olga!” (In Toronto, a photo of his step-grandfather flashed on the screen and half the audience bellowed the old guy’s nickname, “Lotzi.”)
Likewise, Prager’s listeners came to know his parents, Max and Hilda, over the years. Listeners looked forward to his mother’s annual appearance on the show, and they expressed their grief when she passed away. Meanwhile, the saga of Prager and his unlikely one-time fan Luke Ford is an object lesson in fandom gone horribly wrong.
Perhaps because of that very loyalty, I detected a little friction between the “teams” during question periods.
Some atheists in the audience responded sourly to Prager’s positive comments about religion. A believer directed a cranky, corny “Hitler vs Mother Theresa” question to Carolla, and an atheist did something similar to Prager.
Overall, though, the audience expressed appreciation and enthusiasm. And why not? Carolla and Prager brought out the best of each other, during a wide ranging conversation about marriage, history, work, happiness, parents, the death penalty, pornography, welfare, the afterlife — not to mention Little League and Jewish food.
Carolla’s jokes inspired Prager to make some of his own, while Prager pushed Carolla to get serious.
Carolla fans who miss his extraordinary chemistry with Loveline‘s Dr. Drew will appreciate his rapport with Prager.
(And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, spend a few hours enjoying pirated “best of” Loveline recordings compiled by “Superfan Giovanni” to see why these two equally unlikely partners deserve a spot in the Radio Hall of Fame. But a warning: these old shows can be addictive.)
We learn that Prager’s wife can only fall asleep if what he calls “the Hitler Channel” is on in the background. Carolla compares Israel to the roommate who just wants to study but shares a house with five berserk meth-heads.
At the end of the second show, a fan addressed Prager, and spoke for many in the audience:
In the first show, you were saying you were gonna work on Adam, and get him from being an atheist to an agnostic and hopefully at one point, have a belief.
It’s something I’m gonna hope that you do, as a believer, because hearing you guys talk, believing in heaven, I want you guys there. Because I would love to sit and watch this for eternity. That would be heaven for me.
(An Evening with Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager is a 2.5 hour audio recording, available from AdamCarolla.com)