'That's the Ultimate Race, Poor People': In Praise of Adam Carolla's Brutal Honesty

As far as I know, Loveline was never broadcast in Canada. Or maybe I just didn’t stay up late enough to hear the fondly remembered sex-and-drugs (and rock & roll) advice show co-hosted by Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla.


(We had our own late-night call-in show called Sex with Sue, which, being Canadian, wasn’t as exciting as it sounds because “Sue” was an earnest, erudite elderly lady who looked like the school librarian, if the school librarian had barely survived a three-alarm blaze.)

So I first heard about Adam Carolla when Dennis Miller had him on his show to talk about Carolla’s first book, In Fifty Years, We’ll All Be Chicks:… And Other Complaints From An Angry Middle-Aged White Guy.

Despite my advanced age and previous ignorance regarding everything “Aceman,” after reading that hilarious, ingenious, politically incorrect book, I turned into what stand up comedian Marc Maron dismissively refers to as a “Carolla-tard.”

(How serious an affliction is that, you ask? “Superfan Giovanni” supplies the farthest-gone with six-hour long — that’s not a typo — bootleg compilations of old Lovelines. Some messengers on the CarollaBoards have been “getting it on” since 2003. Fans set their phones to “ring” with “It’s just a waste of my time,” hoping to aurally locate each other, bat-fashion, in airport lounges.)

Carolla, "The Weez" and the legendary Ray circa 1984

Carolla’s hotly-anticipated follow up book, Not Taco Bell Material, is his second New York Times bestseller.

Here, he tells more R-rated stories of his rags-to-riches life, this time arranged thematically around the many homes he’s lived in, from the borderline hovels of his white-trash North Hollywood childhood to the million-dollar mansions he built himself (literally — he’s a former carpenter) after he made the showbiz big time.


While reading my (pre-ordered, of course!) Not Taco Bell Material in hardcover, I half wished I’d purchased the audiobook. Hearing these stories in Carolla’s own “nasally drone” adds to the experience.

That’s really my only gripe. Like his previous book, Carolla’s new one is a refreshing, old-fashioned Valentine to the rewards of hard work and discipline.

With some fist fighting & fart-lighting thrown in.

Carolla and family today (photo: Aaron Farley)

Carolla’s parents were divorced. His mom was such a hippie, she majored in “Chicano Studies,” even though she was white.

Too lazy to buy a Christmas tree or even give Adam a middle name, she went on welfare and never went off, to the disgust of her ambitious if aimless son.

In case that “Chicano Studies” bit didn’t tip you off, Carolla was born in the ’60s and raised in the ’70s. We’re both Gen-Xers who never thought we’d miss the “Me Decade” — with its avocado green kitchen appliances, gasoline shortages and 13 TV channels — until we grew up and were forced to live in the bike-helmet, peanut-allergy, illegal-lemonade-stand alternative.

Fans will be pleased to learn that all their favorite “Aceman” stories are in Not Taco Bell Material: “The Pretty in Pink After-Party,” “The Custom Closet,” and “Sleeping on the Beach in Tijuana.”


However, the story below is new to me.

I suspect that, whether readers are “Carolla-tards” or the utterly uninitiated, it may be the one that haunts them.

Before hitting his stride in comedy, Carolla worked plenty of jobs: ditch digging, boxing instructor, “comedy traffic school” instructor (?), carpet cleaning and a uniquely Californian gig: earthquake rehab. That is, reinforcing shabby public housing so it won’t collapse the next time that old San Andreas Fault acts up.

Recently, Carolla ran into a fellow he’d worked with on earthquake rehab jobs. He writes:

He didn’t remember me being there but said, “I remember that job. I did it in between courses in college during summer.”

I said, “You know how I remember who you are? I gave you your first tool bag [that is, a construction worker’s tool belt.]” (…)

After a little reminiscing he said, “You were friends with Jeff, the racist guy, were you?”

I said, “I knew Jeff. He was a nice guy. I didn’t know he was a racist.”

I should clarify at this point in the story that Chipper is a black guy.

So I asked him why he thought Jeff was a racist, and he said they had a couple of issues on the site and that Jeff had it in for him.

I asked Chipper if he knew Jeff’s backstory. All he knew was that Jeff was a racist and was obsessed with becoming a fireman.

So I told him what I knew.

Jeff was a big, strapping white dude from Topanga Canyon whose lifelong dream was to fight fires. (…)

So Jeff had this placeholder [construction] job for eight years while preparing to be a fireman. Why?

Because of affirmative action. He went in for the fireman job and there was an eight-year waiting list.

Here’s where it gets uncomfortable.

I asked Chipper, “How did you get the job?”

He said, “I just showed up, the boss liked me and hired me.”

I said, “No offense, Chipper, but you didn’t even have bags when you showed up at the site. And when I gave you mine, you threaded a dress belt through it.”

This was earthquake rehab for the city, a government job, so there was affirmative action. We needed a certain number of black guys, a certain number of chicks, a certain number of Hispanics, et cetera.

They didn’t advertise it as affirmative action, but that’s what it was.



This was dangerous. We weren’t installing closets in a condo, this was earthquake rehab. We had to hang on the sides of buildings and cut steel.

Yet we ended up with Chipper, the world’s least experienced carpenter, who probably could have lost an arm building an Ikea end table.

Chipper never knew why Jeff hated him so much: He stood for everything that was in the way of Jeff and his dreams. This was the biggest payday of our lives, nineteen bucks an hour for carpenters, twenty-one if you were a laborer. (…)

Jeff finally got this bump-up and had to work next to a guy who’d never picked up a hammer and only got the gig because of his skin color.

[Jeff] was just as poor and disadvanted and came from as broken a home as any of the black guys who got a leg up because of affirmative action.

That’s the ultimate race, poor people.

Chipper is now a lawyer and probably doing quite well for himself but spent twenty years plus walking around thinking Jeff was a racist and not knowing he got on the job site because of affirmative action.

I don’t know what happened to Jeff.

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