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Adam Carolla on pitching Netflix, HBO: Independent thinkers need not apply

Satirist takes new series, "Truth Yeller," to Daily Wire, as conservative platforms are the only ones "who will have you" if you deviate from approved narratives.

Published: December 10, 2021 1:34pm

Updated: December 11, 2021 10:49pm

Adam Carolla didn't bother pitching platforms like Netflix and HBO on his "Truth Yeller" comedy concept.

Been there, been insulted by that.

Instead, the podcaster took his project to The Daily Wire, the conservative news site moving into the entertainment realm. "Adam Carolla: Truth Yeller" marries traditional stand-up with a round of raw improv, aided by familiar faces like Jay Leno and comic actor Rob Riggle.

The limited series isn't overly political, nor is Carolla a rock-ribbed conservative. He's more libertarian in his impulses, and he won't pledge allegiance to either side of the aisle. He just knew The Daily Wire would consider his pitch at face value, something he no longer trusted Netflix or HBO to do.

He calls it a "self-fulfilling prophecy."

"You show up on the right-wing networks because they're the only people who will have you if you're an independent thinker," he says, noting how his podcast partners Dr. Drew Pinsky ("The Adam and Dr. Drew Show") and criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos ("Reasonable Doubt") once appeared regularly on mainstream outlets.

"They were the darlings of CNN until they started speaking their minds," he says. "Now, they show up on 'Gutfeld.'" Hosted by the irreverent Greg Gutfeld, the eponymous show is Fox News' answer to late night TV.

"Why bring people on to express opinions if they have to be so carefully vetted?" asks Carolla. His own view that the Jan. 6 chaos at the U.S. Capitol was more riot than planned insurrection would prevent him from appearing on many shows, he suspects.

"Tucker Carlson [of Fox News] will let you say that, but CNN won't because it goes against what they've decided," he says.

Carolla previously shopped his 2019 stand-up comedy special, "Not Taco Bell Material," to Netflix, home to dozens of similar specials, only to be abruptly rejected. Carolla says the streaming giant's representative watched 11 minutes of it and passed.

He similarly brought his racing documentaries to HBO. Think well-regarded films like "Uppity," the story of how black race car driver Willy T. Ribbs shattered the sport's race barriers, and "Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman."

The cable giant demurred.

"They were sort of insulting about it," he says of the reception he received on both fronts. "I don't think there's a place for me there anymore."

Carolla says his willingness to engage with conservatives, and strong stance against woke culture, puts big platforms out of reach for him.

Just the News reached out to Netflix and HBO for comment but did not hear back from either company.

"Adam Carolla: Truth Yeller," available exclusively to Daily Wire subscribers, permits Carolla and guest comics like Leno and T.J. Miller to let loose without a cultural net. 

"We just kind of said, 'Go have fun, say what you want, and let's see if we can make a few people laugh,'" Carolla says. "I've been in places where people say, 'Don't say this. Don't look at this. Don't touch David Letterman when you go out there.'"

Carolla offers a less constricted setting for unrehearsed moments to bloom.

"You have a better of chance of being funny if you feel relaxed out there," he says.

Carolla — like fellow comedians Ricky Gervais, John Cleese and Dave Chappelle — refuses to follow the new "woke" guidelines regarding humor. Others, like podcaster Marc Maron, say comedians have a responsibility to behave better and deserve what they get if they cross certain lines. 

"You can say whatever you want," Maron said during a Nov. 11 "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast. "You just have to shoulder what comes back at you, what you reap after you've slung your garbage."

Carolla disputes that rationale.

"You can say whatever you want ... you do see what comes back at you … a lot of people get removed from their jobs," he says, from high-profile entertainers like ex-"Bachelor" host Chris Harrison to regular Joes and Janes who lose their blue-collar gigs for saying the "wrong" things, Carolla notes. 

Maron's line of thinking, he argues, isn't "intellectually honest."

Carolla's cancel culture fight isn't new. In 2019, he co-starred in "No Safe Spaces," a docudrama capturing the attacks on free speech happening on college campuses nationwide. The prescient film found Carolla arguing for more voices, not less, an argument that flies in the face of Big Tech suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop scandal and reports that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan lab leak.

Carolla senses the cultural sands are shifting as a result of rising tides of censorship and fear. He compares it to the culture's approach to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Many Americans once viewed the group's mission favorably, or at least understood the motivations behind it.

"Now, it's, 'What do those whack jobs want this time?'" he says.

The Daily Wire's entertainment push happened, in part, because conservatives felt mainstream Hollywood discriminated against them. It's similar to the rationale for right-leaning social media platforms like GETTR, a response to those who say Twitter hushes some right-leaning voices while letting progressives say what they wish.

Carolla suggests a cultural reversal may happen sooner than later, partly on pragmatic grounds.

"Whether you're doing news or commentary, or opening a restaurant, why cut off half the country?" he wonders. "It doesn't seem like a great business model," he says, even though some organizations are "doubling down" on that strategy.

Carolla, 57, sensed his style of humor may not be a snug fit for mainstream studios years ago. It's partly why he created his own "pirate ship," a multimedia company where he could produce podcasts, comedy specials and documentaries on his own terms.

Young comics don't have that luxury, but Carolla advises they stay true to themselves no matter what cancel culture enforcers might do.

"Whatever your voice is comedically, it's no good once it gets compromised," he says. "You really have one shot anyway. Say your piece. If you're really good, there'll be a place for you."