With its live-radio intimacy and frank treatment of taboo topics, Dr. Drew Pinsky's call-in sex-advice show Loveline kept a generation of young people holed up in their bedrooms or driving home the long way to listen. Pinsky had several co-hosts over the years, but none was as memorable or culturally impactful as comedian Adam Carolla, who was behind the mic from 1995 to 2005. From 1996 to 2000, the duo also hosted the televised version of the show on MTV. After Carolla's departure, Loveline went through several co-hosts, but there was no way to re-create the magic he and Dr. Drew had.
Pinsky's most recent co-host, “Psycho” Mike Catherwood — a close second to Carolla in terms of popularity and chemistry — decided in March to leave the show. Then, just a few weeks later, Pinsky announced that he was pulling the plug altogether. Besides being without a co-host yet again, Pinsky has other radio projects, several podcasts and a nightly show on HLN. He also revealed that CBS hadn’t been paying him a salary for two years. At 57 years old, he also was sick of working from 10 p.m. to midnight, five days a week.
On April 28, after 33 years on the air, the final episode of Loveline aired on KROQ. But for fans of the Carolla era, there was good news tangled up in the bad. Since 2012, Pinsky and Carolla have hosted podcast The Adam and Dr. Drew Show. Post-Loveline, the duo decided to go from taping two podcast episodes a week to taping five. The format also is changing slightly, so the show resembles the classic years of Loveline, with more calls and the addition of some old bits.
Looking back at his Loveline years, Carolla said in a recent interview that he was totally unaware of his impact. “I never think about it as a big part of pop culture,” he says. “I just look at it as something I did a long time ago. I think Drew and me are both wired the same way. If we lost a leg, we’d probably move forward the next day minus one leg. If we had a syndicated radio show that was No. 1 everywhere, we’d move forward the next day like we had a No. 1 syndicated radio show. I never had any preconceived notions.”
Carolla's infamous for his rants; if his M.O. were a motivational meme, it would say, “Talk Like No One Is Listening.” But when he talks, people listen. Carolla grew up a product of divorced parents in North Hollywood. His mother was a hypocritical hippie who hated “the man” but was on public assistance, and his father was a therapist who was highly unmotivated and emotionally unavailable.
After graduating from North Hollywood High, Carolla had a variety of jobs, from cleaning carpets to teaching traffic school and boxing. A stint coaching Jimmy Kimmel, known at the time as Jimmy the Sports Guy from KROQ’s morning show Kevin & Bean, led to a recurring bit as disgruntled shop teacher Mr. Birchum (later a character on Crank Yankers). Carolla’s rise from the steamy depths of the San Fernando Valley, his hilarious stories about his crappy childhood and signature bits like “Germany or Florida” attracted listeners in a way no other host had because, while the subject matter was serious, they couldn’t stop laughing.
When Carolla left Loveline, he went on to host his own morning show on KLSX, which replaced Howard Stern’s show on the West Coast. All over the world, his fans followed him, but instead of trading tapes, they streamed and downloaded. So when CBS decided to flip the format of KLSX four years later, Carolla left radio and started a podcasting empire. Howard Stern might be the King of All Media, but Adam Carolla has become the king of new media.
Listening to the first week of the new Adam and Dr. Drew podcast, the energy feels different. The duo has a certain freedom because they aren’t bound by FCC standards of terrestrial radio, but the callers aren’t 15 anymore. Carolla explains: “The callers matured with us. Got older with us. Problems went from, 'I have a crush on this girl and I don’t know how to tell her' to 'I married that girl and now were having marital difficulties.' There’s still flat-out addiction issues, but many of the problems have grown as we’ve grown.” He sees it as “still essentially the same show,” but the hosts and the audience are at different life stages.
“When I started Loveline, I was single, no kids. I wouldn’t want to be the 65-year-old guy who’s talking to a 14-year-old about pearly penile papules,” Carolla says. “I figure let’s move on and grow. Things that were important to me 20 years ago aren’t as important. There are other things that are more important that I’d like to get into. It’s always been about what I'm interested in now. It’s always going to be evolving, but as long as I’m sitting next to Drew, it will be with the guy that I want to get into this stuff with.”