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Not Taco Bell Material: A Review of Adam Carolla's Latest Book

Updated on July 12, 2013

From a dump with a dirt lawn a hero will rise...

Like many fans of Adam Carolla I really enjoyed his comedy partnership with Jimmy Kimmel years ago on The Man Show and his radio show Loveline. On the surface he seemed like an ordinary funny guy. Who knew that he had such a depressing but often hilarious upbringing with continuous battles against low self-esteem all the while having to live in many antiquated shacks and rundown bachelor pads.

Not Taco Bell Material is Carolla’s second book and uses the comedian’s former homes to link together the confusion and chaos of his formative years. His parents paid no attention to his hobbies and extended family all but squashed his later life ambitions.

His unique ever growing circle of neighborhood friends along with a few selfless celebrities gave Carolla enough emotional support to discover and hammer out his own future. Don’t worry it’s not all a downer because along the way Carolla and his friends lit farts, crashed parties, blasted fecal water at fast food clerks, kept Tijuana in business and spent countless dollars on neighborhood strippers and of course bad housing. It’s this kind of material that shaped Carolla into the unapologetic male we love and laugh at today.

But Material isn’t about shocking or grossing readers out to get laughs. It’s really a look at a man who very easily could be living in sub-standard housing and accepting government handouts. Instead he kept forging ahead and found his calling in humor and a great ability to tell a tale.

And Not Taco Bell Material is just that, chapter after chapter of detailed stories from Carolla’s colorful past. The tales are told with great clarity and comic timing. There are some jumps in the timeline but you get so caught up in the story and what happens next that you hardly notice.

The book covers his teen years up through his early 30s when he has finally reached a point that he considers “having made something of his life”. But as he tells it, his parents and extended family still found a way to think differently.

Carolla relays these tales, which on the surface could’ve easily fallen into the depressing and melancholy category, but instead they’re told with confidence and humor that makes you feel a little of the pain but allows you to laugh out loud guilt free.

Each chapter starts with a picture and stats of a house or apartment that he once called home. The later chapters include the roommates at that time and the jobs they were working. Most of these centered on construction which Carolla found satisfying but the pay was barely enough to make ends meet. There are details of drug and alcohol use and its effects on the mostly crazy adventures Carolla and his friends walk in and stumble out of. While some people may find the constant childish pranks a bit mundane they help a little to illustrate the evolution from a low self-esteem “loser” to the confident comedian seen on “Celebrity Apprentice”. I was left wanting more clarity on his rise from the lows to the confident highs.

10 inches = a foot?

I found some of the best parts of the book were his run-ins and dealings with celebrities, many of whom before they were household names including Jennifer Aniston auditioning for a company that provided clowns and cartoon characters for kids parties. Also a great story of Ty Pennington, Extreme Home Makeover host, being exposed by Carolla as a mediocre carpenter and not the knowledgeable master carpenter he proclaims.

If you’ve seen or listened to Adam Carolla you know he has a distinct kind of nasally monotone delivery. Reading the book with his voice in your head just adds to the enjoyment. Carolla's liberal use of metaphors help spice of up some of the duller passages. Add that to his ability to cut through people's BS and not let them off the hook adds another level of humor.

At first glance most will doubt this is anything but a book about lighting farts and getting drunk. But Adam Carolla is a natural storyteller with a tough personal journey that starts in despair and helplessness and ends in personal triumph.

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