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After 30 Years, ‘Mr. Birchum’ Gets His Close-Up

Adam Carolla, the other king of all media, talks about his new, politically incorrect series based on a character that has gestated since his KROQ ‘Kevin and Bean’ days, now streaming on DailyWire+.

From Loveline to The Man Show and his long-running eponymous podcast, writer, comedian, and actor Adam Carolla has cast a wide net, happily sharing his cranky contrarian views with the American public. Now, as the co-creator, executive producer, and voice of the lead character in the adult animated sitcom Mr. Birchum, streaming on DailyWire+, Carolla continues to foment trouble and stir up controversy through the magic of animation.

Starring Megyn Kelly, Alonzo Bodden, Jay Mohr, Tyler Fischer, Patrick Warburton, Danny Trejo, Sage Steele (a last-minute replacement for Candace Owens) and Roseanne Barr, among many others, the series chronicles the struggles and triumphs of the eponymous character, a no-nonsense woodshop teacher, as he contends with his family, his students, and, in particular, the school's JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) officer, Karponzi (Fischer).

We spoke with Carolla about the genesis of his latest undertaking, his role in the production (he likens himself to a construction foreman), and his politics.

But first, the final show trailer:

Dan Sarto: So, as I understand it, while the animated series is brand new, the character of Mr. Birchum has actually been around for a while.

Adam Carolla: It was a character that I came up with many, many years ago on KROQ radio in Los Angeles. I was trying to come up with a character so I could get on the air [with morning radio hosts] Kevin and Bean. And I came up with this character and it got me onto the radio and it kind of helped me get into show business essentially. I started working on other forms of radio, and then I ended up on TV, and it all just branched out from there. I kind of put the character up on a shelf. I was so busy doing all these other projects that I never really went back and revisited Mr. Birchum. But lo and behold, 30 years later, it was the time to do it.

DS: Wasn’t there some kind of TV movie with Mr. Birchum back in 2011?

AC: It wasn't a TV movie, but there was an animatic made for Fox. It was about 10 or 11 minutes long. Anyway, they passed on it.

DS: So, what made you pick up the idea again, and how did you pair up with Daily Wire? Were you pitching other studios? How did it all come about?

AC: Everybody who saw the animatic responded well to it and thought it was really strong. So, there have been attempts in the past where people would go around to all the usual suspects, and the usual suspects would go, "Well, it's good, but it's not our thing." Birchum was sort of speaking out against a lot of the stuff that it wasn't that popular to speak out against until very recently. And so all the traditional media passed on it.

And then I was at the Daily Wire in Nashville doing something else a couple of years ago, and one of the guys I was with just sort of walked into the head honcho's office and he said, "Have you seen this Birchum thing? I think you guys would be good with this." And he just pulled it up on the computer and showed it to [co-founder] Jeremy Boreing. And he was like, "Yeah, this is great." And next thing you know, we're off in Spain animating the thing.

DS: How much were you involved in the production? Can you tell me what inspired the look of it, how you chose who you did for the production?

AC: I'm not an animator or an artist, but I've certainly watched my fair share of The Family Guy and The Simpsons, and even Wait Till Your Father Gets Home from days of yore. I know what I like. And I'm not a musician, but I know what I like in terms of music. So, I created the show and I created the character and I created all the ancillary characters. And I would sort of sit down and describe what this guy should look like, and then they'd come back two weeks later with a bunch of sketches, and I would say, "Oh, he needs a bigger mustache" or "He's not fat enough, he needs a gut on him," stupid stuff like that.

And you do that times every character and every setting. What's the kitchen at their house look like? What's the exterior look like? What's he driving? What do the guys at school look like? What do fellow teachers look like? What's the principal look like? What do the kids look like? And they just keep handing you pictures, and eventually you lock it off and you just go, "That's the wife, that's the daughter, that's his buddy, Mr. Gage, the automotive shop teacher."

DS: As you say, you're not an artist or an animator, but you've done voice work certainly, and you've done a lot of series of different kinds. Did this satisfy a creative itch that maybe you didn’t know you had?

AC: I don't really have an itch creatively. I'm a little more, I don't know, pragmatic about it. Maybe it's my building background. I sort of approach things from a kind of carpentry standpoint… Where's the design? What's the idea? How do we execute the design? How do we move incrementally? Whether it's writing a book or making a documentary or whatever it is, it's all kind of mechanical for me. And this was the same.

So, without getting too philosophical, I just approach it like a construction job. We're building an animated show. Okay, what are the materials we need for the animated show? What's the design? I guess I'm the architect. I'm not the builder because I'm not an animator, but I am the architect and I am the foreman on the job site, and that's how I approach it.

DS: As a comedian, writer, creator of various shows over the years, you’ve never shied away from controversy. What are your goals for Mr. Birchum, other than to make people laugh?

AC: In any endeavor that I'm involved with, I would like to make people think a little, as well as laugh. They'll laugh if they think it's true. And if it doesn't make sense to them or doesn't feel true, then they won't laugh. So, I've always felt like you need an element of, "Yeah, that's right. I never thought of it that way, but that's right." It's fun to take certain subjects and break them down and pick them apart a little, but, by and large, if you just sort of laugh and nod your head, I'm good.

DS: You put together a well-known, varied cast for the show. How did you decide who you wanted and how did you approach them?

AC: A lot of the people were people I'd worked with in the past or was friendly with. Some came from the Daily Wire. But they're all good, they're all pros, and I knew they were all up to it. I was happy so many people signed on and came aboard, really flattered that we were able to get such a strong cast. And I think they all did just an incredible job. Some of them, like Jay Mohr and Kyle Dunnigan, are unheralded heroes of comedy, really talented guys who do tons of great voiceover stuff and impressions and characters, and maybe don't always get their due. But it's a great cast and I'm very happy with them.

DS: As a trade publisher, AWN covers things like animation and visual effects. We don’t delve too much into politics. But I have to ask, how concerned are you about being, let’s say, politically transgressive, especially in terms of how that might affect the next projects you want to do?

AC: Well, in terms of politics in Hollywood, all you have to do is get on the wrong side of one subject. You could say that you were for gay marriage, and for legalizing marijuana, and in favor of other traditionally progressive positions, but if you’re not down with, say, [the trans movement], then they would label you a Republican and try to get you fired. Or, in the case of COVID, if you said, "Oh, I agree with you on wearing masks, and I agree with you on getting vaccinated, and I agree with you on shutting down the schools, but I don't think COVID came from a wet market – I think it came from a lab in Wuhan," they'd go, "Okay, we have a conspiracy theorist here,” and you're out.

I kind of figured that one out a little while ago. And they're going to say what they're going to say. But I'm essentially a libertarian who gets painted as a hard-right Republican, but it's only because you have to agree with every crazy thing they say, or you're out. And I realize I'm out, but I don't care. So that's my politics.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.