Liz Gannes

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“It’s a Cyber Barn Raising”: Adam Carolla Crowdfunds His Next Movie

Adam Carolla wants to make a movie called “Road Hard.” But making his last movie, “The Hammer,” was a crappy experience — four years of “demoralizing” meetings to try to get financial and production support, then finally $1 million raised from outside funders, then substantial critical acclaim — an 80 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes — but ultimately a financial failure based on distribution deals.

RoadHardAdamCarollaThe problem was the rigidity of the entertainment industry, according to Carolla. “Whatever it is you do, that’s what you do,” he said in an interview yesterday. “Pat Sajak can’t say, ‘I want to star in a romcom.’ People tell me, ‘You’re the guy from “The Man Show,” you were funny on “Loveline” — but I don’t know about an actor.’”

So Carolla posted the “Road Hard” project last week on the crowdfunding site FundAnything, hoping to bring in $1 million from fans. He didn’t disclose much about what the movie would be about or who would be in it — just shot a funny video with “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston saying he won’t be in it.

Carolla’s team tells me that the plot of “Road Hard” is about a former standup comedian whose sitcom gets canceled as he’s getting divorced, and he’s “forced to go back on the road and perform at the dumpy clubs he played on the way up.” In addition to Carolla, it will feature Illeana Douglas, Diane Farr, David Alan Grier and Larry Miller.

Already, with some publicity on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show, the project has raised about $375,000 in less than a week.

“If we go over a million, that’ll be awesome,” Carolla said. “We said, ‘Let’s pick a number that we think is realistic.’ But from where I come from, I’d be tickled pink if it ends tomorrow.”

That kind of happy-to-be-here, underdog attitude is unusual for a celebrity trying to extend his fame into a new venture online. But it’s how Carolla lives his career, he said. He built one of the most popular podcasts in the world after losing his job on the radio.

“I try not to phone it in,” he said, reciting his recent book-review ratings on Amazon — 4.5, 4.6, 4.4 out of five stars — and noting that in addition to book sales and podcast advertising, he has sold fans 100,000 bottles of “Mangria” in the past six months, at just under $20 a pop.

How did Carolla get so tech-savvy and entrepreneurial? “I’m kind of forced to be, because I was fired from my radio job and I had to figure out something to do.”

Today, “The Adam Carolla Show” gets about 1.7 million downloads per week, Carolla said. He estimated he probably has about 350,000 to 400,000 serious fans. He’s also fighting against podcasting patent trolls, who have sued him over the basic technology of releasing serialized media on the Internet.

AdamCarolla“It’s a feather in my cap,” Carolla said yesterday of the lawsuit, noting that he is working with Mark Cuban and other podcasters to fight back. “They’re suing us basically because we’re No. 1, which is fine; I’m flattered.”

The entrance of celebrities into crowdfunding — where the allure comes in part from the democratization of access — has been somewhat poorly received. See: Zach Braff (criticized but successful), Zosia Mamet (unsuccessful) and Melissa Joan Hart (canceled).

But FundAnything, which counts Donald Trump as a partner and spokesperson, is explicitly aimed at bringing celebrities into the business, and recruited Carolla to post his movie project on the site by using the Trump connection.

“What I’m trying to do is bring crowdfunding away from the Brooklyn hipsters and bring it to the masses,” founder Bill Zanker told me when the site launched in May.

For his part, Carolla is trying to slide himself in between someone who’s perhaps more established, like Zach Braff, and the archetypical undiscovered and neglected talents that go viral to fund their dreams.

But Carolla has sympathy for Braff. “Zach probably overstated it [how much control traditional industry backers wanted over his next movie]. But Zach’s fans wanted to be a part of this experience with him.”

As Carolla put it, “It’s like saying ‘LeBron James, you could sell out this arena, so why are you charging ticket prices?’ These people want to see him play. Not that I’m comparing myself to LeBron James.”

“It’s a cyber barn raising,” he added. “It kind of restores my faith in humanity.”


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google