Comedian Adam Carolla, who once co-hosted a cable show that featured buxom women jumping on trampolines, doesn't think of himself as a conservative, but he has become a hero in some Republican circles.
"People in the media have labeled me Republican because of some things I have said that conservatives agree with," he notes in a telephone interview. "But I'm also an atheist who believes that pot should be legalized."
Carolla's unabashed bravado and his I-don't-give-a-damn-what-anyone-thinks attitude have won him fans on both ends of the political spectrum.
He's friends with Bill Maher and Alec Baldwin as well as Dennis Miller. Conservative pundit Glenn Beck is big fan. Carolla's been a guest on Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. "Does that make me a conservative?" he asks. "I'm just a guy who says what he thinks."
Earlier this year, Carolla teamed up with an unlikely conservative straight man, Dennis Prager, an elderly, thoughtful, soft-spoken Orthodox Jew and radio talk show host.
The two men, from vastly different worlds, share several views including contempt for political correctness and the belief that the best way to get ahead is through hard work.
Their 90-minute stage show, "An Evening With Adam Corolla and Dennis Prager," plays the Straz Center on Saturday night. Carolla says it may be a coincidence that they are in Tampa at the same time as the GOP is gearing up for its national convention here.
"I don't know if this concert was planned to coincide with the convention," he says. "I'm not all that political. I enjoy going back and forth with Dennis. We talk about philosophy, life and whatever comes up."
Carolla has been labeled a lot of things, including being a thoughtless chauvinist, dating back to his days with Jimmy Kimmel on "The Man Show," a cable comedy that mocked feminists and celebrated the male human's baser instincts.
More recently, he riled up his critics in a New York Post interview in which he was quoted as saying "dudes are funnier than chicks" after the reporter asked: "Who is funnier? Men or women?"
"My answer was taken out of context," he says. "I didn't bring up this subject. I didn't say that women aren't funny. I even listed off some funny women like Tina Fey, Lisa Lampanelli, Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin. But that wasn't part of the story. It makes a better story to stir up controversy. But I don't care. I stand by my statement."
Because he owns and produces his podcast, he has no bosses and no censors. He's a maverick, operating outside corporate-run media. And he's making money at it. But his image may be changing.
Corolla, who once came off as a sort of "Three Stooges" kind of wisecracker who liked fart jokes and juvenile pranks on series such as "The Man Show" and "Crank Yankers," is getting newfound respect as a social commentator.
He's still cracking jokes peppered with profanity but he's also become an outspoken social critic and staunch defender of common sense on his popular weekly podcast, "The Adam Corolla Show," reportedly the most downloaded podcast in the country.
Corolla also says that while he may vote Republican this year (for several reasons, including protecting tax breaks for people in his income bracket), he doesn't buy the whole conservative package and cherry-picks some things he likes that Democrats support.
Both Prager and Corolla published new books this year. Prager's "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph" puts forth his belief that American values of liberty, belief in God, and a united America (as in E Pluribus Unum – out of one, many) should triumph over "leftism" and "Islamism."
Corolla's new book, "Not Taco Bell Material," released this summer, is an easier read. It's a comical, anecdote-filled biography that recounts how Corolla came from a low-income and apparently unmotivated poor family. He shares stories of how he worked his way up from a series of low-paying, labor-intensive jobs to becoming a comedian.
The title refers to an employment rejection by Taco Bell, which he admits he probably deserved at the time. "I know what it's like to be out of work and eating welfare food," he says. "I know what it's like to not have insurance and to work at low-paying jobs. I am uniquely qualified to tell other people to get off the couch and get to work."
The performance Saturday, which is for mature audiences, will include a Q&A with the audience where no topic is off limits.
'An Evening With Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager'
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Straz Center, 1010 MacInnes Place, Tampa
Tickets: $48.50, $36.50 and $26.50; (813) 229-7827 or www.strazcenter.org
Other info: "Cigars 'N' Stars After Party with Carolla and Prager," 10 p.m. Saturday; $30 (you must have ticket to main show to purchase ticket to after party)