Bryan Bishop: Broadcast Personality

BRYAN BISHOP is sometimes known as “Bald Bryan.”  He worked with broadcast personality and comedian Adam Carolla on the show Loveline as a call screener.  His relationship with Adam Carolla continues to this day, as a contributing cast member on The Adam Carolla Show podcast.

We love “behind-the-scenes” looks and Bryan certainly has a lot of perspective. He joins us to talk about his storied career and gain his thoughts on the growing new media of podcasting.

What do you think about the unusual phone call that Bryan screened from Loveline?

Do you listen to podcasts?

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome our special guest, Bryan Bishop. Thank you so much for making the time to join us.

It’s my pleasure.

A lot of people know you from Adam Carolla’s show but who is the real Bryan Bishop?

(Laughs) Do a lot of people know me? I don’t feel like that’s true. The real Bryan Bishop he’s a dark and troubled, troubled, deeply troubled soul. No, that’s not true at all. I like to think that I’m the same, mostly the same as I am on the air as I am off. People ask me, you know, my friends or whoever, ask me, uh, you know, what’s Adam like off the air? They all know I work for Adam Carolla and one thing I’ve always admired about Adam is that you tell people he’s the same guy he is off the air, minus about 20% because I think when you’re on in front of a microphone you have to perform to some extent, obviously, because you’re performing. But Adam’s not putting on a persona and he’s not pretending to be someone he’s not or all those things. He’s, uh, the same guy and what you see is what you get. And I’ve always admired that and I try to do that same thing for myself.

How did you meet Adam in the first place?

I think the first time I met him was when I started on Loveline. I was a phone screener which, in the radio world, is the bottom of the barrel. I was a phone screener for a local L.A. station called “K-Rock” (K-ROQ) and did that for a year. And after a year, they asked me to be the phone screener for Loveline, which was a huge pay raise at the time, from like $6.00 an hour to like $12.00 an hour so, of course, I jumped all over it. I think that’s when I met Adam, when the producer brought me around and introduced me to everyone on the show, which was about four people, and then I met Adam and that was the beginning of a long love affair.

Now, when you think back to the days of Loveline, can you remember a call that, to you, is the most memorable call that you ever screened?

I got so many calls. There were just so many variations of the same thing. I don’t want to trivialize them because, obviously, if you’re calling in to a national radio show as a teenager or whatever, it’s pretty important to you, looking back to what seems like minutia or sort of the run-of-the-mill type stuff, although one call does stand out. There was a guy who had a very strange manner of speaking, sort of like Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. And he calls in and his question was, he wanted to know how to meet girls. He said ‘I’m having trouble meeting girls. I’d like to know how.’ And I was, like ‘Alright. Well, what seems to be the problem.’ And he goes ‘Well, you know, I just have a hard time and they – you know, inevitably my past comes up and, you know, I just got out of jail.’ And I’m like ‘Wow!’ and I was, like, ‘How old are you?’ And he’s like, ‘I’m 19’ or whatever he was – or you know, 20. And he goes ‘I went to jail for two years.’ And I’m like ‘Two years?!? You went to jail at 18 years old for two years? What did you do?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, I stole the head off of a corpse out of a mausoleum.’ And I’m like (laughs), ‘What?’ I was just so amused by that fact that, number one, he had done this, number two, that he was telling me so flippantly, and number three, the fact that his initial question was not, had nothing to do with head-ripping off corpses. It was the fact that he was having trouble meeting girls (laughs). It was just such a, just a simple, direct – like ‘this is the problem, I need a solution’. And it’s funny. It sort of gives you an insight into how guys ultimately think. I mean, you can do all the head-ripping that you want in your life but, ultimately, it’s all about meeting girls (laughs).

Now, did he get through? Did you put him though?

Oh, yeah! We put him through. I actually – I don’t remember how long I had been a call screener. I feel like I had been doing it for a little while so I sort of had an idea of – Adam and Drew liked to take certain kinds of calls and didn’t like to do certain other types of calls. So I think on the screen I put something like – I forgot just what but put simply ‘having trouble meeting girls’ and then in parentheses something like ‘please take this call. It, you know, it may seem boring but trust me, it’s going to be hilarious.’ (Laughs) and so they trusted me and it ended up being a fairly memorable call.

Just out of curiosity, how did you wean out the people that were just pranksters?

I had a pretty good radar for that kind of stuff. I don’t know why. I think – I was a creative writing major in college and I just feel like I can, I sort of know when someone is telling fiction or telling fact. There are practical tricks for it. Like if someone – you know, you can just press someone on the details of a story like ‘Oh really? Well, like what, you know, what do you, what wasn’t right about that day?’ You know, there’s nothing – well, not quite like that but if someone claims to be an age that they’re not you can ask them what year they were born inand a lot of times people will think ahead and, you know, map out the year. And you go “OK. What year did you graduate from high school?’ and that one usually trips people up because usually that should match up pretty easily and you usually don’t forget what year you graduated high school but you’d be surprised how many people get that one wrong.

You’re a part of the Adam Carolla Show and it’s currently the number one podcast. It’s also in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most downloads. What did you think about the idea of this show going to the podcast format?

It feels like a very natural, very logical sort of step, I think. Adam would probably never admit this. It would be bad for his agent. I think Adam would do this for free. I think Adam would love just to have a microphone and people listening ‘cause he’s full of ideas and has a passion just for, just the medium and the spoken word. And, I mean, I know he’s a fan of talk radio and listens to a lot of it, and listened to a lot of it when he was doing construction back in the day. And I think it was a pretty natural sort of evolution, the fact that his friend, Donny, was there with the technical knowledge to help him set this whole thing up and show him that no, this really is kind of easy. Like, you can do it, and there’s an audience for you. And I think it was a very natural thing and it didn’t surprise me at all. I was really, you know, pleased and thankful that not only, for my first year, whenever Adam asked me and Theresa Strasser, who was the former co-host of the radio show, to keep coming back and do these regular weekly sort of appearances. And then after about a year he asked us to come back and be part of the regular daily show which is hugely flattering – really rewarding for me, you know, both career-wise because I feel like it’s something that I do really, really well but also, I think from a sort of a health perspective. You know, I was going through some serious health problems there for a while and then it sort of coincided, my recovery coincided me being asked to come back and be apart of the radio show which didn’t seem like a possibility at the time. So it was a nice, it was a nice synergy and a nice sort of milestone for me to achieve.

Well, tell the listeners out there about your role in the Adam Carolla Show.

Adam, obviously, is the host and it’s the Adam Carolla Show. I am his sidekick. The main job is to play sound effects on the show but, I mean, that’s sort of my ostensible sort of job is the sounds effects. You know, sort of like Fred Norris on the Howard Stern Show, if you’re familiar with that. So I do that but I also comment, uh, you know, uh, jump in, discuss, comment. Just sort of a sidekick at large, I guess. The sound effects are the staple in what I do and I think what I’m known for. Hopefully, you know, I sort of elevate those from typical – I almost think of it like sort of an ironic commentary on the show, sort of like a Greek chorus in the background. I don’t think of it as sound effects sort of, um, enhancing the show, you know?So if Adam is talking about going to the bathroom, I don’t play a toilet flushing sound, you know? It’s more of a – I’ll play something sarcastic that’s like ‘Alright, well let’s move on.’ And, you know, ‘Keep it clean.’ And it’s sort of an ironic commentary. The voice of the listener, I guess is the way to sort of put it.

The thing about the show is it’s the number one podcast. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. Do you believe that the Ace Broadcasting Network is going to continue to dominate? What do you think will happen?

I don’t know if any one network will dominate. I don’t know if we’re dominating, per se. I mean, we’re doing very, very well but, you know, it’s, it’s so funny. There’s a sense of like and I know – I understand what you’re saying. I think I know why you picked that word. As you say, we’re doing very well but as far as the idea of dominating, you know, quote-unquote, sort of evokes sort of a, an idea of competition and I think that’s the best thing about podcasting is that there isn’t really the same competition that there is in radio, real radio. For example, you know, I think to his credit Howard Stern made his living, if you want to put it that way off of, you know, competition. You know, he would pick out the DJ he, uh, wanted to go to war with or whatever and would proceed to go to war with the DJ and made a thing out of it. and it was a great gimmick for him and it worked extremely well. But the thing in podcasting is we’re not competing against somebody in a time slot. I mean, you can listen – if you’re a podcast fan, it behooves us to promote other podcasts and get you more involved with the medium, you know? I mean, it actually benefits us. If you want to look to NPR or Marc Maron or Chris Hardwick or any number of podcasts. I mean, the more the merrier, you know? It’s a big thing where it’s a community and we would benefit from you listening to as many podcasts as you want to, you know? We’re not competing for a time slot. If it’s 8AM you could listen to any number of podcasts. It’s just like every day at 8 PM. I don’t know about domination, per se. I like to think that we’ll continue to do well and I like – I would really like to see the whole medium do really well. I sort of gauge the medium’s success, podcasting success, on when I talk to my, uh, parents’ friends and they’re like ‘Oh, what are you doing nowadays, Bryan?’ And I’m like ‘I work for a podcast.’ ‘What’s that?’ I’m like ‘It’s internet radio.’ And ‘How do I listen?’ And it’s like “Well, anyone can listen and it’s free.’ But when my parents’ friends know what a podcast is and know how to listen to one, I think we’ll have taken many steps in the right direction.

Very interesting. I wanted to get your opinion on a few different things that have been discussed and I’ve seen on the internet it’s actually created a bit of a buzz. There’s been discussion about the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ on Adam Carolla’s show. What do you think about ‘Occupy Wall Street’ or ‘Occupy’ anywhere?

 I half-promise the next 30 seconds will be extraordinarily boring because I don’t have a very strongopinion on it. I don’t follow it too much. I know almost everything I know from Alison in the news – Alison, who is the news girl on our show – uh, so I don’t follow it too closely. I almost think of it as ‘I don’t know’ but my, my outside opinion is almost like it’s sort of misdirected. Um … I just wish I knew what they were protesting against or if it’s even a protest or if it’s just a movement or a demonstration. I don’t know. The fact that it’s so hard to get a grip on makes – I think it sort of dilutes their message a little bit if there is, if there even is a message. I don’t know so, uh, sorry to offer you a very boring answer but I just don’t know.

Another thing he’s kind of talked about, and there’s been some banter back and forth with him and Alison, is self-entitlement. Do you think that young people today are growing up ‘entitled’ or maybe a bit too soft?

Interesting. The self-entitlement thing, I mean it’s, it’s a double-edged sword. I know Adam was talking about almost like a ‘paying your dues’ kind of thing. Like, ‘too much too fast’. You know, kids these days, if you want to, you know, put it that way, kids these days have access to too much and can do too much and it’s so easy for them. And you know, about paying their dues or having to go to through the same barriers, I guess, that previous generations had to go through. Like, but then, at the same time that’s a good thing because, you know, a teenager can host a podcast if he wanted to which, by the way, if someone is good at it why shouldn’t they host a podcast? You know what I mean? Like, as opposed to if you wanted to be, you know, a broadcaster in the old days you had to be a phone screener for a while, then you had to, you know, be an associate producer or a board op or whatever, you know. You had to work your way up. It took years and years. And now, as Adam likes to say, you know, he quotes whatever it is, Nike or Reebok or whatever, you know, ‘It’s your world.’ Well, I mean it kind of is and, uh, the more barriers, I guess, we can break down between the desire to do something and actually being able to do something – I don’t know. I see both sides. I see how it can be a negative because I am a believer in sort of paying your dues and doing things the hard way. You know, having to go through things and trials and tribulations in order to get what you want. It makes you appreciate it more. But at the same time, I mean, there’s something to be said for diving in and just doing it, you know? Let’s use the podcast as an example. If you’re a teenager and you love talk radio and you want to host your own sports talk show, uh, on the internet, then why not? Dive in and do it and make your mistakes and you’ll probably be a lot father along than, uh, any of us were at your age.

Have you read the book that Adam Carolla wrote, In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks?

Oh yeah. I read the hard-cover edition. It took me, it took me several trips to the bathroom but, uh, over the course of , uh, eight months I finished it.

Do you think that men are losing their masculinity?

I don’t know. I guess it’s along the same lines of what I was just saying, about self-entitlement and all that stuff and I do see, I see both sides of it. I appreciate, you know, the fact that guys can do more now than just typical guy things. You know, like that there are guy chefs – not that there weren’t before but they’re sort of a little bit more celebrated now. Guys are a little more evolved, I guess you would want to say, you know, beyond just to be able to know, you know, typical guy things of the old days. But at the same time, there’s also Adam’s point which is extraordinarily valid, which is guys don’t know nearly the stuff that they used to know, you know what I mean? Like there was a sense of pride like, well ‘I know how to fix my engine.’ You know? Well, I’m as guilty as anyone. I don’t know how to fix an engine. I know a few things about cars but I certainly wouldn’t be able to tinker on one. I guess maybe men are losing a touch of their masculinity but if it’s at the expense of, or at the benefit of, being a little more evolved then it’s a, it’s a natural evolution and I don’t have a problem with that.

Adam Carolla is somebody who is very, very opinionated. What do you most disagree with Adam Carolla about?

Oh, wow. (Laughs) Well, first of all, the Adam Carolla I know is not an opinionated so I don’t know where you got that from. But I make it an issue on the show to try and disagree with him, whenever I have a legitimate disagreement, on the air. And the reason is there’s not a lot of disagreeing that goes on, you know, with Adam on the show. If you, I mean, I think if you took out parts of our disagreeing I don’t think you’d find very much, uh, rub at all. You know what I’m saying? And I think that’s – there’s an extreme that bad, like in morning radio where a guy – the old, the old rule of radio was the two hosts had to disagree. You couldn’t agree because otherwise you wouldn’t have any concept and there wouldn’t be any debate. So the one guy was like ‘I think the color red is terrible!’ And the other guy was ‘I think the color red is fantastic! Let’s take your calls right now. 877-COLOR RED.’ And it’s like, alright, well, listen. These manufactured disagreements, they’re not really working. But the flip side is that agreeing all the time doesn’t work either. So I think there’s a healthy balance. I think I don’t want to get pigeon-holed or cast as the guy who just disagrees with Adam out of principle but whenever there’s an opportunity like, ‘Oh no. I think you’re wrong about that.’ I’ll definitely speak up because it’s important for the show and it’s important for the listener. I mean, as you can like anybody, any host or personality, you don’t just want to hear them rant or just talk about things that they love or talk about things that they hate. You know, you want to hear some debate or some exchange of ideas or some alternative take on something. Whether you agree with the take or not, it brings out, maybe, more of what you like in the host. So at any rate, to answer your question, there’s a part in Adam’s book that extends from the radio show that we did back in 2000- I don’t know, 7 or something, but I think – Adam put it in his book, which is extraordinarily devious, but we disagreed. First of all I was 100% right and still am, but Adam thinks that Apple, the company that makes the iPhone, intentionally made the iPhone slick and slippery so that people would drop more iPhones and therefore have to buy more iPhones. And not only is that insane, it’s ridiculous. It’s a conspiracy theory. And I floated this theory to, uh, several, several people – tech experts who just had – I just was talking to Tim Carrera from T-4 who, once I told him the theory, the look on his face it was dumbfounded, it was disbelieving, and it was kind of amused. So as I say to Adam, like, ‘Listen Adam, you can have this theory all you want. You can have your crazy crackpot theories about the iPhone but please don’t tell anyone. Please don’t make this public knowledge because people will start to think that you really believe this crap!’ (Laughs)

Our special guest is Bryan Bishop. What are you most optimistic about?

You know, I’m optimistic about my own health and my own future. And, you know, I got married two years ago and I don’t know if your listeners know but I was diagnosed with brain cancer, uh, just a few months before my wedding. Things did not look good there for a while and things were, uh, pretty bleak but I’ve made, uh, quite a comeback and I’m doing better. I’m improving and you know, maybe it sounds selfish but I am most optimistic for sort of my own future, my own recovery and my wife and I, uh, living a long and happy life together.

What is the best thing about being Bryan Bishop?

Getting to talk to people like you, Paul!

(Laughs) Well, that’s awfully kind of you.

Yeah, well you know it’s, I think, the best – at least as it pertains to the Adam Carolla Show and what I do, uh, for a living, you know, I, you know, when I went to high school or college or whatever it was, you know, sort of evaluating my own talents and skills, you know, I looked around and I saw people who were really, really good at be it math or computers and I’m like ‘Well, these guys got it made.’ I mean, at least in terms of their career’s prospects. They’re going to, you know, become an engineer or a computer programmer or an accountant or whatever and they’re going to, you know, have it pretty – they’re going to be pretty well suited to their skills. And I took a look, I took a look at my skills and the things that I enjoyed most were hopping off to the teacher, making the classroom laugh – basically, sort of goofing off and I didn’t see a huge market for that at the time. And, uh, luckily, I get to sort of do that, at least professionally, you know. My job is to sort of be the kid in the back of the classroom who is, uh, mocking the teacher, you know, to an extent. You know, I’m not like, barking out sound effects every time Adam says something. But you know I, uh, sort of my job is to pick my spots and, you know, a well-timed sound effect or drop can really, uh, you know, be, be the equivalent to, you know, sort of making the classroom laugh. When I was a little kid my bedroom, mybedroom wall where, you know, at the head of my bed was – it shared a common wall with my parents’ shower. So my dad would get up for work really early in the morning because he worked in the food industry. He would get up like, I don’t know, around 5, 4:30 or 5 in the morning. He would take a shower every morning. It would be just enough to sort of wake me up, never to like, you know, like jolt me awake. Like, I always heard the sound of the rushing water in the pipes inside the wall. It was right there by my head. And it sort of like just woke me up. Like, uh, you know, my dad’s there taking a shower and I would fall back to sleep. It was extraordinarily soothing. I don’t have a drop for that. I don’t have a sound effect for that. I don’t know if I could possibly replicate the sound of, you know, running water in pipes inside of a wall. But I will say now, in as much as sound can be tied to memory, and good memories and all that stuff, it’s a very pleasing sound.

Interesting. Well, my last question. For anybody who hears this interview, wherever they are, it’s just open-ended – what would you like to say to all of the people who listen?

Well, if they’re listening, they’re either, uh, interested in you or me or podcasting in general. And I would say thanks for their support and spread the word. And, hopefully, we’ll be around for a long, long time doing exactly what we’re doing, and it will just keep getting better and better and we’ll have more interesting things to offer you and to say to you. And, yeah, I guess just thanks. I mean, especially in the podcast world, you know we’re nothing without our fans and we’re nothing without the people that support us. So, inasmuch as we’re extremely grateful for that, I’ll say thanks.

Well, thank you very much for your time and I appreciate all this.

My pleasure, Paul.


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