You know that hair. You know those glasses. You know that smirk. While you might not yet know his name, Adam Conover’s face seems to be everywhere right now. “The ad campaign they’ve done for the show is remarkable,” the comedian says. “Though it is a little eerie seeing my face so many places. Two years ago, I was anonymous. Now Time Square’s subway station is just wrapped in my face, every turn style, every surface. I used to go to that station, but I don’t think I could now…it’d be too much like a hall of mirrors.”
The star of the TruTV edutainment series Adam Ruins Everything will be bringing a live version of the show to Houston’s Warehouse Live on September 22 for a special, politically charged hour of laughing and learning. “As a comic, you always feel almost robbed of the laugh when you’re on TV,” Conover says. “People are laughing, but they’re spread across the country. I want to hear it! So live shows are fun.” Describing the show as a blend of Adam Ruins Everything-style informational humor and a more traditional stand-up set, the performer says he’ll be presenting facts, images, punchlines and videos on a projector screen behind him, in between live bits of material. “With luck, it should have the effect of a really funny fast-moving comedy TED talk.”
Fully aware of the lightning rod of controversy and discussion the 2016 election has become, the live show will focus on politics in a broad sense. “We did an episode on voting rights last year,” the comic says. "It was just beyond impossible to fit everything we wanted into it. So this is an opportunity to do an hour of new material on the election and democracy, in general.”
But for those expecting a full-on Trump/Hillary roast, Conover would prefer to curb those expectations. “There are an immense number of incredibly talented comedians doing comedy about the news of the day. So I’m not even trying to compete in that ring of satire because the level of talent there is just too high,” he says. “I don’t want to go toe-to-toe with Sam Bee on my best day.”
Instead, Conover points out, he’s adding something new to the virtual conversation. “We’re going for the historical perspective. If we do touch on Hillary or Trump, it’s because people feel cynical about this election. People on the streets hate them both so much, and say that this has got to be the low point for our democracy. So I wanted to find out: Is this really the worst our democracy has ever been? What about this election cycle have we actually seen before – stuff we may have forgotten from the past. And what truly is unique to this point in time? Those are questions we seek to answer.”
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Before moving to newly re-invented comedy station TruTV, Adam Ruins Everything began life as a digital series through CollegeHumor, where Conover used to write. “I started off in the early wild west days of web video [with] a group called Old English,” he says. “After about ten years of stand-up in New York, and doing sketch with UCB, I found CollegeHumor, which is just this open landscape of a creative environment where you can write whatever you want and see it come to life. It was the perfect petri dish for this show.”
As the series continues, Adam Ruins Everything has potential to make Adam Conover a household name (or at least, perhaps, a household face). But before he hit it large on basic cable, Adam’s pride – something he says “didn’t get enough press at the time" — was a low-budget film called The Exquisite Corpse Project, which debuted digitally on the revered comedy website Splitsider.com. “It was such a cool project, but basically it involved each of the five of us [members of Old English] writing one-fifth of a screenplay, but we could only see the last five pages of the previous person’s draft,” Conover laughs. “Then it actually turned into a documentary about the making of the movie, and our relationship as a group working together.” Conover stars in the film alongside BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Late Night with Seth Meyers writer Chioke Nassor, and it can be purchased online for five bucks.
With two seasons under his belt, Conover hopes people will sample both his TruTV series and its live counterpart. But until then, he’s content being recognized on the street as the famous guy with the tall hair. “Though my hair doesn’t get that high in person,” he confesses. “That kind of height can only be achieved with the help of a trained professional.”
One performance is scheduled for September 22 at 8 p.m. at Warehouse Live, 813 Emanuel. For information, call 713-225-5483 or visit axs.com. $32.50.