Adam Conover is an American comedian, writer, and television host. He is the host of the half-hour truTV show Adam Ruins Everything, which is based on a CollegeHumor series of the same name.
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I'm all about questioning everything and everything, including our show's conclusions, so feel free to ask me anything at all. (Though I be honest when I think an answer would require additional research.) If you haven't seen the show, here are some clips Let's have some fun!
UPDATE: Thanks everyone! That's all the time I have; I have to head to set to shoot more episodes! Thanks for your questions. And hey, if you enjoy hanging out with me online, why not follow me on Twitch. I'm streaming Dark Souls on an off right now, and having a grand time doing it.
How are you going to ruin this AMA?
Probably by trying to answer too many questions too fast and as a result making poor word choices that obscure my intended meaning. Seems like the most likely culprit in this sort of format!
As a teacher, I'd like to know what you and your team do to research before each episode. What advice do you have for students in locating good sources for their own research?
Our research staff generally begins by doing a broad survey of the topic. Our usual M.O. is to find a main source we can use that we are sure will have done their own due diligence on the topic; for instance, the New Yorker has an famously great fact checking department, so if we base a story off a New Yorker article, we can be more sure than usual that it will hold up. Then we dive into that piece's sources, and try to learn as much about the topic as we can. Critically, we look for opposing views, to make sure the angle we're approaching a topic from doesn't conflict with a majority or plurality opinion in the field. And we run our episodes by the experts we have on the show, to make sure they think our argument is fair as well. As for advice for your students - I would say, try to stand on the shoulders of giants! Look for the publications that you know are going to be well sourced and fact-checked, start with those, and then dive deeper into the sources THEY use! And stay curious!
Have you ever had any backlash from an episode?
We've had a few! Our piece on electric cars in "Adam Ruins Going Green" got some backlash from a writer at The Verge. We felt that the writer had misunderstood our argument in a number of ways, and wrote a response.
Our point was not that "electric cars are always bad" - it's that the amount you reduce your carbon footprint by buying one is extremely variable and often overstated, as is true of all "green products". Even though EVs are a good trend, we can't shop our way out of the climate crisis -- we need to take collective action at the national level.
That said, if people misunderstood the piece, that's partially our fault for not making our point clearly enough! Our research was solid, but our communication could have perhaps used some work. We talk about this further in an upcoming "corrections" episode we have comin' up this season. Look out for it!
Your recent pregnancy episode saved me. My girl and I are approaching our 30's and there's been a lot of pressure lately from many sides about "running out of time."
Thanks again. What was your favorite episode/topic to ruin?
I am so happy to hear that. Honestly, my favorite topics are the ones that bring people relief, and maybe change their lives a little for the better. So I think I can count this among my favorites!
Who is the most overrated person in history?
My picks are Freud, Columbus, and Nostrodamus
You're going to really enjoy an episode we have coming up called "Adam Ruins What We Learned In School." Covers one of these three dudes. I won't spoil which!
Hi, Adam! Thanks for doing the AMA. The show is great fun - my kids and I watch it together.
Are there any topics you have chosen not to cover in an episode, and why?
Thanks for watching! That's wonderful to hear, it makes me so happy that kids and parents are enjoy watching it together! That's something we didn't anticipate, and it makes us super happy.
In our writer's room, one topic that has come up a few times that has really interesting stories attached is race. The history of the creation of the idea of "whiteness", for instance, is fascinating. After much discussion, however, we decided that because the topic was so important, and because we wanted to be sure we could do it right, we were going to save it for a future season. But we never say "This is a topic we would never do."; we say "This is a topic that we want to make sure we do justice to, so we won't do it rashly."
Adam, have you and your writers ever received information that contradicts what is on your show (obviously I mean verifiable evidence or data, not just rumors and theories)? And if so, will you guys do any update episodes where you correct any mistakes from previous episodes? I have nothing specific in mind, but I can't imagine your show doesn't get its fair share of hate mail, and some of that might have some evidence.
Yep! We are doing an episode EXACTLY like this later this year! We have never claimed that the show is 100% right all the time -- we're fallible humans, so that's impossible. Instead, we try to be transparent about our process; and as part of that, this year we're doing a "corrections" episode where we fix some of our errors. Watch out for it, I think you'll like it!
You didn't answer the fucking second question, Adam. Already ruined it...
Oops! I don't eat cereal. I eat oatmeal with soy sauce on it!
Try it! It's great.
I'm a (Black) macro social worker and future doctoral student doing diversity and inclusion related work at a major private university, and this is a subject I'm trying to create a 101 training for. People these days are becoming more aware of the social construction of race, but they don't really know this history behind it, and behind the creation of the idea of "whiteness". It's really really interesting stuff, and it makes it difficult to see the U.S. in particular quite the same way again.
I know, it's incredible stuff. I would love to do an episode on it sometime; but like I said, we just need make SURE we got it right, and with such a massive topic, that's timeconsuming.
I've been refreshing this page for a while now trying to catch you here haha
You recently did a piece about how breastfeeding is a same as formula.
I just had a follow up on this that isn't breastmilk better because it transfers antibodies and so builds up the immune system of the baby?
Do you put milk first or cereal first?
Based on the research we've surveyed, the benefits of breast milk vs. formula are very small. You can check our sources for the segment here.
What hair products do you use and how does your hair stand so perfectly?
At home, I use Imperial Gel Pomade (not sponsored, I swear!) and a blow dryer. But to get the height it is on the show takes an experienced hair stylist 25 minutes of work! You can't get that look at home, it takes an expert's touch. All part of the HOLLYWOOD ILLUSION!
What was it like to go from college humor to working on tv? Was the environment different did it feel strange?
The main difference is that it is BIGGER and FASTER and MORE PRESSURE and oh yeah I guess it's just different in every way? But I am still working with all my friends from CH to make the show, which is really wonderful and a true gift.
Have you ever decided not to feature a topic for the show or include a specific fact because it conflicted with your personal beliefs or those of the executives?
No. Our executives' personal beliefs don't interfere with the show; they generally let us do whatever topics we want. As for my own personal beliefs: My goal in the show AND in life is to challenge my own beliefs as much as I can. So when a topic challenges what I believe, those are the best topics of all! That feeling of "What you think you know isn't true" is what the whole show is based on; so when I get that feeling strongly, then I know the topic is going to be great.
Hi, Adam. I love your show and I'd like to ask:
Where do you and your production team get your ideas for your shows?
Do you yourself know some of the information or do you just read it off the script?
What are some ideas you have for other shows?
Coke or Pepsi?
Most of the facts we do on the show were things I had at least some knowledge of before we started researching; many are topics I feel passionately about. By the time we're done researching the episode, though, I know as much about the topics as I possibly can! After all, we just wrote an episode of TV about them!
Neither; La Croix. What can I say, trying to cut down on sugar!
What was it like working with Jake and Amir?
Secondly, would you ever consider doing a behind-the-scenes episode about the show titled "Adam Ruins Adam Ruins Everything?"
We have an episode JUST like this coming out this year! But it's called "Emily Ruins Adam Ruins Everything." Twist!!
Jake and Amir are great guys, but we haven't worked together all that much! I joined CH right after they stopped working full time in the office. Jake was in our Bathroom episode, though, and he was great!
Whos your favourite member of the Wu Tang Clan ?
You know, I'd be lying if I called myself a knowledgable Wu Tang fan but, hey, this is Ask Me ANYTHING, so I'll hazard an opinion. RZA.
Gun to your head, you have to tell a joke to save your life, what do you go with?
Edit- Yay first question! Been mashing refresh like crazy waiting for this!
My legit favorite joke:
ME: Oh crap, did you hear about that actress who just stabbed herself? I forget her name. Reese something... Reese...
ME: No, with her knife!!
Legitimately terrible but I love telling it.
What about "The Real Truth About Financial Aid"? Every ~~other~~ episode has been good, but that ~~one~~ [EDIT: ...video which was not an episode but which still featured you in character as the "Adam Ruins Everything" guy] stood out as more resembling shilling for FAFSA and/or the student loan industry than anything else.
Here's some of the commentary from the Reddit article about it:
> Recently, CH posted a new episode of Adam Ruins Everything, the exciting, objective, unbiased show many people love. But something is strange in particular about this specific episode. It doesn't challenge any preconceived notions, nor does it even provide you any useful, or even new information. But it only does one thing, and one thing only...advertise.
> The episode I am of course referring to is titled, "The Real Truth About Financial Aid." In the video, Adam expresses how signing up gets you "free money" for college, and everyone should do it. The girl in the video he is informing asks hand picked questions that desperately avoid Adam being forced to answer about Financial Aid in any negative or critical manner whatsoever. It's clear the video is aimed at high school students, trying to get them to sign up, because, as you can see scattered around the internet, college students are quickly calling out the bs the video presents.
EDIT: Thanks for the very straightforward and reasonable response!
Glad you asked about this one. This was not an episode of Adam Ruins Everything; it was a separate video I did for CollegeHumor that was sponsored by FAFSA. I am very careful about doing any kind of sponsored content, and turn almost everything down, precisely because I value the trust the audience places in me so highly.
In this case, I agreed to the video because: a) FAFSA is a non-profit government entity, not a for-profit corporation, b) there truly is no downside to filling out the FAFSA; all it does is tell you what grants and loans you're eligible for. If the video were trying to steer people towards those terrible private loans, I would not have done it. c) The folks at FAFSA's goal was to reduce the number of students who don't go to college because they don't know they're eligible for federal grants. Increasing access to education is an important cause for me, and I could stand behind the message, so I agreed to do the video.
NOW: I am well aware that the private student loan industry is a rapacious one, and that college financing is well and truly fucked in this country. And I am also aware that federal loans have their own problems well. And I regret that, to some members of the audience, this video made it seem as though I was unaware of that fact. To address that, this year we are doing a major segment on the student loan industry; it's in an episode called Adam Ruins College.
But, all that being said -- in researching that segment, we confirmed what we already knew. Even though the student loan system is terrible, filling out the FAFSA is the best first step towards avoiding the worst loans and reducing the amount you have to pay through grants. Every expert we spoke to said as much. The system is bad, but until it improves, you should still fill out the FAFSA.
That said, I very much regret that the video confused some folks; as a result, I've become even more careful about doing sponsored content. My first allegiance is to the audience and the truth, and it always will be.
Thanks for reading, and for watching!
How much say do you have in the topics that get covered in the show?
Also have you considered doing an episode on ruining cable companies? A lot of people are moving away from them lately, including me, but sadly that means I can't watch your show as often as I'd like.
I'm the creative head of the show, so I have final say on what topics go in the show.
We did talk about cable companies quite a bit in Adam Ruins the Internet! But that was mostly about net neutrality and cable consolidation.
Adam, what does Jon Wolf smell like?
Also, when did you decide that it was more important to correct people's misconceptions instead of just trying to be another Ryan Seacrest type?
Honestly, it came out of trying to figure out how to engage an audience. It's HARD to be a Ryan Seacrest type, because it's hard to tell people why they should care about you rather than just any other dude on stage / screen. Once I realized that surprising the audience with information was really entertaining and engaging, I went with it! And of course, it helped that I've always been a super-curious person who's interested in this kind of knowledge!
How do you come up with your topics?
We have a writer's room full of writers and researchers who are very, very smart and have absorbed a ton of information. We all ask them to pitch things they've learned that have blown their minds. After that, we run them down and research them, make sure they hold up, then put them in the show. That's about it!
Hey Adam! I'd like to ask, how much has your life changed since the show started? Are there things you've had to give up or cut back on or do you still have a pretty "normal" life so far?
How does your sister feel about her TV counterpart?
I would not say my life is normal, no. The biggest change has been the schedule. We work on the show year round - even when I'm traveling out of the country, I'm working. The busiest I get, I'm shooting the show 13 hours a day, AND working on scripts, AND reviewing cuts of the show. It's pretty gruelling, and way different than being a sketch writer / cast member at CollegeHumor! It's worth it, though, I love making the show and I especially love being able to share all this information with everyone at home.
Haha Yea I love it. I have heard this one before. I feel like they would spare you out of pity most likely. Thank you for answering my question, I tried to be a little different then the whole (I love your show, blah blah blah) even tho I do, and was on pins waiting for season two to start.
Thank you for watching!
Do you correct people when misconceptions that you've discussed off air?
You know, after I've said something on TV, I feel like it's rude to go around repeating it in real life! Now that I'm interrupting people on TV so much, I'm a little more inclined to bite my tongue in IRL, ironically! :)
Hey Adam! Thanks for doing this. Canuck here, love your show. I have two questions for you, although I know one you might not answer.
Would you consider doing a show about how horrible diapers how and how washable diapers are so much better? Cause, y'know, they are?
Any options for Canadians to watch your show with the new series? Can't seem to find a Canadian distributor for it. This makes beavers cry, you know.
I wish I had control over our international distribution, but unfortunately I don't. That said, I believe the show IS broadcast on Much; check it out and see! If not -- well, look, if you somehow procure the show through other means, you won't hear any complaints from me. I just want people to be able to see it and spread the knowledge.
We already did our babies episode, so it might be awhile before we do another baby topic; I'll take it into consideration though!
Do you remember hosting Zombieville II at the Knitting Factory in 2007? I keep going back to look at the ticket stub because it looks like nearly everyone who played it eventually became successful. (Anamanaguchi, Reggie Watts, you, etc.)
This is fascinating, I barely remember it!! Amazing that you have the stub. I'm gonna go search through my email archive and see if I can find more about it. I was just a little baby comedian back then!! I do love Anamanaguchi and Nullsleep and Reggie still!
He does a few voices on Bojack, including Bradley Hitler-Smith
I sure do! Glad you noticed!! Bojack was created by my buddy Raphael Bob-Waksberg; we were both members of the sketch group Olde English. And Bojack is designed / illustrated by my partner Lisa Hanawalt!
How much like your character are you IRL? I'm pretty much exactly like you and I totally relate to being hated for knowing things.
Quite a bit! I do love knowledge, and I AM irritating. But my mannerisms are a bit different (I've developed a character in my years on the show). And in real life I'm not a lonely single - I've been in a happy relationship for close to a decade! I often think of my character on the show as being based on a younger version of myself; when I was less socially aware, more awkward, and more insecure. And back then, I WAS hated for knowing things! It just took me a few decades to figure out how to turn that into a strength. You can too!
Do you still play Binding of Isaac?
I do! On Switch, now.
Big fan. When will your show be available in other countries? I like supporting artists who make awesome content, but trutv is not in Canada, and I have not been able to find your show in iTunes etc.
So... please put your show in a place I can give you money for it
In Canada I believe you can watch the show on Much!
Hey Adam! I wanted to say that I was a big fan of Olde English back in the day. "Arthur got a haircut" would play and be quoted constantly in my dorm room, and I loved Badminton and many others as well.
As for a question, do you ever work with the Olde English team anymore, and would you ever again?
Thanks for doing this AMA, Adam Ruins everything is wonderful.
Thank you! Always happy when people mention Olde English. I work with the other OE guys on their projects (like Bojack), and they work on mine! Unlikely that we will ever do another project as Olde English, though. Have you checked out our movie?
Thanks so much for responding! Yeah, I was tabling for 8bitpeoples that night and it was a great experience. I miss the old Knitting Factory location.
Cool! I just checked my email and apparently I bombed the show hard :)