Adam Ruins Everything is a remarkable program. It’s pretty damn funny and charming as hell, but it also bombards its audience with information and knowledge. The first season alone tries to set viewers straight on areas like cars, sex, the justice system, and even death. In that sense, Adam Ruins Everything is one of the more creative examples of informational programs that is out there.
The project has been a labor of love for Adam Conover. It grew out of a series of College Humor videos, which makes the success of this show all the more special.
We spoke with Conover about the evolution of the series, what topics have surprised him the most so far, the risks and responsibilities that a program like this encounters, and what’s new in season two.
DEN OF GEEK: First off, heading into this second season, did you have any sort of agenda in mind? After a great first season, was there anything you wanted to do differently with this year of the show?
ADAM CONOVER: That’s a really good question. First of all, I was trying to challenge our audience. We’re not a show that likes to tell people what they want to hear, and people think they know what they want to hear from our show, so we consider it a challenge to try and surprise them. We want to give them ideas that are kind of difficult. So we look for ideas like that.
We had some cool ideas on the backburner that we wanted to include this year. Topics that we had held off on before but are ready to tackle this season. We’re doing an episode about science, which i’m really excited about. Our premiere is a whole episode about having a baby, which is something that we thought was super ripe to dig into. So we sort of follow that theme and track through Emily and Mark’s baby’s life stages in a fun way. We also try to tell bigger and better stories about Adam’s character. So that’s something that we’re really excited about as well.
I know that this season you’re doing an episode where Emily provides corrections or addendums to stuff from the first season. That’s a great way to keep old topics feeling fresh.
Yeah! We’re really excited about that. People always ask, “When are you going to do Adam Ruins Adam Ruins Everything?” That’s something that people have been asking for since the beginning and we’re finally doing it. I’m pretty psyched about it and I think that people are really going to dig that episode. I just saw the first cut of it and it’s really, really cool. It’s an idea that really makes sense for our process.
Our show never intended or claims to present “perfect knowledge.” This is not a show about absolute truths, but rather the process of finding out and the security in our destination. Part of that involves always questioning what you think you know and what you’ve put out there that you believe. So it’s been very cool to get to embrace that on the show.
Similarly, are there any episodes or topics where you’ve thought about doing a sequel because you’ve found a bunch of evidence after the fact? Or do you prefer to just move on to new topics?
Well, that in particular has yet to happen. I like to think that there are themes within out show that we return to. If you were to binge watch the whole first season you would see recurring themes that we return to a couple of times. I’m a car hater, for instance. I hate cars; in terms of what they do to nature and personally I just don’t like driving them. I think they’re a very bad way to design a transportation system. So we return to that theme a bunch of times. We did a whole episode on cars. We did a thing about electric cars and why they’re not the ultimate solution to climate change. We also have an episode coming up about the suburbs that also touches on similar territory. So we’ll try to look at a single topic from a bunch of different angles. This is a show that is often in conversation with itself and there are definitely topics that I wish we had more time to get into.
Our episode on immigration is on the reality of people going over the Mexican border. I learned about those migration patterns, but then after we did the episode I did a podcast where I interviewed our experts from the episode. Our researcher who’s been going down to the US-Mexican border and just doing field research. You know, stuff like, how many people are crossing the border. He does interviews, standard data collection–the same methods that anyone would use–and so he has this data that goes back 40 years, and the things that he told me about the migration patterns and how they work made me go, “Man, I wish we could have done another segment on this!” There’s just so much more interesting information on all of this. And it’s stuff that will make you think about the whole issue totally differently. So there was that. We did another segment on why buying a house isn’t a perfect investment. That’s one that was really aimed at people who are told to buy houses; that that’s the main goal in life and the best investment ever. So we wanted to touch on that and explode that a little and show that it’s not always a great investment. There’s a lot of ways that it can go south. It’s not so clear cut.
Now, we’re also doing another episode, our suburbs episode, about redlining and how African Americans or minorities are prevented from buying homes and getting home loans after World War II. That really led to a huge wealth disparity in American society. It’s a big part of why there’s an income inequality between different groups. African Americans and other minorities missed out on this huge chance to generate wealth by buying homes. Now, those two topics are kind of in dialogue with each other. One is saying don’t buy a home, and the other is saying this is an issue of wealth inequality, and both things are true. When we were approaching both of these topics, I kept thinking that I wished that we had a way to show those connections because one of those episodes came out a year after the other one. So we don’t really have a way to put those ideas together and talk about how they inter-relate. So that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and how we can further connect those disparate dots.
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You’ve mentioned the Adam Ruins Everything podcast. I like that you’ve taken a bit of an unconventional approach towards extra content for the program. You did a tour for the show, you host a regular podcast for the series, there was the Election Special last year. Is it nice to have those extra streams for the show? Have you thought about exploring even more avenues, like a book?
I loved doing the podcast and the tour and those are wonderful ways to sort of larger conversations in different contexts. The podcast literally came out of truTV saying that they wanted to do more original content for the show to do during the offseason. So I jumped in and was like, “I want to talk to those experts for longer!” because I’ll always be chatting with them on set and it’ll be so fascinating. I want to do that for longer! So that one just grew out of desire.
I know you’ve said in the past that you have a certain allegiance to the wedding ring topic since it was the one started it all, but do you have another topic that you’d consider to be your favorite?
That’s really interesting. When I think about the ones that are my favorites, they really for me now—and this goes back to what I was saying about the podcast—come back to the incredible people that I get to meet.
So for all of the topics, I think what means the most to me about them is not necessarily that I got to meet these people, but that we got to showcase their really incredible work and boost their signals a little bit. To be a part of what they’re trying to do and to be in service of their work is the best thing that we can do. The highest aspiration of our show is to find people like that and spread their work to a larger audience.
Finally Adam, I’ve seen the scope of topics that you guys tackle this season and it looks like there are some real interesting ones like conspiracy theories and wellness. Which topic from this year are you most excited for people to see?
We were talking about the corrections one a bunch because that’s one of my favorites of the year. I’m really excited about the conspiracy theory episode. It’s a real departure for us. It’s a different sort of context, but it’s still such an important area. Conspiracy theories are a really big deal right now. We really think we were able to figure out why people believe in conspiracy theories in the first place and what causes them.
So it starts off as a bit of a silly episode… We de-bunk the idea that NASA could have faked the moon landing. Why it would have actually been impossible to fake and that it would actually be easier to just go to the moon than fake that sort of thing. But then the episode moves to a cool, more analytical place where it’s like, “What are these things called conspiracy theories and why do we believe them?”
Adam Ruins Everything’s second season premieres on truTV on July 11th at 10pm