REUNITED Carolla and Pinsky.
Dr. Drew Pinsky wasn’t sure how to describe his upcoming gig in Newport during a recent phone call with the Phoenix. Sure, he and his longtime sparring partner and former MTV Loveline co-host, Adam Carolla, will be taking the stage as part of what’s called the Newport Comedy Series. And, based on previous shows from their Reunion Tour, Dr. Pinsky assured me that the act — a mix of shtick, storytelling, medical advice, and fielding questions from audience members — was “very funny.” But it isn’t a standup routine by any stretch, he said. And as he searched around for the right words to describe it (“spoken word with a comedian,” “not unlike a podcast”) he eventually gave up. “I don’t know what this is,” he said.
Dr. Pinsky occupies a particularly visible, yet tense spot, in American popular culture. He’s a practicing physician, but he also has a long-running radio show, a nighttime show on HLN, and he’s appeared on daytime TV (Lifechangers ended in 2012) and, perhaps most controversially, the VH1 reality series, Celebrity Rehab. Earlier this year, The New York Times served up a memorable sentence offering context for his dual careers: “His father, Morton Pinsky, was a physician, and his mother, Helene Stanton, a Las Vegas stage singer.”
But as much as Dr. Pinsky has embraced modern media, he still seems conflicted. Just a day before our scheduled conversation, the site hollywoodtake.com reported he had sworn off print interviews after too many quotes had been “distorted.”
Alas, it wasn’t completely true. Though he said he’d had plenty of “horrible experiences” with print journalists — quotes taken out of context, spurious sources quoted in opposition to him — he hasn’t gone entirely print-silent. Sounding a bit more like one of the guests on Celebrity Rehab than the show’s doctor-in-chief, as we began our interview, he said, “hopefully this will be part of my road back.”
Our conversation has been edited and condensed.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY THAT SERIOUS MEDICINE AND TELEVISION ARE ANTITHETICAL TO ONE ANOTHER. CAN YOU BE A SERIOUS DOCTOR AND BE ON TV AT THE SAME TIME? I’d say, “Ask my patients what they think.” Both the ones I’ve treated in the context of a reality show or the ones that I continue to treat in my daily practice. There’s that.
But the other thing is that I have maintained this position since I first crawled into media, which is [that] we physicians are precisely who needs to be in media. It’s not the attorney, it’s not the pundit. We, the doctors, have the perspective on health that needs to be all over media. And our reluctance to get involved is to the detriment and the ill health of not just the culture, but the very population we claim to serve. We have to figure out ways to get in it. We may feel uncomfortable — I know, I feel uncomfortable with it every day — but we must do it. All you see [on TV] is attorneys and all kinds of other professionals but, nope, no doctors. That’s a gigantic problem.