For Adam Conover, a 2000 graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School, seeing himself on television didn’t exactly live up to his expectations.
“I had seen it so many times from the website that it didn’t have as big an impact as I thought it would,” he said.
By “it,” he meant his new show on TruTv, “Adam Ruins Everything.” The show, which debuted Sept. 29 and airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m., is exactly as it sounds. Mr. Conover spends half an hour ruining the way the audience thinks about everything — engagement rings, Toms shoes, polygraph tests — while also making them laugh about it.
Constant feedback about the program, however, exceeded his expectations.
“When it aired, what struck me the most was people tweeting constantly about the show,” Mr. Conover said. “It was less me watching and more the fact that I got to watch it with people across the country that was cool.”
While his show is brand-new, the idea is not.
“It was a slow evolution,” he said. “I was a standup comic and did it as part of my act. I told the story about engagement rings. When I told that bit I noticed people laughed, leaned forward in their chairs and listened harder.”
He later began working for CollegeHumor.com and turned the “Adam Ruins Everything” concept into a video series after other writers would make fun of him for going on mini rants at work. They ended up turning those rants into a blog, which was “part of the genesis of the character and ideas” for the show.
“We noticed the first video was a really big hit,” Mr. Conover said, defining a hit as a video garnering at least one million views. “I moved to Los Angeles [with CollegeHumor] to pitch TV show ideas, and we immediately identified it as an idea. We took it to different stations and TruTV had the risk-taking spirit.”
The show was officially picked up for 12 episodes last October.
While his standup career launched “Adam Ruins Everything,” it was in theater productions at Shoreham-Wading River, under teachers Jeffrey Bennett and Mary Hygom, that Mr. Conover’s his passion for performing began.
“The theater program was very serious for a high school theater program,” he said. “Productions were very professional. I remember in middle and elementary school my parents would take us because they were good shows.
“It’s a wonderful and unique public school,” he added. “They did remarkable things that got me interested in learning.”
His mom, Margaret Conover, agreed that the drama program was a turning point for her son. She, however, first noticed his comedic flair while he was the front man in his band, Bocoach, during his high school years.
“I remember seeing him act as a comedian in between songs,” she said. “He didn’t know he was doing comedy, but he was … it surprised me. It was the first time I thought he was funny; he wasn’t that funny around the house.”
If high school introduced him to performing, it was college that introduced him to performing as a career.
Mr. Conover and friends at Bard College created a sketch group called Olde English. One year they attended the National College Comedy Festival and got a standing ovation during their performance, something Mr. Conover said signaled that his group was the best.
“It was one thing to do it in college, but that was the first time I thought we were really good,” he said. “We got early viral hits on the Internet. I realized it wasn’t just a pipe dream, I could figure out how to do it as an actual plausible career.”
Although his comedy was noticed later, his inquisitiveness was always at the forefront of her son’s personality, Ms. Conover said.
This, she said, could be credited to the Conover family’s love for science. Ms. Conover, her husband, David, and their daughter Emily all have doctorates in different science-based fields.
“Scientists always question everything,” she said. “There’s always more to the story and science is about [finding] what is the backstory … That’s Adam’s approach to everything in life.”
Mr. Conover said he gets the information for the questions he asks and answers on the show from what he knows, as well as from his team of writers and researchers. All the information used to create each episode is cited onscreen.
“I’m very, very proud,” Ms. Conover said of her son’s success. “Very excited. Very happy. I like the show a lot. It’s clever, it’s smart and it makes people think.”