Hollywood doesn’t usually take kindly to artists who like to spread their wings and fly off to try new things. Good luck with your singing career, Mr. Actor.
But Joe Rogan doesn’t care. He hasn’t branched off to singing, but if he wanted to, he would. The guy got his start on sitcoms, first on the forgettable Hardball in 1994, then five seasons on the unforgettable NewsRadio. Next came hosting the guilty-pleasure reality series Fear Factor. You may have next seen him take an unsuccessful stab at The Man Show with his buddy Doug Stanhope. Throughout all this, Rogan was doing standup comedy whenever and wherever he could.
In 1997, while working on NewsRadio, Rogan started his affiliation with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), not yet even on the ground floor.
“I came in when it was in the basement,” he jokes on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “When I got involved, it wasn’t even on cable television. You could only get it on satellite.”
Rogan is in town doing double duty Friday and Saturday (June 13 and 14). On Friday, he performs standup (along with openers Bryan Callen and Tony Hinchcliffe) at the Orpheum, and on Saturday he’ll be in his usual ringside seat commentating on the UFC gig at Rogers Arena.
Didn’t he ever hear he had to pick one thing and stick to it?
“Yeah, I have heard that, but I’ve heard it from people I didn’t trust, fortunately,” he says. “So I just sort of kept doing my own thing. I’ve been the type of person that, whether it’s reckless disregard for other people’s advice or blind faith in my own instincts, I’ve always kind of chosen my own path and fortunately I’ve been right.”
He says when he started doing commentary for the UFC, people would tell him it was going to ruin his career in show business. “Being a part of it was like I was somehow involved with something that was seedy, distasteful,” he says.
Rogan has been involved with martial arts his whole life (two black belts in jujitsu and one in tae kwon do) and believed in the fledgling organization even before others did.
“I saw this new sport that was coming along that would give these martial artists a professional venue that didn’t exist before,” he says. “Mixed martial arts is sort of the testing ground. Without that, there was a lot of fuckery before. There was a lot of shit that people thought was good but was useless. And there were a lot of people that were pretending they were doing some high-level ancient martial arts that were deadly and super effective, but really they were just, like, cult leaders and charlatans. Crazy people.”
He started standup during the comedy boom in Boston, where there were five clubs on one block alone of Warrenton Street, at the age of 21—a year before retiring from the fight game. Standup and day jobs were taking away from his focus. “You have to be fully 100-percent immersed and committed to it, otherwise it’s really dangerous,” he says. “It’s really dangerous even if you’re fully committed to it, but if you half-ass it, you can really get fucked up. That’s where I found myself.”
Ditto comedy, although the beating you take there is less physically painful. “Comedy, if you’re not committed to it, you wind up bombing on-stage. It’s emotionally dangerous,” he says.
For the past five years, Rogan has been hosting one of the most popular podcasts in all podcastdom. The Joe Rogan Experience started as a weekly hourish-long show but has grown into a powerhouse, three-hour behemoth several times a week. People can’t get enough of the guy. With a gajillion other podcasts as competition, including a jillion in the comedy category, what sets his apart is his point of view as one of show biz’s most opinionated performers.
“I talk about things that are interesting to me and I talk to people who I find fascinating, whether it’s a comedian or an athlete or an author or a scientist or an educator, whatever the subjects may be,” he says. “There’s sincerity to it. I’m not pretending to be interested in these subjects.”
His interest in the paranormal led to a six-episode TV series called Joe Rogan Questions Everything. But taking a skeptical look at issues such as chemtrails and Bigfoot took a toll on him. He doesn’t think it’ll be back for a second season.
“The fundamental problem with those subjects is that a lot of them are just bullshit,” he says. “I’m seeing over and over again these people that are just liars. Either they’re liars or they’re delusional. Those are the two options. They’re kinda sad. So what am I gonna do? I’m going to make fun of sad, delusional people every week?”
Now he can just make fun of them on-stage. Or anything else, for that matter. His subject matter is a microcosm of his career: anything goes.
Joe Rogan plays the Orpheum Theatre on Friday (June 13).