When it comes right down to it, Joe Rogan will always be a stand-up.
He may have served as a electrician of the '90s cult sitcom Newsradio, a replacement host for The Man Show, a UFC commentator and, most infamously, the host of the extreme reality show Fear Factor. But the man still takes pleasure performing his wild-eyed, button-pushing brand of stand-up. And when he isn't standing up riffing and ranting, he's sitting down, still riffing and ranting, as host of the podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.
Rogan, 45, talked to the Indy about his career, his infamous stint as a "joke thief crusader" and what him decide to do hosting duties for the recent (and recently canceled) Fear Factor reboot.
INDY: It looks like you've been doing a lot more theaters now, including the Memorial Auditorium tonight. How has that been from going to the clubs to hitting the theaters?
ROGAN: It’s been great. Well, the transition has slowly taken place from my last Spike TV comedy special that also aired on Comedy Central. From then on, I started moving into theaters. I did a lot more theaters from then on. And, then, the podcast started happening. And, because of the podcast, I’ve been able to do much, much larger venues because the podcast has done really well. It’s better than any radio show that I’ve ever been on or anything else that I’ve ever used to promote things. The podcast has been much more successful at getting through to people.
How did the podcast start?
Well, it was never a conscious thought. It just happened. It was one of those things where we were screwing around with Ustream, just on a laptop, and we, you know, would let people ask questions and we would just talk and we just did it for fun. And, then, we said, “Alright, we’re gonna do this every week. Every Monday, we’ll see you guys here and we’ll do this, little Ustream thing.” And, then, it built up and, then, we started putting it on iTunes. And, then, from then, it just became this snowball that we were not just pushing, but we became a part of the snowball. And we became caught up in the momentum of it all. And that’s kind of where we find ourselves right now.
We have to talk about how you became something of a joke-thief hunter in the last decade. You especially went after Carlos Mencia for his widely-reported joke-lifting. Is that still something you deal with?
Well, you know, I only got that tag because of having to deal with Carlos Mencia, and it was one of those things where I couldn’t avoid him. You know, we both worked out of the same club. We were both at the Comedy Store, and he was a real problem for everyone that worked there. They have a little system to warn people about when he was in the room, because they didn’t want people to do their new material and Carlos would go and steal it and put it on television. It was a disaster. It was an artistic disaster having that guy around.
So, it was never something like, you know, I set out and said, “You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna rid the world of joke thieves!” The joke thief problem is rare but real, and when you have a guy like Mencia that was so blatant — not just blatant but stupid about it — and the industry was just letting it all fly. No one was doing anything about it. There was no policing whatsoever by agents or producers or executives. Nobody did anything about it. So, the only way to do something about it was to let people know, let the fans know, hey — this guy that you like — not only is he not Mexican, he’s never written a fuckin’ joke in his life. He’s a thief. He’s a scumbag, a plagiarist, an asshole, a sociopath, a liar — all these things, and, you know, we exposed him. And that took the teeth out of Carlos Mencia. He’s done. Nobody takes him seriously anymore. Everybody has seen those bits that he stole — especially from Bill Cosby and Sam Kinison — and seeing that, you know, just example after example. It’s basically defanged him. He doesn’t pose a threat to anybody anymore.
So, a positive impact came out of it. I hope positive for him. I hope he realizes that there’s a price to pay for everything. You can’t just go around robbing people and ripping off their material. Eventually, you’re gonna get caught. You’re gonna suffer, and he most certainly has suffered for that.
You were the host of the short-lived Fear Factor reboot. How was that?
Well, it was just one of those things where I couldn’t believe that it was actually coming back. I was shocked by that, and they offered me a shitload of money. [Laughs] So, alright, I said, “I’ll try it again. Let’s do it again for a little while.” But, quite honestly, when it was canceled, I was happy that it was canceled. I didn’t enjoy it. It was a good idea to do — as far as in that nostalgic way. It seemed like fun. Like, “Oh my God! We’re doing Fear Factor again!” But the reality of it was that I had moved on. I had moved on in my own head, you know.
Well, are there any other projects you're working on? Anything people should know about Joe Rogan these days?
Just my podcast and stand-up, and that’s basically it. That’s really what I’m trying to concentrate on the most: my podcast, doing stand-up comedy and putting out new specials. That’s really all I’m trying to do. That’s when I’m at my happiest. That’s when I’m enjoying myself the most, so that’s what I’m trying to concentrate on the most. It’s also what I think I do the best. I’m always happiest when I’m producing my own thing — so I’m just trying to do more of that.