Joe Rogan is aware that you might think he's a dick. Following a six-year stint as the host of NBC's Fear Factor, he understands there may be a few people out there who only know him as "that guy who made people eat animal cocks on national TV." But he's banking that his recent web presence and the release of his new comedy CD Shiny Happy Jihad will change all of that, or at the very least give you a new reason to think he's a dick.
Rogan sat down with us to discuss his feud with Carlos Mencia, Paris Hilton's voice and why your ancestors were probably tripping on mushrooms.
You open the show with a bit about how you can't believe Fear Factor was ever on national TV. Did Fear Factor hurt or help your standup career?
Well it probably did both. I mean, in one sense it definitely helps because more people know who I am. But in a lot of ways it hurts. I'm not really funny on that show, and if you didn't know me, you'd probably think I was a dick.
You've talked about the financial freedom that Fear Factor gave you. Would you have had the balls to call Carlos Mencia a joke thief, for instance, if you didn't have that financial security?
I would have done it anyway, for sure. If the same opportunity presented itself, and I didn't have Fear Factor, I would have still done the exact same thing. [But] I am in a position where I can call him out and it won't look like I'm jealous, and he can't hurt me financially. If I didn't have a net or a cushion and I was a youngster or a comedian no one had ever heard of, he could blackball me.
The web and YouTube have had an integral role in your feud.
The YouTube clip of him stealing the Cosby bit may be the last nail in the coffin, but for every Bill Cosby joke he's done, there's 30 Latino kids out there that want to fucking kill him. Kids you've never heard of, and he's stealing their shit.
And yet Mind of Mencia remains popular.
I watched it for a few minutes before I had to change the channel. It' horrible. What he's done is he's figured out a way to tune into a special frequency that retards operate on. He does jokes that are only for dumb people. Occasionally, he'll do a funny one. If it' funny, he stole it from somebody else.
Your act seems less like a stand-up routine and more like a manic, drug-fueled academic lecture. Instead of airplane peanuts, you're talking about the pyramids and outer space.
Well, it's just what I like to talk about-things that fascinate me. Like the construction of pyramids has been a passion of mine for fucking years, man.
There are three levels of comedy. The first level, you try to do stuff you think will work for the audience. Then you start doing comedy you think is funny. And then the third level of comedy is when you start getting people to laugh at your philosophies. Getting people to laugh at the way you see life. That' real comedy, to me. 'Here's the world through my eyes.'
Psychedelic drugs and chemicals certainly seem to be an area of interest. You name-drop Oxytocin in your act, and your detailed discussion of DMT is a kind of web classic. Any other drugs our young readers should be trying to get their hands on?
There's a fascinating theory by Terrence McKenna. He believes that human evolution was accelerated by the consumption of psilocybyin [psychedelic] mushrooms. When the rainforest receded into grassland in Africa a million years ago, the hominids came out of the trees and started looking for other food sources. If you look at primates in Africa, they're always flipping over cow dung to find beetle grubs, and these mushrooms grow on cow dung.
And if you ate these mushrooms, they would do a bunch of pretty interesting things that would tend to accelerate evolution. In low doses, mushrooms actually increase visual acuity, which makes you better hunter. They also make you hornier and give you consciousness-expanding experiences. It kills the ego, and it makes you look at life from an enhanced and much more objective perspective. Those things alone, point to one of the possible reasons the human brain doubled in size over a period of two million years. Which is the biggest mystery in the entire fossil record. The doubling in size of an organ over the period of two million years.
A lot of comedians get famous and then flame out because their fame hurts their ability to make observations about everyday life. Your career has sort of had a reverse trajectory where you got famous from Fear Factor, and then your comedy career sort of got a second wind.
Fame is a trick. You're still a human being, except now you're being displayed in front of millions of people. All you have to do is be on TV. Paris Hilton is a perfect example of that. Do you even know what her voice sounds like? I don't have a fucking clue.
And if you're famous, and being tricked by the very magic trick that makes other people think you're special, then you're a fucking idiot. If you're famous and you don't step aside and go, 'Well, this is ridiculous,' than you're an idiot.
People that become famous feel entitled. That' when you fall apart. That's when you stop being the everyday person. That' when you stop being funny. I think I'm fortunate to have enough clarity to look at this gigantic magic trick that I'm a part of and say, "Huh, look at this."
You started out by making the very common leap from being a black belt in karate to being a stand-up comedian. You do commentary for Ultimate Fighting, and in the past couple of months, there' been this feud with Mencia. Do you thrive on conflict?
The thing with Carlos Mencia is about standing up for an art form, and standing up to someone who' an aberration in the system. Someone who' figured out a way to victimize artists.
I was thrust into that situation because of his own ego. Because he was dumb enough to get up on-stage and call me up there, and say that I didn't have the balls to say anything to his face. It was just his bad luck that we had a camera in the audience.
His audience has been reduced to people so dumb that they don't care if someone is stealing material and people without an internet connection. That' still a big audience, sure, but there' no intelligent people that like him.
But I don't like conflict. I would way rather if the world was filled with people who were fucking cool. I would rather not have guys like Carlos Mencia that, when I'm on-stage and he' in the back of the room, I have to worry about this motherfucker doing my shit on TV.
Joe's Showtime special premieres on Thursday, April 19 at 9:00 PM and his CD, Shiny Happy Jihad, hits stores on Tuesday, April 10.