COMEDY: Talking with Joe Rogan

The comedian on fighting, life after Fear Factor and the big ol’ universe

Julie Seabaugh

What is it about your commentary/hosting gig for the UFC that is creatively satisfying for you in ways that NewsRadio, Fear Factor and The Man Show weren't?

I loved doing NewsRadio. NewsRadio was one of my favorite jobs ever. I'm not really an actor, but that kind of acting and that kind of situation was so much fun. To work with all these talented people and to be on such a funny show, it was a real pleasure. But Fear Factor was really just a job. I mean, it was a fun job. I'm very lucky to have had it, but it was really just a job, whereas the UFC deals with one of my main disciplines of life, which is martial arts.

I've done martial arts ever since I was a little kid. There's just so much about fighting that I love. It's not about beating people up. It's about the drama of two people who have put their bodies through these grueling routines. ... And they do it all for one moment, when you get two people into a cage on national television, and they've been preparing for this moment for, you know, eight or 10 weeks. That is an amazing experience. And to be able to explain it with the passion that I have for it, I feel very fortunate.

It seems to parallel the path of a stand-up comedian, where you're working for years in the clubs and it all leads up to a big HBO special, for example.

But the way I look at comedy is kind of different, because I don't think there really are big moments in comedy. I think the big moment in comedy is the continuous performances. That's what I really enjoy about comedy, is just constantly doing it. I just love the fact that people can come to a show, they can sit down and have a couple drinks, and they get to laugh and feel better. There's something spectacular about the art of stand-up comedy: You literally change the way people feel.

You also get more of a reaction than filming something on TV, where there's not that live give-and-take with the audience.

But it's also more dangerous because of that, because it is live and you can't repeat something. It is what it is. When the audience is there and the emcee says, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Joe Rogan," you go onstage and that's it: It's on. You can't stop. If you slip, you can't say, "Let's try this again."

No second takes.

No, no second takes. But that's part of the beauty of it. You've got to realize that life has no second takes. Life has mistakes and flubbed words, and you've just got to laugh at it.

You've been tossing around the idea of writing a book.

I've been thinking about that a lot, but I've been so busy lately, it's hard. I've got a CD coming out somewhere around February or March, and it's called Shiny, Happy Jihad, and so I'm just finishing that thing up. So maybe when I'm done with that I will sit down and think about writing a book.

Do you have a tentative subject matter? Will it be an autobiography?

I think I'm kind of writing based on the way I write my blogs on my website. Some of it is autobiographical, but some of it is just stream-of-consciousness. My life itself, how I grew up and everything, is kind of interesting. But more interesting, I think, is my life right now and how I look at the world, life, human beings, everything.

You get a lot of comparisons to Bill Hicks.

I'm a huge Bill Hicks fan. He was a big influence on me, for sure, along with Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison. Hicks was one of those rare comedians who had a very extreme point of view that was very well thought-out, that he wove his comedy around. Instead of just trying to make people laugh, his comedy was making people laugh with a very enlightened eye. I try to do that, but basically I'm trying to express myself and express the way I think. I just happen to think along the lines of someone who is trying to figure life out and has spent a lot of time thinking about it.

A good example of that is how you've been closing your sets, with the "Looking up at the stars" bit.

It's really weird that no one thinks about the fact that we're these animals clinging to this rock that's flying through the universe. We talk about Paris Hilton's vagina and Nicole Richie getting pulled over while smoking pot, Lindsay Lohan's in AA. Everybody knows these things, but no one knows the enormous, astronomical discoveries we've made just recently. Nobody ever thinks about the fact that this is an infinite space we live in, and we're just this tiny little speck in this gigantic, never-ending spiral of specks. It's really kind of crazy.

So it's safe to say that who audiences see onstage is an authentic version of you, as opposed to a character.

There's no character. I am who I am.

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