Piece of advice when speaking with Joe Rogan: Don’t goof on the Sasquatch.
“If someone started making fun of Bigfoot right now, I couldn’t help myself,” the comedian, UFC commentator, former “Fear Factor” and current podcast host says. “I would go, ‘Well, actually, there’s an animal called Gigantopithecus. It existed in Asia and very well could have come down the Bering Strait with human beings. You’re not talking about fantasy; you’re talking about an actual animal that anthropologists say existed no later than 14,000 or 15,000 years ago, which makes it coexist with people.’ ”
Rogan’s a good talker – candid, funny, congenial and as free with his words as the tipsy dude at the office Christmas party telling the boss how he really feels.
He’s especially fond of discussing, at great length and with even greater enthusiasm, topics that can be hard to get one’s brain around (the creation of ancient Inca city Machu Picchu, John Travolta’s rumored sexual proclivities, the existence of extraterrestrial life forms, and shaggy forest dwellers share their name with a monster truck).
It’s these last two subjects, in particular, that are hard to talk about seriously and be taken seriously, not dismissed as a pothead and/or conspiracy theorist (Rogan is admittedly a bit of both).
“If you go around at work talking about aliens, people think you’re an idiot, and no one wants to be thought of as an idiot,” he says. “When people have these thoughts in their heads, they sort of keep them to themselves.”
Rogan doesn’t keep much of anything to himself, and this is a prime reason why his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” has become one of the most popular shows of its kind, regularly ranking among the top 10 downloaded comedy podcasts on iTunes.
On it, Rogan hosts comedians (Doug Stanhope), astrophysicists (Neil Degrasse Tyson), outdoorsmen (Steve Rinella), psychedelic artists (Alex Grey), nutritionists (Rich Roll), musicians (Maynard James Keenan) and others in lengthy, free-range conversations that often stretch for more than two hours and lance such conversational taboos as, say, talking to a guest about sex toys.
You could say that Rogan goes off topic, but considering that being on topic is seldom a goal, that would seem to miss the point.
His podcast chats are like the organic alternative to the manufactured, preplanned interview, Whole Foods vs. hormone-enhanced McDonald’s.
“It’s sort of random access, whatever comes up, comes up,” Rogan says. “With other podcasts or interview shows, I think they would think that would be a distraction, a bad thing, to not spend the entire two hours discussing a person’s field of expertise. But I like talking to people about everything, man.”
In a way, Rogan’s podcast is reflective of his stand-up routine, which is both topical, with Rogan offering alternately pointed and profane takes on gay marriage, evolution and religion in a voice that bounces up and down like kids on a trampoline, and more flippant, such as when he extols the joys of watching “Roadhouse” while high and questions the wisdom of talking dogs in anti-pot commercials (“You might want to stop eating out of the litter box before you go giving out advice. It’s kind of hard to take you serious when you’ve got litter crumbs stuck to your wet nose,” Rogan says of the offending pooch on his 2009 comedy album “Talking Monkeys in Space”).
But there’s also a more holistic side to Rogan’s humor.
He’s fond of skewering New Age gurus such as Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopra, but, in a way, he’s become one himself, a self-professed dirty comic advocating (mostly) clean living, forever extolling the benefits of a healthy diet and rigorous exercise, of kale shakes and kettle bells.
“I can’t tell you how many times I come to shows and I run into a guy who says, ‘Dude, ever since I started listening to your podcast, I lost 60 pounds, I started working out, I’m drinking kale shakes every morning for breakfast, I feel fantastic,” he says proudly.
A decorated, lifelong martial artist, Rogan’s a tough guy who doesn’t carry himself as a tough guy. Basically, he’s a conscientious man’s man, a jiujitsu humanist.
In his high school cafeteria, Rogan would have been equally at home sitting with the jocks or the burnouts, and the point is there really isn’t much dividing the two.
Mostly though, Rogan just preaches the merits of being a nice guy, doing little things, such as leaving a $100 tip on a $10 bar tab, which he says he does frequently.
“I do it because, for me, it’s a cheap way to make people feel good,” Rogan says. “A guy’s a waiter, he gives you a beer, you give him $100 and you go, ‘That’s all you, brother.’ He’s goes, ‘Whoa, really?’ You see him smile. Being generous, being friendly like that is a very important part of being a human being and a very overlooked aspect of interacting with people. We get a lot of that rubbing off on people from the podcast.”
Said podcast has significantly boosted Rogan’s already well-established comedy career in recent years, garnering him a bigger, more increasingly rabid fan base that’s become its own culture, a kind of all-inclusive in-club.
Because he’s so forthcoming on the “Experience,” so eager to talk about things that others often shy away from, people feel like they know him, feel comfortable around him, for better or worse.
“Five seconds into my show the other day in Denver, I had a girl jump onstage with a big bag of marijuana,” Rogan sighs. “First of all, ‘What the hell are you doing onstage with me? And why did you bring me pot? Get out of here.’ People are nuts.”
Maybe so, but examining humankind’s conceits – and frequently eviscerating them – is what Rogan does best, what’s made him famous.
He may tackle plenty of far-out topics, but when the conversation turns to his own success, and how unlikely it reads on paper, that might be the murkiest subject of them all.
Think aliens are far-fetched?
Look at this guy’s career.
“It seems like it doesn’t work at all,” Rogan acknowledges. “It seems like that would be the last thing that you would want to hear onstage: a guy who’s a trained killer who’s also a joker.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@
reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin
9 p.m. today
Mandalay Bay Events Center, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South