By David Carter
When I was offered the opportunity to interview Joe Rogan prior to his performance at the Warner Theater this Saturday, I took it immediately. Joe has a career that has allowed him to take his passion for comedy, investigation, and entertainment to every modern vehicle. I respect that. I want to earn that. His stand up offers a high energy enthusiasm that can’t be ignored. His podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” is not just self reflection, but in depth conversations and explorations with experts not only in the comedy world, but science and philosophy as well. Do yourself a favor and enjoy his view of the world this weekend before I buy all the tickets left and sit in the balcony alone.
David: Hey Joe, how are ya doing?
Joe: What’s happening man? How are ya?
David: I’m doing great. How is your morning of phoners?
Joe: Great. You’re the last one.
David: You recorded a special in August (to be released later this year), so of course comes the pattern of you tour all the major cities, with a performance at the Warner Theater on the 18th. What can your new and old fans expect out of this show?
Joe: I love coming to D.C. I think it’s a very unusual city. It’s so fascinating that it’s this weird place that everything thinks of as the capital of the country, there is so much international business, political stuff that is connected to that part of the country that it has a very charred atmosphere. Comedy shows in D.C. are so much fun. I think because of the intense area that is connected to politics that people need, they need their down time. D.C. audiences are almost universally praised by comedians.
David: Yeah! This place more than anything needs clowns.
Joe: (Laughs) We all need it, but yeah. That because it’s the belly of the beast, man.
David: There is no laughter in the cubicles up here. Is there anything you’re particularly excited about in this new special, this new hour you’re bringing up here?
Joe: Well the new special is just stand up. It’s just here is the world through my eyes, mocking everything from Bigfoot to Duck Dynasty to everything, you know?
David: That might as well be the same show. I’m sure he has at least an executive producer credit on that show.
Joe: Well Duck Dynasty is representative in a lot of ways where a big chunk of this country is at, mentally. Like we are clinging on, clinging on as much as possible, and a very simple form of the world. And that is what DD offers us. It offers us a sort of Walton field. They all hold hands and sit around and prey in that show at the dinner table. There is all this goofiness to this show. There is a reason that it’s so incredible popular. I think it’s because people long for a time when things were simpler. Those same people are completely terrified with the complexity of the world they are faced with.
David: Then what a great market to come out with your SyFy show where you literally “Question Everything”.
Joe: Yeah, I don’t know if we are gonna do that again. If we do, do that again it will be a different sort of format. I’m not going to travel anymore and go talk to those people. The problem with it is, there are a lot of people who I talked to who were absolutely fascinating, that I was very interested in the things they had to say, there were some subjects that we discovered that were real subjects. Subjects like weaponized diseases, things like trans-humanism, where they will download human consciousness into computers eventually. And some of that is absolutely fascinating. Then I would sit down and talk to people about when they got abducted by aliens. And five minutes into talking to them you would know they were full of shit. You would go, “Oh, okay. This is another guy who is bullshitting me.” Like I drove two hours to Utah and in within the first two hours talking to him said that he saw a bullet wolf appear out of mist, he sees orbs come out of this very particular mountain range, and that he saw Bigfoot the very first time that he went looking. It was the dumbest fucking conversation. I got angry. Like I could be home with my kids!
David: They could’ve told you about a bullet proof wolf!
Joe: (Laughs) Yeah! It’s like I didn’t need to fly here for this! This is nonsense. And that when you find – and that’s actually one of things I talk about in my special is that is where you start to find these Bigfoot people is a bunch of unfuckable white dudes. It’s just a bunch of people looking for mystery, they are looking for something to be fantastic in the world, because all they are seeing is the body decaying, no one wanting to touch them, their life falling apart, depression setting in, and they get excitement out of looking for ghosts or the Loch Ness Monster.
David: “No one has seen my dick. I have an idea! BULLET PROOF WOLF! That’ll bring ‘em in!”
Joe: (Laughs) Well apparently the bullet proof wolf is a part of the folklore of Utah where there is a lot of paranormal reports… There is also a lot of meth – in town. These are fucking crazy people! A lot of drinking, a lot of meth, and not a lot of people!
David: That doesn’t blend well. Now you had your show of SyFy, your podcast, and then your stand up. Does each vehicle let you answer different questions or fulfill separate curiosities, or do you find yourself searching for answers on your show, monologuing about it on your podcast, and then making comedy about it on your special?
Joe: Sometimes they do go all together. But what the podcast serves is it allows me to have very long conversation that I probably would never have the chance to sit down and talk to. Like when do you ever have the chance to sit down and talk with Neil deGrass Tyson for 3 hours? When do you get to sit down with him and ask him is the moon landings were fake? When do you get to talk to someone who is actually an expert on astrological – rather astral events? When do you get to talk to someone who knows about the possible cataclysmic disasters that could kill massive chunks of people throughout history. It’s very rare to do that with someone, but with a podcast you can do something along those lines.
While I’m talking to you, my four year old is mocking me. (To the child) You little monkey! You think I’m funny? Get out of here you little monkey!
David: (Laughs) So what is this one’s name? I know you have two daughters.
Joe: I have three daughters actually. Yeah. It’s Rosey. This is my littlest one.
David: Hi Rosey.
Joe: Ha yeah. Well she thinks this is funny. Well but my point being, having a podcast definitely feeds my curiosity, stimulates it, and it also allows me to have more subject matter, more for stand up, more fuel for my mind.
David: Now you’ve been doing stand up for nearly 20 years now and you started doing it in Boston. I was reading an article about you that was clearly written by someone who doesn’t know comedy because he described it as an “open microphone” night. No one calls it that. Not even musicians do. Has your voice changed – If you look back now would you agree with it? How drastic has your voice changed?
Joe: Well you evolve as a human being and your comedy is essentially here is how I see the world through my eyes in 2014. It’s different than how you see the world in 2010. I’ve actually been doing stand up for more than 20 years. I started in 1988. It’s almost 30 years! Which is crazy.
David: Do you count the first few years?
David: The guys I’m running around town with now, anytime someone asks us how long we’ve been doing it, I know the number out of our mouths is bullshit because we are all 5 years in.
Joe: Yeah. The first 10 years you are just floundering around. For the first 2-3 years I was essentially an open mic-er. Your an open mic-er for the first 2-3 years at least, where even if you get paid, you’re really stealing money.
David: (Laughs) It feels like that!
Joe: I mean I got paid for some of my earlier gigs, but I should really give that money back! Just find the people today and give them the money and say, “I’m so sorry you paid for that.”
David: I can’t believe people paid me to do three minutes on the game Monopoly! That’s not anything anyone wants to hear!
Joe: Not even three good minutes! You’re constantly growing. Like you know Dom Irrera?
Joe: Dom Irrera was one of the first guys I paid to see before I was doing stand up, before I became a comedian, before we became friends. So it’s kind of cool. But Dom, to this day, is still getting better, and he has been doing comedy for at least ten years longer than me. And he talks about it, he’s like he keeps getting better. It’s one of those things where if you keep working at it, and keep polishing, your understanding of stand up keeps getting better. And the only thing stopping you is death. Carlin was still good and still touring until the day he died, and I find that inspiring. There are so few sports, so few art forms where you can do that. Say if you look at musicians. There are so many musicians you reach this point and stop producing new stuff. They rely on their old hits. They do these comeback tours where they do songs from decades ago. Everyone enjoys it. They have essentially stop producing new art. George Carlin came out with a new fucking hour till the day he died, every year.
David: Is that something you would want to do?
Joe: I’m of the belief that an hour a year, you don’t give yourself enough time. I think some material needs longer to cook. Like there are some jokes, or some subjects – I wrote a bit about veganism and it was essentially done right out of the box. It tightened it up and it got better. It definitely got smoother before it wound up – it’s on my new special, but it was done almost immediately. Because I had this formed idea – that I had been annoyed by vegans for so long, that it sort of cemented itself. All the different points that I found ridiculous about them. But there are other subjects that took forever! Like if you saw my last special, that time machine bit?
Joe: That time machine bit, I fucked with that bit forever because time travel is real fascinating subject to me. I’m thinking how can I make time travel fun? What is it about the Grandfather Paradox or about time travel that is actually funny? Over time I figured out how to say that, but there were times where I was onstage and people would be looking at me like ‘What the fuck is this guy talking about? Time travel? We’re in a comedy club, dude.’ It doesn’t really fit with martinis. You know shots of Jack Daniels.
David: It’s hard to explore how a universe could have another universe inside of it, another universe inside of it, another universe inside of it, oh look a check drop, another universe inside of it…
Joe: Yeah! (Laughs) The check drop! One of the worst moments in the comedy club where you can see people reaching in their pockets, reading it, pulling out their cell phones so they can see in the dark.
David: Bob Odenkirk has an article that is running around social media right now where he says that young people should get out of the comedy business right now because its dying. I think that’s an overgeneralization and partially sarcastic.
Joe: It’s ridiculous.
David: Do you think there is any truth to that?
Joe: I think it’s the absolute opposite. I think comedy because of the Internet it has a bigger audience, a bigger fan base. It has fans that understand comedy more than any generation before because there is more guys like you, more guys like me, more guys like Louie CK who talks about it a lot. When you get a chance to see perspective that I don’t think you ever got to see before. Plus, a comic, all they have to do is, if you do something funny in a comedy club and you put it up on you tube, it might get a million hits! All it needs to do is resonate with one person who sends it to their friends, who sends it to other people, and before you know it, it has spread virally and BOOM! All of a sudden that person has a name. Russell Peters is fucking gigantic! He sold out the O2 Arena in London two nights in a row. He is fucking huge. He got huge because of you tube. It’s a different time. Now obviously popularity isn’t everything when it comes to stand up comedy, but the art form itself is better today than it ever has before. I think there are more great comics. I think the standard is higher. The critical analysis is a little harsher, but that is also good. Maybe people have a higher standard than before, maybe they are a little more judgmental, a little more brutal, that makes people work harder. It makes the stand up better. There are always dick heads out there that are always mean and looking for things to be bad. A movie, a book, they are just want something to be bad and they just want to be angry. They aren’t looking like ‘What didn’t I like in this?’ No, they are just looking for ‘When is this gonna suck? Does it suck now? Oh good, now I can say this sucks.’ But even though that is that case, even that, that unbalanced critical opinion, I think it strengthens the art form as a whole. You are finding holes in the ship. Plug up those holes. The ship’s held better. I think stand is better now than it’s ever been. I think it’s the greatest time ever to do standup comedy. I think there is more comedians now than ever, more venues now than ever. There are stand-ups who live in towns where they don’t have many comedy clubs where they are organizing more comedy nights in bars. I just think this is a fantastic time for stand up. I couldn’t disagree more with Odenkirk.
David: That’s great to hear because when you get off the stage at the Warner, I have some shows you can come to, if you want to stick around D.C. for a night.
Joe: Well I can’t. The rest of that night?
Joe: I can’t do that night because I’m probably going to Baltimore, because Joey Diaz is in Baltimore. If I have enough time – What is Baltimore, like an hour from D.C.?
David: Are you going to Magooby’s?
Joe: Well, that is where Joey is. Yeah so I’ll try to meet him there for dinner. I don’t think I’m going to try to do any other shows.
David: Do you have a favorite club or scene today? Other than LA because I know that’s where you live now.
Joe: I like LA because it has a giant supply of great comedians.
David: Do you have any newer guys today that you are excited to see?
Joe: Well there is a lot. Tony Hinchcliffe is a guy I take on the road with me all the time, who is a young guy who has only been doing it for six or seven years, and he works hard. He is constantly writing and performing. The guy I’m bring with me is Ian Edwards and he is one of the funniest guys in the world. He is one of those guys where he isn’t a great self promoter, but he is a great comic. For whatever reason he has flipped under the radar. I mean Ian is good, he is really fucking funny. I’m really excited to work with him this weekend. I mean there is so many! Between the Improv, the Comedy Store, and the Ice House – I mean the Ice House is probably my favorite place to perform in LA because it doesn’t have any Hollywood bullshit attached to it. It doesn’t have any agents or managers that hang out after it and fucking schmooze people in the lobby. All that stuff is absent. But it still has the great comics like (Bill) Burr performs there all the time. Joey Diaz is there all the time. Ari (Shaffir) is there all the time. So it’s got great comics but it’s got less Hollywood nonsense.