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“I’m one of those crazy people who believes that all human beings share one consciousness. So if you‘re mean and evil to someone, you’re being evil to yourself. But I also believe in a lot of dumb shit like Bigfoot and UFO’s, so it’s tough to take me seriously. I just find it a little odd that the same government that denies the existence of UFO’s insists on sticking to the “single bullet theory.”
Joe Rogan August 11th, 1967 Newark, New Jersey
Joe Rogan didn’t set out to be a comedian. Nor, for that matter, did he set out to be an actor. He really didn’t set out to be anything. But a series of circumstances have conspired to make him one of the hottest standups working today.
How did this accidental comedian and performer, a veteran of five seasons on NBC’s Newsradio, wind up with a fast-growing following and a groundbreaking debut comedy album, I’m Gonna Be Dead Someday on Warner Bros. Records? The short answer: Tae Kwon Do.
“I was always a really bad kid,” Rogan recounts. “in and out of trouble until I was 13 or 14. Until I started doing martial arts, I had always thought of myself as a nice guy trapped in the body of a violent criminal. It was this discipline and focus of Tae Kwon Do, claims the Newark-born and Boston-raised Rogan, that enabled him to take his life back.
Within two years, Rogan had earned a black belt and went on to become the Massachusetts Full Contact Tae Kwon Do champion four consecutive times. At the age of 19, he won the US Open Tae Kwon Do Championships and, as the lightweight champ, went on beat both the middle and heavy weight title holders to take home the Grand Championship.
But there was another aspect to Rogan’s abilities that his locker room buddies noted. “They thought I was funny,” he recalls, “and they were constantly trying to get me to do stand-up. But they were my friends and they knew how I thought, I really thought that other people would just think I was an asshole.” To prove Joe’s comedy chops could find a wider audience, his friends cajoled him into trying out his “act” – such as it was – at an open mike night in a local club. “I knew from that moment that stand-up was what I was meant to do,” he continues. “I literally heard a voice in my head saying that this was what I was supposed to do and to just get up there and do it. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever felt in my life, and the only time before or since that I’ve ever contemplated the notion of fate.”
Leaving martial arts to concentrate on comedy was a difficult but entirely necessary choice. “I didn’t want to water down my energy or attention and the only way to do that was to have no safety net.” Driving limos, working construction, delivering papers, and even working in a detective agency, Joe did whatever it took to support his new career.
It was not an easy road. In bluenosed Boston, he had a hard time getting comedy work because of the edginess of his act. He was consequently forced to take gigs at bachelor parties, working without a mic, as an M.C. at a strip joint and in ghetto dives where, for a change, his honest delivery was appreciated.
One evening Rogan convinced a club owner to let him try out five new minutes of material for no money and it was at that precise moment that manger Jeff Sussman made his entrance. Duly impressed with Rogan’s five minutes, Sussman asked the comic if would consider moving to New York and, within days, Rogan was in the Big Apple, where his new manager promptly landed him on the MTV Half Hour Comedy Hour. The exposure eventually brought in an offer from, of all places, Disney. “They asked if I could act,” Rogan recounts.“I told them that I think if you can lie you can act, and if you can lie to a crazy girlfriend you can act under pressure." Appearing briefly in the series Hardball, he quickly segued to Newsradio where, for the next five years, he would portray the character Joe Garelli, “a very dumbed-down censored version of me,” remarks Rogan.
Being a regular on a hit TV series did little to alter the real Joe’s outlook and attitude. “I’m still the same person, the success didn’t change me; the only real difference is that I don’t worry much about bills anymore.” He continued to work comedy clubs, occasionally having to overcome audiences’ expectations for Newsradio persona. Eventually promoters resorted to posting warning notices about the explicit nature of his act, a practice which continues to this day.
Recorded in the Rogan strongholds of Houston and Boston, I’m Gonna Be Dead Someday showcase’s the comic’s keen, and hilarious powers of observation. Clearly a student of the human condition Joe’s brutally honest perspective is anchored to his comedy philosophy. ”The best standup comedy is the ‘here’s-the-world-through-my-eyes variety that lets the audience inside your head. I’m more interested in how people think than in telling a string of jokes. Good comedy is uncensored because people’s thoughts aren’t censored. That’s honesty.”