Dread Central winds up our intensive interview with the ubiquitous Joe Rogan and digs deep in an attempt to find out about his wild and woolly messageboard, his popular podcast, influencing impressionable minds, and all of the things the future holds for the talented stand-up comedian.
While this installment is the lightest yet in terms of horror content, we didn’t want to shortchange those readers who have been following along with Joe’s thoughts, so without further ado… Here’s the third and final chapter of our chat with Mr. Rogan. In case you missed them, click here for Part One and here for Part Two.
It should be said one last time that the following interview includes some of the notorious “7 words” George Carlin warned you about.
DC: I wanted to talk to you about your messageboard. I’ve been a member there for seven or eight years, give or take, and I am fascinated by it. Not only because it is such an eclectic collection of people, but it’s become my number one news source… as weird as that sounds. [laughs]
JR: Mine, too.
DC: It’s a place where I can get instantaneous spin in both directions. And… where else can you get hard news backed up against World Star Hip Hop videos? [laughs] So, how did it all come about? Was it an organic thing?
JR: Yeah, completely organic. It was started in 1998. It was some free EZ Board software. Andrew, the guy who created my website and has created every single incarnation of it except the latest one, said, “Hey, maybe we should have a little messageboard where we could all post shit.” We were thinking it would be like ten people, and that’s what it was at the time. A lot of it was the guys we played Quake with. It was just all of our friends online, just a small handful of people. Then, somehow or another, it got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, and before you knew it, there were thousands of people… and before you knew it there were a million posts… and before you knew it there were MILLIONS of posts. And it just got crazier and crazier. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced.
DC: I’d been online for a long time when I found it and was pretty hardcore… You know, getting in people’s faces, “flaming,” etc., but when I encountered your board, that was the one place I felt like I needed to step back and lurk a little. I just found almost everyone there not only really funny, but really smart and well informed. They were also amazingly adept at taking someone’s argument and pulling it apart. Almost immediately I was hooked and being there got me into your comedy and your outlook, and I’ve been there ever since. That said, I can’t help but feel like it’s also a huge promotional tool for you.
JR: I guess so, but I very rarely use it as a promotional tool. The Board is pretty much The Board. I think if I went on there and was like, “Hey, guys… come support me and vote for me on this and buy my shit and do this here and do that there…” If that was everything I did… Even on Twitter, every now and then, I’ll say, “Hey, I’m performing here” or “Hey, this is going on” and I’ll get all these people saying, “How about using Twitter for something other than marketing?!” People just douche on you left and right over stuff like that. If I had done that, I don’t think The Board would have become what it is. I think what it is is… it’s The Board. It’s its own thing. I mean, it has my name on it and I guess I have to take some sort of responsibility because I’ve nurtured this environment where you can post photoshopped pictures of people with dicks in their mouths and the next post is about the Large Hadron Collider and its effects on humanity and then right after that is a post about how many dicks has Sasha Grey sucked in her life and it’s a real debate… [laughs]
It’s the strangest board ever. It’s like religion and philosophy and psychedelic drugs, but really what it mirrors more than anything are my own personal interests and my mind and the personal interests and minds of like-minded people. That’s what we’re getting at the place. There are so many people who think so very, very similarly and all of us together are in this group and we found sort of a home where a bunch of other people think that way as well and we can meet up online. There are a lot of silly people on The Board. There are a lot of people who are Conspiracy Theory people. There are a lot who are hardcore vegetarians and vegans and they want to argue about shit. There are people who are Conservative and they want to argue about Liberals. There’s just a lot of shit going on that is not necessarily along the lines of how I think, but just having them all there in this sort of big group hive, I think it provides a chance for everyone to evolve and see all these different people’s experiences and different points of view and get a feeling for it. It’s just a very, very rare environment, very rare opportunity we have to have all that together in one meeting spot where you kind of know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get freedom. You don’t know what you’re going to get as far as topics. Any day you can click on Shit Talking 101 and be blown away by some new, weird revelation, discovery, or scientific innovation. There’s always something going on or someone who has a point of view that you disagree with or agree with or someone who posts a video that makes you rethink your whole life. That happens EVERY DAY on that board.
DC: What I find interesting is that without too much intervention by you or the moderators there’s an equilibrium that gets established. The community supports the people who make good points but also squashes down the radical goofballs. And, in the end, if you read everything and you keep in touch, you get a really good barometer of how people are thinking… especially people who are pretty smart. I think even the “dumbest” person on your board could probably be the “smartest” person on somebody else’s board, you know?
JR: It’s intimidating and I think it keeps really, really dumb people from expressing their opinion because they read all the shit that people talk about. A perfect example… there was a recent thread where two guys were having a debate on the pros and cons of growth hormone therapy and they started getting into all these fuckin’ crazy details about science and it got really heavy. Really intense, intelligent discussions, breakdowns, and scientific analysis… and I thought, “What a weird board this is!” It’s such a weird place that such a really deep and intelligent discussion can take place right next to “scat porn.” You can literally scroll down to the next post in that same thread and see a guy on his keyboard covered in shit with a log of shit in his mouth. [laughs] There’re no rules, man. It’s like your mind. At any moment you can be standing next to some old lady and the thought comes into your mind, “I could, if I wanted to, kick this old lady into traffic.” You don’t do it, but that thought is there and it’s like that on this board. Somebody might be debating the UFC and out of that – BOOM! – there’s a photo of two guys fuckin’ each other in the mouth. [laughs] It’s like, “Why is that there?!?” [laughs] I don’t know, but that’s how it goes there.
DC: I see the board and your involvement on Twitter and the podcast you do as part of this new model of interacting with one’s audience. Your access to your audience is amazing and you’re really free about it and you’re really giving in how you give out information. I’m now seeing other people in the public eye adopting what you’ve been doing for a long time. Did you at any time say, “This is the way of the future. This is the way that we ought to go” or was it, again, more organic?
JR: Totally organic. The Twitter thing was organic as well. I’m looking at my Twitter right now and here’s this guy that has an Albert Hoffman/Alex Grey portrait as his avatar and he’s letting me know that there’s a NOVA special on fractals coming up. Then there are people from the UK who want to know when I’m coming to do a show there, and then there’s another one that wants to talk about some shit that’s going down with the Wikileaks papers that are being released about the Iraq War. It’s really very similar to the messageboard. I post things that I find interesting. I post up things on my Twitter that, to me, are intriguing and things that I think are something I would like to know about if somebody else had this information… Show me! Tell me what’s up. Here’s a study on psilocybin at John Hopkins Medical Center about how psilocybin leads to spiritual realizations. So I put this up on my Twitter, and then all these people thank you and they retweet it. It really becomes just like the messageboard. It’s very, very similar. But there are more people on my Twitter than are even on the messageboard. I mean, how many members are there? I think it only has forty-five thousand or something like that, but my Twitter has like two hundred plus. So it’s really the same thing. It’s like “build it and they will come.”
DC: And the weekly podcast came about the same way?
JR: Yeah, same thing. The podcast was totally organic. It started out with me and Brian Redban sitting in front of laptops bullshitting. It’s kind of beautiful in that respect. It’s almost a year old now and, in that year, you can see the full evolution from sitting in front of a laptop to professional microphones and a mixer and a soundboard. For a long time people were complaining about the sound issues so… we figured it all out. We got it all together slowly over time. Now, it’s not just me and Brian… Now, I’m getting guests and every day I’m getting emails from people who want to promote their books or their thing, some guy from Vegan.com wants to come on and debate me about eating animals… There are all sorts of different things that are happening with it now. Again, it’s totally organic. It just sort of happened. I didn’t sit down and say, “Hey, what I’m going to do is that I’m going to create my own radio show. Since nobody wants to give me a radio show, I’m going to make my own.” No. It just sort of fuckin’ happened.
DC: Did I hear something about the podcast being picked up by Sirius satellite?
JR: Yeah, it’s picked up. We’re working out the details right now as far as revenue and advertising and stuff, but yeah… it’s going to be on Sirius. It should be cool. But honestly, I don’t know how many more people it’s going to reach on Sirius than it’s going to reach on iTunes. We’re getting hundreds of thousands of downloads every week.
DC: You said recently that when you were abroad people were coming up to you and saying, “Your podcast is really changing the way I’m thinking.”
JR: A LOT of people are saying that.
DC: How heady is THAT?
JR: It’s very heady because it’s something I never considered. I just thought we were entertaining, but… We’re stoned as fuck and we start talking about Life and Philosophy and I start talking about how I really and truly feel and how I think about things… I take a lot of time to consider my opinions. I don’t have flippant opinions on things, and if I do, I’m more than willing to reconsider those opinions and talk about them. I’m not married to any of the ideas that I keep in my head. So when I talk about this and my critical objective reasoning that I use when I’m thinking about something or when I’m considering a subject, those methods, that way of thinking and communicating… There’re a lot of people who don’t get that. They don’t have that around them. They’re surrounded by the same sort of knuckleheads that they grew up with or work with or whatever and they don’t have… you know… drug-addled weirdos around them or whatever it is. [laughs] Or people who are open-minded or free thinkers or someone who’s not chained-down to a job where they can’t be free to express themselves. That’s a lot of it, too. The reason why people think a certain way is because they kinda have to, man. If you’re in a fuckin’ job where you work for Verizon in Corporate Sales, you can’t be running around talking about DMT.
DC: I also think the podcast – like your Twitter and your board – is this cornucopia of topics where you can go from an informed MMA discussion to, in my opinion, a Master’s Class on comedy. You guys talking about the nuts and bolts of constructing bits… it’s amazing. People can’t get that kind of thing anywhere.
JR: You don’t get that anywhere. I mean, most other comedy podcasts even don’t talk about that stuff. I think, for some people, they don’t want to… I don’t know. Maybe they’re self-conscious, maybe they don’t think about it that much, maybe they have an opinion that the show should be more professional or something. You know, I’ve been on other people’s podcasts before and I kind of get disappointed when we start talking and it’s so regimented. Their questions are very much like, “Here comes another question that I have prepared.” When I get people on my podcast, I don’t prepare at all. I mean, I do… I know who my guests are, I know what they do, so I have things that I find interesting that I would like to talk to them about, but it’s not like I have a sheet of paper with thirty questions that I have to ask. That’s not how it goes. It’s more open-ended. What’s cool about the podcast is that it’s a conversation and what people get out of it is that it’s just… I ran into this nineteen-year-old kid from Ireland in Boston who was telling me, “You’ve changed the way I look at the world. There’s no one like you near me in Ireland and because of you and your friends on the podcast, it’s really making me reconsider my entire life.”
DC: That’s got to be amazing.
JR: It’s pretty intense, but it’s awesome. I love it. I have formulated my philosophies over a long life, over a life filled with very extraordinary experiences. I’ve gotten a lot out of that by taking chances in life, by developing my character, by doing very difficult tasks and learning from them and understanding my motivations and understanding my desires, my thought processes, and objectively looking at Life in general, Life and the universe. All of these big pictures that a lot of people just don’t get the opportunity, the chance, they don’t get the time to consider all of these things. I think it’s great. It gives me a certain amount of responsibility, but no more responsibility than I have for myself. I mean, I have a responsibility to my own mind to consider things in a certain light. So I don’t think there is any more responsibility having all of these people that are into the podcast where it’s influencing their lives. I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s great. I’m happy for it. I don’t feel any additional pressure though. It’s just… It’s all good.
DC: Speaking of life experiences… I know you’re writing a book. How is that going?
JR: It’s going great. It’s fun.
DC: Is the way that you’re writing the book the same way that you write your blogs?
JR: Yep! It’s all disconnected and fucked up. [laughs] It’s written just like the blogs. It’s all longer blogs connected together, a series of essays, and thoughts on life. My tentative working title is “Irresponsible Advice from a Man with No Credibility”, and a lot of it is shit that I’ve learned about life and a lot of it is half tongue-in-cheek where I give advice. Advice like you should forget the economy. It’s nonsense. It doesn’t make any sense to hope it doesn’t fall apart and if it does, even if you plan for it, what are you going to eat, dried fruit in your fuckin’ basement? How are we going to get through this? Instead of thinking about all of these things, just concentrate on what you do enjoy and enjoy your life. Don’t worry about what money is because money really isn’t anything. Forget about it. Just make enough so you don’t have to worry about it. That’s it. That’s my advice. Politics? Fuck them! Fuck them in their asses. [laughs] Move to the place where you can get the most freedom. Vote local politics… they’re probably still real. National politics are a gigantic clusterfuck of corporate interests and special interest groups influencing politicians and creating laws that are designed to make other people more money. Period. That’s exactly what it all is. Stay the fuck out of it. Stay out of these Republican versus Democrat arguments. Stay out of these silly arguments about what we should be doing in Afghanistan. Just get out of there. Just stop. Stop with all of that. Concentrate on what you enjoy. Concentrate on your own life. That’s a big part of this book. It’s like trying to explain to people that this life is really a transient experience and you can waste a massive amount of it just doing what other people want you to do, playing their game. I know so many intelligent people that get caught up in politics and they want to talk to me about it. “Did you hear what happened with Nancy Pelosi in The House?” Why don’t you just talk to me about fuckin’ what happened with The Undertaker and Triple H? It’s the same shit. You’re talking to me about nonsense, man! You’re not talking to me about anything real.
DC: Any discourse in which the likes of people like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are major players… Yikes!
JR: The whole Sarah Palin thing…Every time I watch Glenn Beck talk about her running for President or any of these fucking pundits that actually treat her seriously, to me, that’s like, “There’s a string above that puppet, ok? I’m looking at the string and you’re not addressing the fact that there’s a string there. How come there’s a string right there and you’re not saying anything about it?” I can’t take that shit seriously. I have to change the channel. It’s like crazy nonsense. What they’re doing now is recognizing that Sarah Palin gets ratings so they’re pretending that Sarah Palin would be a good President. No one is stepping up and saying, “You crazy bitch, you haven’t read a book… ever! And you want to be President? You’re a dingbat!”
DC: Recently, she said, “We have to support our North Korean allies.” [laughs]
JR: I heard that! [laughs] Hilarious! You fuckin’ clown! You fuckin’ clown-shoe!
DC: Is there an editor on the book, or are you writing everything?
JR: Sort of, but… I’m not really going to listen to them to be honest with you. I had one guy and it was really gross. They had one guy who was a writer who was assigned to work with me, and after I sent him the first thing, I got these notes back from him and it was so ridiculous. I was like, “Dude… we can’t work together.” He wanted to change this and add that and make things much more obvious, and the way he wanted to start the chapters was clunky. It was like we were doing it for idiots. It’s really how I felt. It was too intrusive. I was like, “I’m just going to give you a full book. I’m going to give it to you and it’ll be done and hopefully you’re going to love it.”
DC: And if not…
JR: And if not, then I don’t need ya. I’ll just release the shit online. I don’t give a fuck. This whole Internet and what’s going on right now in the world with the access the average everyday person has to things… to sell their things, to push the things… any information that they have or any product that they’ve created… You have this weird access to other human beings to market to that was never available before. It’s really fascinating. It’s a beautiful time, man.
DC: Look at a guy like Andre Dodson. There’s a guy who now has kind of a career going and that was only from him being on the Internet.
JR: He really does. He’s doing commercials and shit. I don’t know how long he can keep it up, but he’s trying. He’s riding it. We live in very, very unique times where the average person no longer has to rely on the established media companies like a newspaper or a magazine or a publishing company. You can just publish a blog. You can put an eBook out. You can make your own music. There are people and bands that have become very successful just because of the Internet now. Like Die Antwoord… that South African band that I’m really into. That guy got famous from the Internet with millions of hits on YouTube and now they’re selling out arenas. It’s amazing! It’s an amazing, amazing time.
DC: Explain a bit about Higher Primate.
JR: Oh, the clothing company? That’s sort of an organic thing, too. I had an idea for a shirt that I wanted to get done and I found some artists and we collaborated on an idea. They drew it up and I wore it for my special, TALKING MONKEYS IN SPACE. Once I had that done, we started talking about putting together a store and putting together a bunch of different designs and shirts. We have a bunch of new ones that we’re working on now. We put them out and they sold out SO fast. We then said, “OK, well… it looks like we got something here. Let’s make some more.” I’m taking the same approach that I did with the website and Twitter and everything else – just letting it develop on its own. It’s the same thing I did with the podcast. It will become much bigger than it is and I’m going to keep going with it and let people get into it. I didn’t do any advertising. I mean, I told people on Twitter, “Hey, here’s my thing,” Brian Redban posted something on the messageboard, and that’s all it took. It sold pretty much all of the units that I had initially and now we’re ordering new ones, and like I said, we have some new ideas. It’s really kind of cool, you know? It’s just something that happened on its own.
DC: Where are you finding your artists?
JR: We got them through a connection that my manager has. They’re these really cool guys who are weird and have tattoos on their knuckles and shit. Just a bunch of strange guys from Silver Lake who have done a lot of stuff for a lot of bands like Foo Fighters and a bunch of different movies and shit. They’re doing some stuff for COWBOYS AND ALIENS right now. They’re really good artists and really cool guys with the perfect sensibility. They know where I’m coming from so we kind of sit down and talk about stuff and it’s really interesting.
DC: Is the clothing line a sort of Plan B?
JR: It’s just because I think it would be cool to have a bunch of shirts like that.
DC: So, no real business plan… [laughs]
JR: Yeah. No plan… Not with anything I’ve done. Ever! [laughs] My entire career… there’s been no plans. I just kind of go.
DC: The book is coming soon. You continue to perform stand-up. You’ll continue to do the UFC… which seems to be like the greatest gig ever.
JR: Fun gig, yeah! I’m just enjoying what I’m doing. Ultimately, I’ll probably just do stand-up comedy. That’s where it will go eventually. I’ll probably stop doing the UFC someday. When? I don’t know. The traveling and everything… I prefer to travel just for the comedy.
DC: I know that you’re married and have kids, which is something you seem to be ferociously private about. That seems to be the one part of your life that you put up some pretty solid walls on. I imagine that the traveling inherent in doing comedy… and then you throw the UFC in there… that’s got to be tough.
JR: Traveling when you have kids is not fun. You miss them, but you have to make a living. It really makes me appreciate them when I’m away from them for a couple of days and I come back so… There are some good things to it. I definitely think that traveling flavors your life and it gives you more insight into the human animal and it makes you a better comic. Stand-up comedy is ALL about your perception and, if your perceptions are very limited or very local, that’s what you’re going to have. You’re going to have this limited perspective, this limited point of view, and I think that’s a terrible thing for your art. But, ultimately, I do think that I will be traveling just for stand-up comedy. I’ll eventually stop doing the UFC, When? I’m not sure. I don’t have any immediate plans. It’s something I toss around in my mind and it’s also confusing for some people sometimes that I’m a stand-up comedian/cage fighting commentator. I mean, everything I’ve done in my career has been… none of it seems like it makes sense. When I was a stand-up comic, FEAR FACTOR didn’t make any sense. Like, “This guy is a comedian and a fuckin’ FEAR FEACTOR host? That doesn’t make sense.” And the UFC makes even less sense. I’ve done a lot of weird stuff.
DC: But I think when you scratch the surface, it kind of does make sense once someone gets to know you a little better.
JR: Yeah, ’cause these are my interests. Well, FEAR FACTOR maybe no… The only thing about FEAR FACTOR that made sense was my experience with competitive athletics. I knew how to motivate people and help them and get them goin’. There were a lot of times on that show where I was genuinely entertained and enjoyed it and really was happy for the people who won and it was a positive experience, but… For a lot of the other parts of the show, it was just a job. A good job, but… a job.
Our thanks to Joe for taking the time to speak with us. Look for him online at the official Joe Rogan website or on The Rogan Board (Joe’s messageboard). Also, don’t forget to follow Joe Rogan on Twitter.
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