Q&A: UFC and ‘Fear Factor’ host, stand-up comedian Joe Rogan

The term “badass” may not be the most eloquent word in the English language, but when trying to describe comedian Joe Rogan, it certainly does the job best.

Between his color commentary on Ultimate Fighting Championship broadcasts, hosting of the brutal “Fear Factor” and masculinity-drenched comedy routines, Rogan proves to be the quintessential jack-of-all-trades, as well an unlikely advocate for psychedelics and conspiracy theories.

At age 42, Rogan is still delivering laughs and turning heads with his often in your face, unconventional views on society.

The State Press caught up with Rogan before the first of three gigs he will do at the Tempe Improv this weekend, discussing life, UFC and conspiracies.

State Press: You seem to have a knack for comebacks and quick-witted retaliation to hecklers who call you out stage during comedy routines. Would you say you thrive off this type of confrontation?

Joe Rogan: No, I would definitely rather it didn’t happen, as far as hecklers go. I’d rather everyone just have good time, you know? The problem is comedy clubs serve alcohol, and when you have alcohol and comedy together, some people just can’t help themselves. Like, someone will want to yell something, thinking it’s witty. People just can’t help themselves sometimes … (Laughs.) Usually they’re [idiots.] Every now and then, someone will yell out something funny, that’s not in any way mean spirited, and it’s cool, you know. It all just comes down what it is and how it’s said — its intent.

SP: So how did you first get into comedy? Was it a gradual process or did you quickly get thrown into it?

JR: It was a fairly gradual process. The open mic process is a fairly long thing to get down. From the outside, someone might downplay it as just a dude talking and saying funny sh-t, but in reality, it’s an art form and it’s an arduous process mastering the craft. Really, it takes like 10 years before you’re a real headlining class comic. And that’s ten years of hard work.

SP: When you come up with routines, do write for hours on end, or does it all kind of come naturally?

JR: There definitely tends to be a little of both. Sometimes ideas will come naturally, but you definitely have to sit in front of the computer for quite some time. There is no doubt about it — you have to write as well as be able to ad-lib. [Also] you need to be exposed to different things. You need to travel, you need to read, you need do different things in your life so you gain multiple perspectives and different topics to discuss. Really, your comedy is a direct reflection on who you are and the things you’re doing in life. The more enlightened and interesting you are as a human being, the better your comedy is going to be.

SP: You seem like an educated comic who reads up on the things you preach. If you could recommend one book to ASU students, what would it be?

JR: It’s a book called “You Are Being Lied To” edited by Russ Kick. You can go to the Web site, too. What it does is it opens up your mind to just how deep the rabbit hole goes. It’s deep, man — this entire culture is built upon a foundation of lies and corruption. And that’s a fact. It’s always been that way and it’s more apparent [now]. Now with the Internet, we have incredible access to all this information and it’s stuck right in front of our face.

SP: Did you by chance read the conspiracy book “Behold A Pale Horse” by Bill Cooper?

JR: Yeah, but you know what, that guy was crazy. There are conspiracy theories and then there are people who are all about reptilians (type of alien). You have to wonder when you read stuff like that, like, how many of these people are actually working for the government? There is COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) and disinformation that is an actual strategy employed by the government. There are bloggers that are paid to work as Cointel agents who disseminate disinformation. One thing they do is argue vehemently against any conspiracy that the government might be involved in — anything that might be even remotely immoral. Things like the Sept. 11 attacks being an inside job. There are also other guys out there who take real, absolutely factual information regarding the government and weave it in with crazy sh-t —things like no plane actually hit the World Trade Center, or any other kind of nutty sh-t. And by doing this, they are making you associate things that are reality with works of fiction —that’s a strategy that the government actively employs. There are countless articles written on it on the Web, and actual accounts of people who have actually worked for the government writing those very things. So in the final analysis, the idea that conspiracies don’t exist is absolutely foolish. The government conspires, businesses conspire — that’s what Enron was about and that’s what Halliburton was about. It’s not a coincidence that the former CEO of Halliburton (Dick Cheney) gets to be the vice president, then all of the sudden Halliburton gets all these contracts from the government, making billions of dollars — not to mention billions of dollars unaccounted for and missing. Those right there are real conspiracies.

SP: So why are so many people quick to discredit conspiracy theories?

JR: Well, the problem is with the phrase “conspiracy theory.” It’s been turned into this huge joke. The public eye has twisted the word into something that has an overwhelming stigma attached to it. Anyone who flat out calls themselves a “conspiracy theorist” is looked at as a loon. But if you were to just look at history, the government, on many occasions, conspired by making the enemy look far worse than in reality to justify going to war. There is a paper in the 1960s called the Northwoods document that the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed [that was] vetoed by (President John F.) Kennedy, and it was called “Operation Northwoods.” What this allowed was attacks on American civilians and allocated the dropping of mortars in Guantanamo Bay and the blowing up of an American airliner — for what? So they could blame it all on the Cubans and get the U.S. citizens enthusiastic about going to war with them. It’s things like these that validate these types theories. So the idea that the government doesn’t do incredibly shady sh-t is foolish — conspiracies are real. The problem is that the phrase itself is tainted.

SP: Yet most people don’t even hear about these things.

JR: Well, you know, there really isn’t enough time in the day to pay attention to this multi-armed monster called the government — there is no way we can lock in on every branch. There is just way too much sh-t the government is involved with. But if you look at what’s going on in Afghanistan, you can start getting a sense. Did you know that the CIA was paying the brother of the president of Afghanistan for eight years? And he’s been selling heroin for years.

SP: And why is that?

JR: Why? Because the CIA has been involved with drug dealing for years. There was a guy named Michael Ruppert who was an LAPD agent who uncovered the CIA selling drugs in Los Angeles, and he was forced to drop the case. He actually resigned the LAPD and is now writing books on it. He has a Web site out, as well as many books. There’s also this guy named Barry Seal, who was actively working for the CIA, flying in drugs from other countries — but before he even got to trial, he was assassinated. Recently, within the last year, the CIA had a plane that crashed in Mexico filled to the brim with four tons of cocaine. This very plane had been to Guantanamo Bay on at least two separate occasions. It’s fact.

SP: In your eyes, why aren’t many conspiracy theories reported by any mainstream news operations?

JR: Because the mainstream news is owned by big businesses, and mainstream news supports the government because the government allows the mainstream news to practice. The number one problem with this f–king system is that big businesses are around to donate millions of dollars to candidates. To make things worse, a bill was recently passed in the Supreme Court to cut the restrictions on how much a business can donate. Essentially, businesses can now buy politicians.

SP: It seems as if a lot of your standup is extremely straightforward, rarely ever reaching for what isn’t real. Why?

JR: Well, when you bullsh-t, first of all, it doesn’t work. You’re never going to bullsh-t smart people, only dumb ones. On top of that, it just doesn’t feel right. There’s no real connection.

SP: A lot of people might not know that you hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Was there ever a time you considered going into professional fighting or the UFC?

JR: Well, back when I was kickboxing, I thought about it, but there just was no money in it. There also were no mixed martial arts back then. The last time I fought was in ’89 and I was already weary from brain damage. I was worried because I had known guys in my gym who only had a couple of pro fights and they were already slurring their words. What a lot of people don’t tend to realize is that you get just as beat up training in the gym as you do in the ring. Getting brain damage is a legitimate concern when you’re training, not just in a fight … (Laughs.) I did almost fight Wesley Snipes a couple of years back, though, because he owed a ton of money to the government for tax evasion.

SP: So theoretically, if you got into the ring with Wesley Snipes, you think you could take him?

JR: (Laughs.) Oh, I would choke the sh-t out of that dude. He’s never done Jiu-Jitsu in his life. Unless you’ve worked for years on your takedown defense, ground defense, how to sprawl, how to counter Jiu-Jits … you’re going to get f–ked up. My instructor, Jean Jacques Machado, said it the best. He said, “On the ground, I’m a shark, and most people don’t know how to swim.” That’s a fairly good description on describing someone who knows Jiu-Jitsu going against someone who doesn’t.

SP: If there is one person you could debate, who would that person be?

JR: (Laughs) Maybe Sarah Palin. Yeah, I think that would be fascinating. I wouldn’t want to debate her, though — I would want to have like a one-hour televised conversation with her where she couldn’t leave. I would ask her about everything and anything — the fact that she thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old; this whole “retard” movement she’s spurred. (Laughs.) First of all, any man who thinks that woman should be running the world … should be taken out to the middle of the desert … you’re a problem. Your mind is not operating on a frequency high enough to effectively make choices that can dictate what direction this country should go in.

You can catch Rogan doing standup on March 12 and 13 at the Tempe Improv. For more information, visit www.tempeimprov.com.

Reach the reporter at djarvie@asu.edu