It was clear in reading through the comments section of the first Guide to Comedy Podcasts that I had inadvertently ignored a lot of tenderly beloved podcasts. In an effort to rectify the oversight, I’ll now be taking a weekly look at which of these are worth your valuable time and which ones should shut up. This week’s featured podcast is The Joe Rogan Experience.
It’s mentioned at the top of every episode, so let’s go ahead and hash it out right up front: like Kevin Smith’s Smodcast before it, The Joe Rogan Experience is sponsored by male masturbation aid, The Fleshlight. Rogan seems alternately embarrassed and defensive about this situation. It’s an odd dance between letting listeners know that there’s no shame in using a pocket vagina, while also making it clear that Joe Rogan, himself, would not personally be in a position to use such a device. To that end, Joe’s co-host/techie, Brian Redban, bravely steps up to testify about the product’s efficiency whenever the point needs to be made. And with that, The Joe Rogan Experience is underway.
It’s easy to see why The Fleshlight is an eager sponsor. This entire podcast is a hard R-rated buffet of hyper-masculinity – the logical conclusion of what Maxim Magazine promised us. Featured topics of discussion include hunting, fighting, fucking, videogames, drugs, gadgets, robots, and the apocalypse. “When is he going to start talking about cars,” I wondered feverishly until finally a conversation about the show Top Gear began, settling the matter. Talk will also sometimes turn toward what the life of a working comedian is like, the only subject on this show that approaches the typical fodder of a comedy podcast.
Joe Rogan is a member in very good standing with the comedy community. If any comedians have a negative opinion of him, they tend to keep it to themselves, which may or may not stem from the fact that they are all 100% sure Rogan could absolutely destroy their asses with tactical proficiency in a cage match. Aside from being the former host of Fear Factor and The Man Show, and being the most vocal proponent of the anti-Carlos Mencia movement, Joe Rogan is widely known as a man who is not to be fucked with.
He used to fight competitively and he still practices jujitsu, but more importantly, Rogan is a commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and he knows everybody in the MMA world. Fighting and mixed martial arts are frequent topics on the show, and fans of those pursuits will surely eat up these conversations about who can take whom, and who is under investigation for steroids, et cetera.
That’s my problem with the show: It really is The Joe Rogan Experience, and if you happen to be on board with all his interests, then you will feel incredibly lucky to be able to tune in. Everybody else, well, there are plenty of other options for how to spend your time. In that sense, the show is more of a lifestyle brand extension then a ‘comedy podcast’ – it’s a galvanizing of the Cult of Joe. It’s a gathering together of people who agree that ‘cologne is for faggots’, and that we don’t need theatrical plays anymore because ‘it’s 2010.’ It’s a show for people who would enjoy hearing a story about a deformed girl born without a vagina, and to hear that story tagged with a joke about the poor girl giving blowjobs all the time. I can’t give the show a bad review for being that, since that’s exactly what’s advertised, and whether or not it’s my cup of tea is incidental.
Suffice it to say, then, that I was more than a little surprised the first time I heard Rogan marveling at space and the cosmos in a rhapsody on the level of “fuckin’ magnets – how do they work?” He points out, many times, over that we are currently living in the future, and he cites the inherent awesomeness of telephony as an example. He also talks about the intricate patterns of flowers and nature and how the Fibonacci sequence is the code of the universe (although somehow he does so without referencing The Da Vinci Code.) At least a couple times in each podcast episode, it’s a deeply thoughtful, surprisingly introspective, yoga-practicing Joe Rogan at the helm.
Perhaps the reason the conversation so strongly resembles some fogged-out dorm room chatter at times is because Joe Rogan loves drugs. He is a big proponent of mind-expansion via mushrooms and DMT, and his passionate advocacy of marijuana is so pronounced that during pretty much every episode, he and the other hosts are apparently barbecued out of their minds. I haven’t watched any of the episodes online, though, so I can’t confirm whether the hosts’ eyes are bloodshot or whether someone’s pet iguana is occupying a terrarium in the background somewhere. To Rogan’s credit, though, while defending marijuana he makes a point of emphasizing that alcohol is also a drug and that cocaine is the most douche-y of all drugs, with amusing stories of other people’s misbehavior to back up this claim.
Guests on the show are either good friends of Rogan’s or people in his sphere. This roster includes Rick Shroeder (yes, formerly Ricky Shroeder), Tom Green, and former Man Show co-host, Doug Stanhope. People from the MMA community like Eddie “The Twister” Bravo show up too. It’s great when Rogan actually goes into interviewer mode and we find out fascinating tidbits like Tom Green’s story about the dirty politics of Total Request Live on MTV, or Ricky Shroeder’s stories about what 1980s sitcom stars were really like. (An encounter with Emmanuel Lewis is particularly funny.) Unfortunately, these interviewing moments are few and far-between, and half the time it feels like the guests are basically there to co-sign Joe Rogan’s view of the world. (They oblige.)
Going back to the well with tried and true topics would probably happen less often if the show wasn’t so long. Listening to each episode feels like settling in for the movie Avatar in its entirety and some episodes actually do go on that long. The hosts of the other podcasts I’ve heard that go on for this length tend to be really defensive about this issue, and Rogan is no exception. They all make similar claims: that the show is long because they’re enjoying themselves, and if people think it’s too long then they can go do something else. Fair enough, but the fact of the matter is the length does hurt the show. There’s so much overlap in topics, and lots of narrowly avoided overlap too (“We’ve talked enough about Eddie Griffin in the past, so let’s not get into it again.”). If the show were a little tighter there’d be less repetition because the hosts wouldn’t need to fall back on comfort zone topics in order to shove past the two-hour mark.
Finally, listeners won’t be able to not notice Joe Rogan’s affect of punctuating every other sentence with the word ‘son’ – surely one of the more infuriating linguistic innovations of the last decade or so. It just sounds bad. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone who isn’t named ‘Dave Chappelle’ pull this off without sounding like a jackanapes, and while Rogan may have been in a memorable sketch on Chappelle’s Show, that doesn’t count here. It’s a wonder that nobody has staged an intervention yet to stop him from using the word ‘son’ in this context. On second thought, though, if anyone who loved mushrooms and knew jujitsu wanted to call me ‘son’, I would totally let him.