We'll probably never find Bigfoot, but if we do, I think we should send Joe Rogan to make initial contact. Worst-case scenario, the Jiu Jitsu black belt can try and defeat the Squatch, maybe breaking an arm before getting ripped to pieces by the giant ape. Best-case scenario, the two will get real high together and talk about space on the first ever interspecies podcast.
Like Bigfoot, Joe Rogan is hard to identify. Is he a comic, a fighter, a TV host? He's all of those and more. Rogan's been doing standup since the 80s, practicing martial arts since he was 13, and making one of the most popular podcasts on the planet for the last four years. He has hosted NBC's Fear Factor, he's the commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he just wrapped up a season of his new SyFy show, Joe Rogan Questions Everything.
Consequently, Rogan has cultivated a loyal ragtag army of fans. They range from the realms of comedy, MMA, and psychedelic drugs, but they all have one thing in common: they love to hear the man speak. And, these days, it's easier than ever to do that. Whether through a podcast, on stage, or over two men pounding the shit out of each other, you've probably heard him speak, too.
If you haven't, you'll have your chance when he comes to the South Beach Comedy Festival on April 3rd to perform stand-up. Until then, you can read our interview with him, where we talked about some of Joe's favorite things: marijuana, MMA, and Bigfoot.
Cultist: You used to live in Gainesville, right?
Joe Rogan: Yeah, I lived in Gainesville when I was a little kid.
So you're somewhat familiar with the craziness of our state.
Oh, I go to Florida all the time, man. I know very well how crazy Florida is. It's a very unique spot. You really should have to have a passport to get there.
What do you think it is about Florida that makes it such a magnet for insanity?
I think there's a bunch of factors. I think first of all, the massive amount of people from different cultures is part of it. The beautiful intense weather — that's a part of it, too. It feels like you're in another country. I think cocaine probably has something to do with it.
Medical marijuana is looking like it might pass in Florida. The most recent poll shows 74 percent of Floridians support it. Do you think Florida would benefit from medical marijuana?
I think the world would benefit from medical marijuana. It has been illegal for so long almost entirely because of a propaganda campaign that was designed to make hemp illegal. It wasn't even about the actual THC. It was nothing about that. It was really about making sure that hemp was much more difficult to cultivate.
A lot of people look to you as a source of information, especially about weed. Are you conscious of that, and do you feel a responsibility to educate people about marijuana?
I'm aware that people look at me as a source of information, but I feel a responsibility just as a human being — whenever I find out about something that I feel is important — to tell other people, especially if I find it fascinating. I mean, if it's important but also really boring, that's one thing. But this is fascinating stuff. There's a bunch of fascinating aspects of marijuana, not just the fact that prohibition is fundamentally flawed.
It never works. It never worked in the past; it'll never work in the future. It's just one of those things that people have tried and always fail with. Human beings find a way to get those things, and all you do is empower the people that are willing to provide it for them illegally. So you provide organized crime with a massive amount of revenue. That's why we have the problem that we have right now in Mexico. Without drugs being illegal the cartels would have never built up to the size they are. What you would have instead is the same sort of situation you have in America where pharmaceutical companies have massive amounts of power, but they're not running gigantic militarized gangs that are murdering people and intimidating entire towns and killing sheriffs, and all this stuff we're finding out with the Mexican drug war.
What you're doing is, you're giving people that are willing to do illegal things and risk imprisonment — you're giving them the opportunity to make money. And those are the worst types of people you want to have a billion dollars, you know? And that's what we're seeing in Mexico. It's essentially the exact same thing that happened in the United States during the alcohol prohibition, but it's even more intense and even larger. So I always feel compelled when something like that is so obviously wrong and stupid and foolhardy and has its roots in failed policies of the past — I always feel compelled to talk about stuff like that.
Is there anything you've learned recently that just blew your mind?
I mean, there are always new things that blow my mind. It's not one thing. We live in an insane time. I was reading an article today about a woman who they developed a 3D plastic skull for. She had some skull disease where her brain is being pressed down by her skull, so they built her a 3D plastic skull and removed her skull and put this plastic skull in its place. I mean, it's just madness. We live in crazy times when it comes to technological innovation.
Do you think you'll live long enough to see the day when man and machine become inseparable?
Yes. I think that's probably pretty inevitable. I think we're seeing the beginning of that now. People are afraid to leave their phones at home. I feel weird when I leave the house without my phone. I'm like, "Oh no, what have I done! I left my phone!" You feel detached. It feels kind of creepy. There was a piece I put on my Twitter yesterday that they think by 2030 there's going to be direct thought-to-thought communication with human beings that won't even involve language.
I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
It's an inevitable thing, I think. It's like how people were afraid when they first came out with books. They were worried that books were going to somehow or another ruin society. People worry about every single step of the way. The invention of the wheel probably brought a lot of trepidation. It's just one of those things. Human beings are always scared of change. But almost always change is good ... in a way. Obviously with environmental pollution, you know, the ocean would argue that change is not good. We left a giant garbage patch bigger than Texas in the middle of the ocean, and we've eaten 80% of the fish or something stupid like that. But, for us, innovation and new things are almost always beneficial.
So you've been doing your podcast for how long now?
Is there something that's noticeably changed in your life or career since you started the podcast?
My audiences are way nicer. The audiences are incredible. It's really an amazing and very noticeable shift. The people are just almost universally cool now. I think a lot of them are tuned in to the same vibe that we're putting out on the podcast. They also get to know you in a really intimate way — in a way that's really not available in any other medium. I mean, even if you're hosting a talk show or something like that, they get to know you a little bit, but who you really, really are? I don't think they get to know that. You need really long, uninterrupted conversations to get a vibe on who a person really is.
Is that odd for you? As a fan of the podcast myself, I know all these really intimate details about your life, and you know nothing about me. Is that a weird lopsided relationship to have with your fans?
It's definitely weird. It's unusual. There's never been a time in the past where something like this was available. But it's been cool. It's not been a bad thing. When I share intimate details about my mind or my thoughts or my wife or whatever, they're all because I chose to, and there's a point to it all. Or supposedly there's a point to it all. It's very unusual. It's very weird, but I don't think it's bad. Almost universally, the people that I've talked to or come in contact with because of the podcast feel like it's cool to be a part of the conversation. They feel like they're listening in to a conversation. They're not listening to some over-produced, super-slick professional show where everything is sort of scripted out. Our show is so obviously off the cuff. There's none of that sort of slick show business weirdness, and most people think that's a good thing. So the strange aspect of revealing yourself to all these folks and having these long-term intimate conversations really just makes them become more friendly with you.
Do you think, as podcasts become more popular, they're going to lose that rawness and maybe succumb to an over-produced show-business style? Will we look back one day and say that these were the glory days of podcasting?
Maybe so, but what I'm seeing is more people that I run into that I've never met before, and never heard of before who are starting podcasts and are inspired by guys like Adam Corolla or Joey Diaz, they do it because it's fun. There are a ton of podcasts out there that are just people who may be amateur comedians or whoever. They set aside a couple hours every week with a buddy or several buddies, and they get together and they talk about shit and release it online. Then the next thing you know, there are five episodes up. Then there are twenty. Next thing you know, they've been doing it for a year and a half, and they have a theme song that they created on Garage Band, and then they have a following on iTunes. That's what happens.
Anybody can do that, now. If you decide that podacsting is something that interests you, it's open to pretty much anyone who can afford to buy an mp3 recorder and a monthly account at one of those podcast distribution networks. It's really fairly easy to do. You're going to have some pretty slick ones, but some of the slick ones I enjoy. Like Radiolab. That's one of my favorite podcasts. It's very well produced and very professional and very different in a lot of ways from my show. But then there are shows like my show. We're always at the top of the iTunes rating, but we're not very slick. So you're going to have both. You'll have podcasts that are really well produced, and you'll have podcasts that are just a bunch of guys or girls sitting around shooting the shit. Both of them are great. They don't have to be one way or another. All they have to do is be entertaining.
So, shifting to another part of your incredibly busy career, do you think the stigma around MMA — that it's somehow more barbaric and brutal than boxing or other sports — is starting to fade, or do you think the sport still has a ways to go?
Is MMA violent? Yes. But it's a controlled, agreed upon form of violence. What it really is is the most difficult task that anyone could ever attempt to do in sports: be a champion fighter in mixed martial arts. It's one of the most difficult things physically, it's one of the most difficult things emotionally, and I would say the most difficult sport psychologically. The stakes are incredibly high. Not just to your physical body, but your self-esteem.
You know, when you lose a fight, you've spent eight weeks preparing for a moment that went horribly wrong. That's very difficult for guys to deal with. It's incredibly hard. That's what I think it is. It's the highest mountain in sports to try to climb. When people want to call it barbaric, you know, it's obviously very raw. The root of all sport is someone trying to use their willpower, their dedication, their focus and their discipline to overcome another person who's trying to do the exact same thing and finding out who's the best at it. It's the most exciting sport there has ever been in my opinion. The stigmas and all the other stuff attached to it, I think what those stigmas are really is the unfiltered reality of the greatest sport in the world. You can not be into it. I totally understand that — if someone's not into violence or not compelled by the idea of two people competing against each other using only their bodies. But to me, it's just unbelievably compelling. Whatever negative aspects might be attached to it are just an inevitable part of life. What I feel MMA really truly is is sport broken down to its most base and visceral level: one person trying to dominate another person. Watching that is incredibly entertaining. There's nothing in my opinion that is more thrilling than a great mixed martial arts fight.
Last question: do you think we'll ever find Bigfoot?
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[Laughs] That's a very good question. I don't know, dude. You know, I don't know if Bigfoot's real. But I know that Bigfoot used to be real. They pretty much determined that, at one point in time, there was a huge ape called Gigantopithecus that was between eight and ten feet tall — an enormous bipedal hominid that lived in Asia. They found out about it in the 1920s, I believe. There was an apothecary shop in China, and this guy discovered these enormous primate teeth in this shop that he knew were too big to be a gorilla's and definitely weren't from a human being. They started an investigation and found out where the people got the bones from, and found more bones that indicated that this animal was most likely bipedal. I mean, that's a fucking freaky animal, man — a giant eight to ten foot tall ape that walks on two legs. It lived as recently as 100,000 years ago. I don't know if there are still any of those things left, but it's a fun subject. That's what it really is more than anything. Most likely it doesn't exist, but — if it did — man that would be fun [Laughs].
I've talked to a few people about it that had Bigfoot experiences. Most of them I think are full of shit, but I've talked to a few that really make you wonder. I talked to this lady in Washington State, and none of my bullshit radar was going off at all with her. She was telling me how she always thought it was nonsense, and then one day she saw these elk running away in the woods when she was hiking, and she saw a gorilla. She was like, "What the fuck is that?" Then she's like, "Oh my God it's a Bigfoot." She just saw this gorilla moving in and out of the trees for a few steps, and then it was gone. She said from that point on, her whole version of reality was completely changed. I don't know if she's crazy. I don't know if she's medicated. She might have been on acid or something, but it would be a pretty incredible find. I would love to see it if it was real.
South Beach Comedy Festival present Joe Rogan. Thursday, April 3, at the Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets cost $39.50 to $58 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.