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Joseph James Rogan (born August 11, 1967) is an American stand-up comedian, color commentator, podcast host, and retired martial artist. A fan of comedy since his youth, Rogan began a career in stand-up in August 1988 in the Boston area, developing a blue comedy act. He moved to New York City two years later.
After relocating to Los Angeles in 1994, Rogan signed an exclusive developmental deal with Disney, appeared as an actor on the television sitcoms Hardball and NewsRadio, and worked in local comedy clubs. In 1997, he started working for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as an interviewer and color commentator since 2002. Rogan released his first comedy special in 2000, and has since produced seven other specials. From 2001, he has been the host of several television shows, including Fear Factor, The Man Show, and Joe Rogan Questions Everything.
In 2009, Rogan launched his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience which has become one of the most popular podcasts available; in October 2015, it was downloaded 16 million times. Rogan is also an advocate of the legalization of cannabis, hunting, and overall physical and mental well-being.
Joseph James Rogan was born on August 11, 1967, in Newark, New Jersey, the place where his grandfather moved his family in the 1940s. He is of one-quarter Irish and three-quarters Italian descent. His father, Joseph, worked as a police officer in Newark. At five years of age, Rogan's parents divorced, and his father has not been in contact with him since he was seven. Rogan said of his father: "All I remember of my dad are these brief, violent flashes of domestic violence [...] But I don't want to complain about my childhood. Nothing bad ever really happened to me [...] I don't hate the guy." At seven, Rogan and the family moved to San Francisco, California, followed by another move when he was 11 to Gainesville, Florida. They settled in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts, where Rogan attended Newton South High School and graduated from in 1985.
Rogan participated in Little League Baseball but developed an interest in martial arts in his early teens as "it was really the first thing that ever gave me hope that I wasn't going to be a loser. So I really, really gravitated toward it". At fourteen, he took up karate and began to compete in taekwondo competitions. At nineteen, he won a US Open Championship tournament as a lightweight.He was a Massachusetts full-contact state champion for four consecutive years and became an instructor in the sport. Rogan also practiced amateur kickboxing, and held a 2–1 record. Rogan retired from competition at 21 as he began to suffer from frequent headaches and feared worse injuries. He attended University of Massachusetts Boston but found it pointless and dropped out before he could graduate.
1988–1999: Early comedy career and sitcoms
Rogan had no intention of being a professional stand-up comedian and initially considered a career in kickboxing. He was a fan of comedy as a youngster and his parents took him to see comedian Richard Pryor's film Live on the Sunset Strip at thirteen, which affected him "in such a profound way. Nothing had made me laugh like that." Rogan's friends at his gym and taekwondo school convinced him to have a go at stand-up comedy as he would make jokes and do impressions to make them laugh. At 21, after six months preparing material and practising his delivery, he performed his first stand-up routine on August 27, 1988 at an open-mic night at Stitches comedy club in Boston. While he worked on his stand-up, Rogan took up several jobs to secure himself financially by teaching martial arts at Boston University and Revere, Massachusetts, delivering newspapers, driving a limousine, doing construction work, and completing duties for a private investigator. His blue comedy style earned him gigs at bachelor parties and strip clubs. One night, Rogan convinced the owner of a comedy club in Boston to allow him to try a new, five-minute routine. At the show was talent manager Jeff Sussman, who liked Rogan's act and offered him to become his manager, to which Rogan accepted. In 1990, Rogan moved to New York City as a full-time comedian; he was "scratching and grinding" for money at the time, so he stayed with his grandfather in Newark for the first six months. Rogan later cited Richard Jeni, Lenny Bruce, Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks as comedy influences.
In 1994, Rogan relocated to Los Angeles as it presented more career opportunities. His first national television spot followed on the MTV comedy show Half-Hour Comedy Hour. The appearance led to the network offering him a three-year exclusive contract and a role in a pilot episode of a "dopey game show" for $500. Rogan declined, but it prompted Sussman to send tapes of Rogan's performances to several networks which sparked a bidding war. After a period of negotiations, Rogan accepted a development deal with the Disney network. He secured his first major acting role in the 1994 nine-episode Fox sitcom Hardball as Frank Valente, a young, ego-centric star player on a professional baseball team. Rogan called the hiring process "weird" as the network had no idea if he could act until he was asked by Dean Valentine, then-president of Walt Disney Television, to which he replied: "If you can lie, you can act, and if you can lie to crazy girlfriends, you can act under pressure". The filming schedule was a new experience for Rogan who started to work 12-hour days and among people. Rogan later said: "It was a great show on paper until a horrible executive producer with a big ego was hired by Fox to run the show and he re-wrote it." Around this time, Rogan began performing at The Comedy Store in Hollywood and became a paid regular by owner Mitzi Shore. He performed at the club for the next 13 years for free, and paid for the venue's new sound system.
From 1995 to 1999, Rogan starred in the NBC sitcom NewsRadio as Joe Garrelli, an electrician and handyman at the show's fictional news radio station. The role was originally set to be played by actor Ray Romano, but he was let go from the cast after one rehearsal and Rogan was brought in. The switch caused Rogan to work with the show's writers to help develop the character in time before show was set to launch, which he later described as a "very dumbed-down, censored version" of himself. Rogan befriended fellow cast member Phil Hartman who confided his marital problems to him. Rogan claimed he tried to persuade Hartman to divorce his wife five times, but "he loved his kids and didn't want to leave". In 1998, Hartman was murdered by his wife. The loss affected Rogan's ability to perform stand-up and cancelled a week of scheduled gigs. Rogan later saw acting as an easy job, but grew tired of "playing the same character every week" and only did it for the money. He later viewed his time on NewsRadio as "a dream gig" that allowed him to earn money while working on his stand-up as often as he could. During the series he worked on a pilot for a show named Overseas.
1997–2005: UFC, comedy specials, and television
Rogan began working for the mixed martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship as a backstage and post-fight interviewer; his first show took place at UFC 12: Judgement Day in Dothan, Alabama on February 7, 1997. He became interested in jiu-jitsu in 1994 after watching Royce Gracie fight at UFC 2: No Way Out, and landed the position at the organization as Sussman was friends with its co-creator and original producer, Campbell McLaren. He quit after around two years as his salary could not cover the cost of travelling to the events, which were in more rural locations at the time. After the UFC was taken over by Zuffa in 2001, Rogan attended some events and became friends with its new president Dana White, who offered him a job as a color commentator but Rogan initially declined as he "just wanted to go to the fights and drink". In 2002, White was able to hire Rogan for free in exchange for prime event tickets for him and his friends. After about fifteen free gigs as commentator Rogan accepted pay for the job, working alongside Mike Goldberg until the end of 2016. Rogan won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Award for Best Television Announcer twice, and was named MMA Personality of the Year four times by the World MMA Awards. In 2006, Rogan hosted the weekly UFC television show Inside the UFC.
In 1999, Rogan secured a three-album deal with Warner Bros. Records and began tentative plans to star in his own prime-time television sitcom on Fox named The Joe Rogan Show. The show, co-written by Seinfeld writer Bill Masters, was to feature Rogan as "a second-string sportscaster who lands a spot as the token male on a View-style women's show". In December 1999, he recorded his first stand-up comedy album in two shows at the Commedy Connection at Faneuil Hall in Boston, which was used in his first comedy album I'm Gonna Be Dead Some Day..., released in August 2000. The album was played regularly on The Howard Stern Show and the Napster music service. It contains "Voodoo Punanny", a song he wrote after Warner suggested something they could play on the radio. It was subsequently released as a single. Around this time, Rogan also worked on ideas for a film and a cartoon with his comedian friend Chris McGuire, and began to operate a blog on his website JoeRogan.net, which he used to discuss various topics that helped him develop his stand-up routines.
In 2001, development on Rogan's television show was interrupted after he accepted an offer from NBC to host the American edition of Fear Factor. Rogan declined initially as he thought the network would not air such a program, but Sussman convinced him to accept. The show increased Rogan's national exposure which caused turnouts at his stand-up gigs to grow. Fear Factor ran for six seasons from 2001 to 2006 and returned for a seventh and final season from 2011 to 2012.
In 2002, he appeared on the episode "A Beautiful Mind" of Just Shoot Me as Chris, Maya Gallo's boyfriend. In December 2002, Rogan was the emcee for the 2002 Blockbuster Hollywood Spectacular, a Christmas parade in Hollywood. In February 2003, Rogan became the new co-host of The Man Show on Comedy Central for its fifth season from August 2003 with fellow comedian Doug Stanhope, following the departure of hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla. A year into the show however, the hosts began to disagree with Comedy Central and the producers over what content was removed and kept in. Rogan said, "I was a little misled ... I was told: 'Show nudity, and we'll blur it out. Swear and we'll bleep it out.' That hasn't been the case". The show ended in 2004. Around this time, Rogan entered talks to host his own radio show but they came to nothing due to his already busy schedule.
2005–present: Later career and podcast
In 2005, actor Wesley Snipes challenged Rogan to a cage fight. Rogan trained for the event for five months before Snipes backed out following an investigation by the IRS for his alleged tax evasion. Rogan believed Snipes needed a quick payout to alleviate his debt. In May 2005, Rogan signed a deal with the Endeavor Talent Agency. Two months later, he used money he earned from hosting Fear Factor to film his second stand-up comedy special Joe Rogan: Live, in Phoenix, Arizona. The special premiered on Showtime in 2007. Rogan hired a camera crew to document his comedy tours which he posted on his website for his Joe Show web series.
In 2005, Rogan wrote a blog entry on his website accusing comedian Carlos Mencia of joke thievery, a claim he had made since 1993, and dubbed him "Carlos Menstealia". The situation culminated in February 2007 when Rogan confronted Mencia on stage at The Comedy Store in Hollywood. A video of the incident was uploaded onto YouTube and included evidence and comments from other comedians, including George Lopez, "The Reverend" Bob Levy, Bobby Lee and Ari Shaffir. The incident led to Rogan's talent agent booting him as a client of The Gersh Agency, who also managed Mencia, and his ban from The Comedy Store, causing him to relocate his regular venue to the Hollywood Improv Comedy Club. Rogan later said that every single comic he had talked to was so happy and thankful he did it, and signed with William Morris Agency five minutes later. Rogan returned to The Comedy Store in 2013 when he supported Shaffir in the filming of his first special.
In April 2007, Comedy Central Records released Rogan's fourth comedy special, Shiny Happy Jihad. The set was recorded in September 2006 at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco, and contains excerpts of an improvised Q&A session with the audience that was typical of Rogan's act at the time.
Rogan hosted the short lived CBS show Game Show in My Head that aired for eight episodes in January 2009 and produced by Ashton Kutcher. The show involved contestants who try to convince people to perform or take part in increasingly bizarre situations for money. He agreed to host the show as the idea intrigued him, calling it "a completely mindless form of entertainment".
In December 2009, Rogan launched a free podcast with his friend and fellow comedian Brian Redban. The first episode was recorded on December 24 and was initially a live weekly broadcast on Ustream, with Rogan and Redban "sitting in front of laptops bullshitting". By August 2010, the podcast was named The Joe Rogan Experience and entered the list of Top 100 podcasts on iTunes, and in 2011, was picked up by SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The podcast features an array of guests who discuss current events, political views, philosophy, comedy, hobbies and numerous other topics. In January 2015, the podcast was listened to by over 11 million people. By October that year, the podcast was downloaded 16 million times each month, making it one of the most popular free podcasts.
In 2010, Rogan accused comedian Dane Cook of joke thievery.
In 2011, Rogan played his first major character in a movie in Zookeeper. He was also working on a book that he tentatively titled Irresponsible Advice from a Man with No Credibility, based on his blog entries on his website. He played himself in Here Comes the Boom, another action-comedy starring Kevin James released in 2012.
In December 2012, Rogan released his sixth comedy special Live from the Tabernacle exclusively as a download on his website for $5. He was inspired to release it that way after Louis C.K. did the same thing.
In 2013, Rogan hosted his own six-episode television show Joe Rogan Questions Everything on the SyFy network. The show covered topics discussed on his podcasts, including the existence of Bigfoot and UFOs, and featured several comedians, experts, and scientists with the aim of trying to "put some subjects to bed ... with an open-minded perspective".
Sometime before 2001, Rogan was in a relationship with actress and reality television star Jerri Manthey. In May 2008, Rogan and his girlfriend Jessica, a former cocktail waitress, had a daughter. They married the following year, and had a second daughter in 2010. The family lives in Bell Canyon, California. In mid-2009, prior to the birth of their second child, they briefly lived in Boulder, Colorado. Rogan is also a stepfather to his wife's daughter from another relationship. He has stress-related vitiligo on his hands and feet.
Rogan became interested in jiu-jitsu after watching Royce Gracie fight at UFC 2: No Way Out in 1994. In 1996, Rogan began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Carlson Gracie at his school in Hollywood, California. He is a black belt under Eddie Bravo's 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, a style of no-gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and a black belt in gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Jean Jacques Machado.
Rogan was raised Catholic, having attended Catholic school in the first grade, but has since abandoned following any organized religion and identifies as an agnostic. He is highly critical of the Catholic Church and, drawing from his experiences as a former member, believes it is an institution of oppression.
Rogan is not affiliated with any political party but has been described as having mostly libertarian views. He endorsed Ron Paul in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign and Gary Johnson in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Rogan supports the legalized use of cannabis and believes it holds numerous benefits. He hosted the documentary film The Union: The Business Behind Getting High and was featured in Marijuana: A Chronic History and The Culture High. He also supports the use of LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and DMT toward the exploration and enhancement of consciousness, as well as introspection. He was the presenter in the 2010 documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule.
Rogan is an avid hunter and is part of the "Eat What You Kill" movement, which attempts to move away from factory farming and the mistreatment of animals raised for food.
Rogan is opposed to routine infant circumcision and has claimed there is a lack of significant scientific evidence for any benefits to the practice, which he considers not entirely different from female genital mutilation due to its non-consensual nature.
Rogan has an interest in sensory deprivation and using an isolation tank. In 2001, he owned a Samadhi tank. He has stated that his personal experiences with meditation in isolation tanks has helped him explore the nature of consciousness as well as improve performance in various physical and mental activities and overall well-being.
Filmography and discography
Feature films and documentaries
Awards and honors
Teen Choice Award
Choice TV Reality/Variety Host for Fear Factor (2003, Nominated)
World MMA Awards
2011 MMA Personality of the Year
2012 MMA Personality of the Year
2014 MMA Personality of the Year
2015 MMA Personality of the Year
Wrestling Observer Newsletter
2010 Best Television Announcer
2011 Best Television Announcer
List of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners