Though he derides his half-a-decade worth of work on Fear Factor — claiming no ownership of any of the horrid ideas acted out on said show — stand-up comedian Joe Rogan does admit that given a hefty pay raise, he might just have agreed to another season.
Of course, the set on Shiny Happy Jihad, performed at San Francisco’s famed Cobb’s Comedy Club, was recorded when the former NBC cringefest still had a small chance at renewal. By now, we all know the show’s long gone, and if Rogan has anything to say about it, the immediate association most people make between the LA-based comic and the show will soon fade away.
Though if the show’s line of crap — DVDs, a cookbook, Game Boy game, playset and candy — has anything to say about it, Rogan will not soon be forgotten as the bleary-eyed guy who enthusiastically encouraged poor saps to bite harder on those cow eyeballs.
Unfortunate? Yes. But is it any more unfortunate than being known as the guy who’s waged war on Carlos Mencia? No. Though one could safely assume that Rogan is publicly more proud of the latter association, both of these things are equally regrettable, mainly because each distracts the masses from this: Rogan is one of the most skilled and unique headlining comedians today.
On Jihad (his first album in nearly seven years), Rogan proves he has an amazing charismatic presence — an energy and a voice that prod, if not a hearty belly laugh, then some vigorous reaction from his audience. It’s this part of his personality that makes it so easy to agree with Rogan’s wild theories.
When he refuses to accept — as most people do — that, due to obvious mathematical and logistical obstacles, the creation of the pyramids is some grand mystery, you want to believe him.
“I think that people used to be really, really, really smart,” he says. “But the dumb ones just outfucked the smart ones. I think we are all the bastard children of the idiot stone workers of Egypt.”
And when he’s not theorizing or dropping pot-inspired faux profundities — “This whole universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of solar systems might just be a part of one atom that’s in a cell of the balls of another guy who lives in another universe — he’s sneaking in observations that are more of this world…but always with a twist.
For instance, even Rogan does girls-are-different-than-boys jokes. Most times, however, they’re dressed in subplots, like when he contrasts men and women by exploiting Islamic terrorists’ belief that their ultimate sacrifice means an afterlife with 72 virgins.
“Pussy is so strong that there are dudes willing to blow themselves up for the highly unlikely possibility of pussy in another dimension,” he explains. “You know how fucking crazy that is? There’s nothing that’s got that kind of power. Dick isn’t even in the ballgame. There are no chicks alive willing to blow themselves up for dick. You offer 72 dicks to a chick, you’re gonna have a real short line of dirty transvestites with deep wrist scars.”
Throughout Jihad, Rogan’s high energy and seeming stream-of-consciousness delivery allow us to believe he’s just winging it. But it’s obvious that he takes his stage time seriously. He’s an expert pacer, his topics are varied but play well together and he self-deprecates just enough to kill the cockiness that threatens to creep in from time to time. It’s a formula that would translate well to theaters, places where he, no doubt, will soon be consistently playing.
If Rogan is out to prove himself as a major stand-up comedy force with this albumÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s release, he’s done so with great success. But now that he has the proof and the power, will he use it for good — or will Fear Factor references and the Mencia beatings continue to overshadow an amazing talent?