Salvia, Ron Paul, and the illusion of democracy: My interview with Joe Rogan

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Many know Joe Rogan as the host of Fear Factor, the show on which contestants ate scorpions and hung off of buildings for cash prizes. Others may remember him as the surly janitor on News Radio. He even did a brief stint co-hosting The Man Show. In between these varied gigs he has trained in Tae Kwon Do (as a teen he was a competitive black belt), toured doing standup comedy, and now serves as the color commentator for the Ultimate Fighting League.

CP: Has your past experience as a Tae Kwon Do competitor help with color commentary for the UFC?

JR: Oh yeah, it definitely helps. But I think to really understand the UFC you need more experience than just Tae Kwon Do. The ground game and the grappling aspect of it is the most difficult thing for most people to understand. It’s a very complicated martial art to learn. But guys that just know Tae Kwon Do have a hard time with the grappling. It did help me; Jiu-Jitsu has also helped me.

CP: Do you get frustrated with the comparisons to boxing or even scripted WWE wrestling?

JR: No, it’s understandable. If you look at WWE, you see a bunch of guys doing crazy stuff, smashing into each other and pretending that it’s real. If you’re standing on the outside, it’s an understandable question. ‘Is it all real? Is it fake? Oh, it’s like boxing, right?’ To the casual observer it makes sense. So to me it’s not frustrating, it’s a valid comparison.

CP: Do you think the perceived legitimacy of ultimate fighting is a problem?

JR: A lot of people aware of the sport think of it as human cock fighting. I disagree, but it's a valid thought. It's a bunch of dudes beating each other in a cage. No matter how you slice that, that's pretty scary. But it's also a form of human competition. It's a way to challenge oneself. There's an old quote by Miyamoto Musashi, a very famous samurai, who wrote The Book of Five Rings. He stated that once you know the way broadly, you can see it in all things. Once you become adept at one very difficult thing, you can use that focus and channel it into any aspect of life. That is probably the most important part of any martial art, and probably the most easily overlooked.

CP: You’ve called out comedians like Carlos Mencia and Dane Cook publically for stealing material. Is there a way to prevent plagiarism? Does it come down to copywriting material? Do other comedians need to hold other comedians accountable?

JR: There was a time where we thought about it that way: holding each other accountable. Comedy club owners and TV shows are willing to profit off of stolen material, and there will always be unethical comics. But The internet finally created a venue for people to show when someone has stolen your material. For the longest time, if someone stole your stuff that was it. You’d hear rumors about Robin Williams or Dennis Leary. Now you can go on YouTube and watch the actual clips, and who came up with it first becomes the subject of debate. Because of that these guys have to watch out. Fans who appreciate the art as a form of expression of thoughts and ideas know that it’s not about ripping people off and pretending. So when someone does that now, you run the risk of losing fans. It’s eye opening. When I first started stand up, there was a big Bill Hicks/Dennis Leary debate. I was a Leary fan, but I eventually realized that Dennis Leary was aping Hick’s material. It was really obvious. I stopped being a Dennis Leary fan, and became a Bill Hicks fan.

CP: There's a YouTube clip out there of you contemplating the electability of Ron Paul. Do you think it's possible for a controversial, not particularly mainstream politician to win a U.S. presidential election?

JR: I'm not entirely sure that voting is real anymore. You used to be able to accurately predict the results of an election with exit polls. Last election, the exit polls were horribly off. The voting machines are created by Diebold, a company that supports the Republican Party with millions of dollars. The GOP is notorious for doing whatever it takes to win. So, at this point in time I am not entirely convinced that voting is real. Onstage, I sometimes say that voting for the president is a lot like rooting on pro wrestling: It makes you feel better to do it, but I am not sure it affects the outcome. If corporations are willing to lead people into a war, killing hundreds of thousands for profit, do you really think that they wouldn't rig an election?

CP: So basically we’re talking about an election that is more or less about Coke vs. Pepsi.

CP: Look at what happened with Ron Paul. He basically said, ‘Look, we have a horrible situation here. Corporations have taken over our democracy and culture.’ And they really have. We think of these politicians as representatives, but they really are just spokespeople for big business. Ron Paul said this and they called him a kook. All the pundits said that he had no chance. And people believed it. How do we know he had no chance? Shouldn’t we find that out through voting? Instead corporations had to stop him. He shook up the system in ways that made people uncomfortable.

CP: In the past, you've discussed your experience with the psychedelic DMT. Here in Minnesota, state lawmakers have recently tried to ban the legal hallucinogen salvia. Do you think there's a need to regulate this type of drug? Is there a line between "psychedelically potent" and "socially dangerous"?

JR: You should kill those lawmakers. Hunt them down and kill them like dogs. You know, it's not about seeing pretty colors and having a good time with your friends—you can do that and it's fairly harmless—but really it's about exploring consciousness and altered states of reality. Reality is a very strange thing as it is. The idea that we are on a rock spinning around at thousands of miles an hour through the universe, through an infinite void of space, is weird. We don't think about that daily, but eat some mushrooms, and you will think about it. That's what psychedelic experiences are about: offering you a view of a world outside of your world. It's terrifying for the people trying to keep humans inside a jar of predetermined behavior. They're not really afraid of people dying or getting hurt; they're afraid of the social aspect. They're protecting you from enlightenment. Those aren't people you want in office.

Joe Rogan does standup comedy this Friday at the Fine Line ($21-$26, 8 p.m., 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100). UFC commentary is this Saturday at Target Center. Click here for info on the UFC event.

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