When NBC announced it was bringing stunt-game show Fear Factor back into production earlier this month after a five-year hiatus -- putting out a renewed casting call for teams of two -- host and comedian Joe Rogan wasn't sure what to make of it at first.
Well, he's back! As he told TVGuide.com, "It doesn't seem real. It seems like some sort of bizarro dream world. But I'm looking forward to it. The idea of sitting at home and watching someone else host it would have driven me crazy."
Production begins in July with at least eight episodes ordered. Rogan helmed 146 episodes over six seasons from 2001 to 2006 (see the old promo shot at right).
"What I brought to Fear Factor the first time I hope to bring to it again — a background in competitive athletics along with being a standup comedian," Rogan says, who also provides commentary for the UFC's pay-per-view events. "This show is tailor-made for me."
It's Sunday. Were you looking for some funny diversions, or merely trying to track down a video somebody told you about that just showed up on the Internets? Well, then, you're probably in luck, because odds are I might have posted what you're looking for over on Comedy.com's comedians channel, The Laugh Track. Let's review:
Joe Rogan has a new one-hour stand-up comedy special that debuts Saturday, June 20, on SPIKE-TV. Let's talk about it. Better yet, let's talk to Rogan. Actually, here's a great place to start. This is a clip from the special, "Talking Monkeys in Space," in which Rogan talks about how some people are just so set in their beliefs that they came from Jesus that they cannot handle the idea of monkeys and evolution. Tell me I'm not crazy, meanwhile, to think the voice he uses for the Jesus-believer sounds oddly familiar:
Rogan likes taking taboos, whether it's religion, evolution, marijuana use and anti-pot ads, enjoying when animals escape from captivity and display their wild nature, not so much enjoying the idea of people climbing Mount Everest, and really not understanding Dr. Phil.
"I always find it interesting when people will argue without doing zero research," Rogan told me over the phone earlier this week. That's a lot of people, though! "We're definitely dealing with people who aren't thinking. They're just spouting predetermined decisions or proclamations thieir team has made. It seems people adopt this conglomeration of opinions that other people have found for them. As a a staunch conservative, I think this way. As a lifelong Democrat...I BLANK. But there's people for you. Silly monkeys."
I know you talked about this on your blog already. But it's something all comedians have to deal with when they record a special, CD or DVD. How do you let go of a joke, and worse yet, how do you let that joke get recorded on tape when you've later refined it or made it better? "It sucks, man. Because I just recorded it a couple of months ago, and there are jokes I see and hear, and think, I already have so many taglines that make the joke so much better."
"There's nothing you can do. A lot of comics when they put out stuff too quick, you can listen to those jokes and see those jokes just haven't matured yet...It takes a long time...to get to the best version of it." How do you reconcile that? "You don't. You keep dong it. You just keep writing it. Doing new stuff. You just have to accept the fact that it's not really done."
So when you watch his special, know two things: 1) That he tells these routines differently already, and 2) he's already trying to move on to the next bit."Things evolve. Your comedy evolves. Bits evolve. It makes it very hard to listen to. With stand-up, it's a constant need for perfection. A desire to try to get things right."
Much, much more...AFTER THE JUMP!
Joe Rogan is hard at work editing his upcoming stand-up comedy special, which will air on the Spike network in June. Rogan provides UFC commentary on Spike, so having his special air there (instead of, say, Showtime, HBO or Comedy Central) does make some demographic sense. In a post on his blog overnight, Rogan talked about how he hates having to watch and listen to his routines over and over during the editing process. There are surreal aspects to it, but also one very real fact that Rogan cannot control (at least until he gets a hold of the time-travel technology on Lost), and that's that he already has moved on from the material he performed for his special. As he explained:
"One of my problems is that a bit never feels completely done to me. I rarely say a bit the exact same way every time, and because I’m always tweaking them and fucking around with them they’re constantly getting better. My filming was just a couple weeks ago, and I’ve already got a bunch of new tag-lines for some jokes, and some better ways of setting up other ones. It really just never ends."
Any comedian's stand-up special is merely a snapshot of where and who he/she was as a performer that night. It can date your material in more ways than one. And yet, it's so hard to let go of a good bit, isn't it?
That new midseason game show hosted by Joe Rogan and produced by Ashton Kutcher, Game Show in My Head, debuts Saturday on CBS. Before I saw the clip, I thought, well, it's a combination of their past shows Fear Factor and Punk'd. Not a bad guess. Turns out the show is much more like those taped bits David Letterman would do with neighboring deli owner Rupert Gee, sending Gee out into reality and ordering him to do and say things via hidden microphone. Here's a clip from the debut episode. For more clips, you can go here.
CBS and ABC announced their mid-season TV plans for 2009, and the one thing that'll jump out specifically for comedy fans is that Joe Rogan is getting to host another hybrid reality/game show, this time combinig the elements of Fear Factor that made him a nice chunk of change while making fools out of its contestants, with the classic hidden-camera prank stylings made infamous by Candid Camera. It's called Game Show in My Head, and it premieres Jan. 3 on CBS. You hear hidden-camera in this century, and you think Ashton Kutcher, which is natural because Kutcher is, in fact, behind this enterprise. Airing on Saturday nights, it's not exactly going to need big ratings to stick around. And Rogan will return to more-than-familiar territory, which should also give him plenty more to talk about in his stand-up gigs.
The official description, courtesy of CBS in a press release today:
GAME SHOW IN MY HEAD, a hidden camera game show from Ashton Kutcher, premieres Saturday, Jan. 3 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT). Ordinary people must perform extraordinary tasks on an unsuspecting public to win up to $50,000. Under the watchful eye of host Joe Rogan, each contestant performs five outrageous, embarrassing and hilarious tasks worth $5,000 each. In a no-holds-barred bonus round, each contestant has the chance to double their money up to $50,000.
GAME SHOW IN MY HEAD is from fox21, produced by Hat Trick Productions and Katalyst Films. Executive producers are Jimmy Mulville & Leon Wilde and Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg, Karey Burke and Michael Binkow.
Late into the night, or early this morning, after seeing parts of three different comedy specials on Showtime, I couldn't help but think about how Showtime's comedy specials all have a uniquely odd look and feel to them. Especially when compared to the consistent theater sets and production values of one-hour comedy specials that get aired on HBO and Comedy Central.
Why is that? For one thing, HBO tends to control its own comedy output, which means its comedians often tape their hourlong sets at the same venue with the same crews. Comedy Central does the same for its half-hour Comedy Central Presents, and for hour specials, they're most likely edited versions of highly stylized and produced DVDs. But Showtime is another matter. Whether it's Joe Rogan (at the Tempe Improv), Paul Mooney (at the Laugh Factory) or Mo'Nique at an Ohio prison (or even Doug Stanhope at Gotham Comedy Club), these specials will go anywhere. They'll feature lots of close-ups. They'll bounce the camera angles around the room. They're as OK filming in a small club as they are outdoors. They're independent. They're rogue, even. Performance art pieces. I get the sense that many of these specials were made by the artists themselves, then later sold to Showtime.
But does that make one network's comedy specials better than the others? Depends upon what you mean by better, I suppose. Comedy being so subjective, you cannot say one form of televised special is funnier than another -- that's left in the hands of the performer and the gutteral reactions of you as a viewer and listener.
Do you think, however, that one network does a better job of showcasing stand-up comedy and comedians as artists? Does one network offer more in the way of helping further a comedian's career? Is that answer different now than it would've been even a year ago (looking at you HBO)?
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it.
Carlos Mencia’s “The Punisher” tour comes to Boston tonight for two shows at the Orpheum, where he’ll undoubtedly learn that in this town, “beaner” means something else entirely. The comedian formerly known as Ned Holness and I talked on the phone on Monday morning. His Comedy Central show, Mind of Mencia, finished its second season this summer as the network’s second most-popular program, and will return for a third season early in 2007.
It was before 9 a.m. when the phone rang. Mencia was ready and rarin’ to start talking. “I’m wired,” he said. He tried watching the “Star Wars” trilogy (Eps. 4-6) and “Angel” but still couldn’t relax. “I was watching ‘Charmed,’ and I said I suck, watching ‘Charmed’ in the middle of the morning and paying attention to the storyline.” He kept getting distracted by Alyssa Milano. “Maybe because I remember her as a little girl, it makes me fell dirty.” OK. Let’s talk about something else. He just celebrated his 39th birthday on Oct. 22. How was that? His tour was in Dallas that night.
“My wife came out,” he said. “They stopped the show, came out with a cake, sang Happy Birthday, and my whole vibe was, you’re ruining the show! Get the f— off my stage! You’re building a set, you’ve got these peaks and valleys…and then, bababababa! What the f— are you guys doing to me! It was good besides that. I’m a great showman. So I just care about the show.”
Do you think your comedy will translate as well up in New England as it does in California and the Southwest? Do different crowds react differently? “I don’t think so. At this point, I’ve been through the Midwest and through the Pacific Northwest. It doesn’t change. It really doesn’t. It’s not, I don’t know, it’s not ethnocentric in that way…I would’ve thought, like you, in Dallas, so many Latinos that it wouldn’t change the show.” But he added: “The diversity of my audience is so stunning now. It’s amazing. It’s beyond crossover. I’ve actually become a voice for white America. I’m stunned myself. It just seems no one wants to say the things that are on peoples’ minds, and it just seems to be resonating even more in the white communities than in the minority communities, which is really weird. From blacks and Hispanics, they’ve been saying ‘Tell it like it is, and thank you.’ But whites have been saying, ‘THANK YOU! We’ve been waiting to laugh at that for years’…it’s just this thing that’s been hitting home.”
He hasn’t been to Boston in quite some time. “At the Comedy Connection seven, eight years ago, maybe longer. It was a long time ago. It’s tough, though. It really is.” He explained: “When you’re at the level I was, before the TV show (Mind of Mencia)…you’re working 48 weeks a year, working hard, 50 weeks if you’re stupid like me. You go to a comedy club every six months, so you’re talking 25 clubs.” Which means his circuit skipped Boston for years.
“But I’m having fun. I’m having a lot of fun, because I’m doing something I haven’t done before. It feels good to be talking about something. As a minority comedian, quote unquote, it’s interesting to look at a time, to look around and see it’s not great to be a white American anymore…because you don’t have the same social rights as everyone else.” Color me curious. Go on. “Two black people who speak ebonics can go do the same joke and speak that way to each other, and not get sued. You make a white guy do that and he’s going to go to sensitivity training…whoa! And there’s a lot of stuff like that going on…It’s an interesting time, and I’m a part of that. I’m a part of talking about that.”
He contributed a short story to the new book, I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics, about a gig in which he feared he would’ve gotten shot by Snoop Dogg’s posse after a show, except for the fact that Shaq was in the audience and stuck up for him. Does he fear any crowds now that he’s famous? Not really. “Of the hate mail I get that I answer, they return going, I was just pissed off when I wrote that.”
What about the backlash from other comics? Joe Rogan, took on Mencia online last year. Rogan isn’t the only comic who doesn’t like Mencia’s brand of comedy. Instead of asking about Rogan specifically, I asked Mencia about why the few stand-ups who’ve gotten big in the wake of Dave Chappelle (Dane Cook, Larry the Cable Guy and Mencia) all have major backlash issues within the industry. “It’s no different from every other comic who’s made it successful,” Mencia maintained. “The comedians that comedians think are great are either dead or not very popular, or very old. People go, ‘Mitch Hedberg, man, he was the greatest ever.’ DEAD. Or ‘Richard Pryor was the greatest.’ DEAD. But it’s the same thing, when Chris Rock did his thing, he was blahblahblahed, and black comics said he sold out…It’s going to breed hate and contempt from comics because of the way we are. We are egocentric. It’s all me-me-me-me-me-me-me.”
He knows what other comics are saying about Larry the Cable Guy, “his fans are stupid and they talk about redneck s—.” And about himself: “He pretends he’s Mexican and the Mexicans don’t even like that. But he’s Honduran.”
Believe it or not, when I talk to Dane or talk to Larry, we don’t even talk about that stuff, because it’s so benign to us. It’s par for the course,” he said. “I’m not worried when other comics don’t like me. I’m worried when people don’t like me. I’m not worried when critics say your show sucks. I’m worried when people say your show sucks. They’re the ones who make your show. They’re the ones who pay to see you, who go to see your movies.”
Related: Carlos Mencia’s home page.
I think I know why Joe Rogan's publicist wanted me to see his stand-up last weekend at the Comedy Connection. For those of you who haven't seen Rogan perform before, know that he has a reputation for being one of the bluest of blue comics, coming out of the gate with raunchy material and never letting up. But on Friday night, at least, that wasn't the Joe Rogan I saw and heard. This time, he opened with a bit about how much shock and awe he felt as the host of NBC's Fear Factor. Sure, there is some profane language. But for close to an hour, Rogan's act really was much more about the rise of stupid people -- which reflects our interview from the year before -- with his own takes on Noah's Ark and the Egyptian Pyramids. Rogan also gave a shoutout to Newton South High School and showed off a hilarious impersonation of his longtime opening act, Joey Diaz. On this weekend, Diaz and Ari Shaffir (who'd show up in Rogan's infamous video accusing Carlos Mencia of joke theft later), traded opening and middle slots. Diaz told the audience he'd gotten stoned right before his first-show set, and well, it showed. Ari, aka "The Amazing Racist," turned in some OK stuff for someone who bills himself as "The Amazing Racist."