If you spend any amount of time in the world of Joe Rogan, a word you’re going to hear often is “powerful.” It’s how he chose to name the YouTube channel—PowerfulJRE—for his incredibly popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, and it’s how the 49-year-old comic and UFC announcer describes most of the guests on that show.
“I guess it’s a way of being nice, maybe?” Rogan says when quizzed about his favorite adjective. “Me and my friends started using it a long time ago and it stuck. But it’s really caught on. My friend Bert was in the airport and this woman in her fifties came up to him and said, ‘Powerful Bert Kreischer.’ It’s a positive thing and a happy thing.”
It’s also a word that can be applied to most things that Rogan enjoys in life. He loves the power that comes from physical activity, whether it’s working out in the gym or watching two fighters go toe-to-toe in the octagon. Rogan is unapologetic in his adoration of psychedelic drugs, especially his regular use of DMT, the intensely potent hallucinogen that offers up short, concentrated trips for its users. And, as you’ll hear on some of his favorite episodes of the JRE, Rogan has a hunger for perception-altering conversation that challenges our deeply embedded preconceptions of the world, like his chats with Scottish author Graham Hancock, who has posited many controversial theories about ancient civilizations.
Mostly, Rogan loves the power of a good joke. He might thrive on that more than his regular intake of morning smoothies and freshly killed game meat. You can see it in his current Netflix special Triggered. The comedy vet looks electrified and coiled for attack as he stalks the stage of The Fillmore in San Francisco, and he sweats like he’s doing dead lifts. His delivery is equally punchy and fierce, even as he gets absurdist like in his closing bit where he imagines the Kardashian women as demons that possessed Bruce Jenner into changing his gender.
He’s bolstered so much by those sets where he and his jokes are locked in, that it’s no shock to hear how freaked out he is at the notion of starting over from scratch. “I’m terrified right now,” Rogan says. “I wake up in the middle of the night, scared that I’m onstage and out of jokes. If you think of comedy as tools, I don’t have any tools to build something with.”
It’s not as though he sounds terribly worried about it. After nearly 30 years of writing and performing stand-up, Rogan has reached the point where he can easily hop on a stage in and around L.A. with some rough ideas to work out and likely get a lot of laughs. Like the hours he spends strengthening his muscles, he knows it’s all about the work.
Which is, in part, why he led such a vocal outcry against Carlos Mencia, the stand-up who has long been accused of stealing material from other comics. While his willingness to speak up on behalf of his fellow joke tellers stems from this simple edict that you don’t rip off another comedian’s stuff, there was a sense that what bugged Rogan most was that this other comic was simply being lazy.
That’s hardly criticism you could level at Rogan. The man never seems to slow down. As of this writing, he’s recorded 865 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience over the past seven years. He commits many hours to his UFC work, MCing promotional events and doing play-by-play for the big televised contests. Rogan is also a committed family man, spending as much time as he can with his wife and three daughters. What free time he does have is devoted to hitting comedy clubs to woodshed material for what will eventually become his next stand-up special.
What isn’t certain is how long Rogan can keep up this level of activity. He’s already started scaling back a bit. When he signed a one-year extension to his contract with UFC, he added the proviso that he would not have to be a part of the league’s international events. And with that company’s recent sale to WME-IMG, the long-term future of every UFC employee is up in the air. But he’s also been forced to own up to the fact that he’s getting older and, no matter how much exercise and clean eating he does, his body is going to respond accordingly.
“It’s starting to let me know a little bit,” Rogan says. “My eyesight’s going. If I look at something close up, it gets all blurry so I have to wear reading glasses now. There’s little things all the time like my hip starts bothering me or there’s something with by back. ‘Why does my elbow hurt?’ But if you want to have a body that works good, you gotta work it out.”
For as hard as he works, Rogan appreciates another powerful quality of life: moderation. Outside of his family, he doesn’t overindulge in any one thing, preferring to maintain that perfect level balance in all corners of his world. Otherwise, as he’s seen time and time again in his life, the results can be catastrophic.
“Last week, we had on the podcast this world renowned power lifter Louie Simmons,” he recalls. “This fucking maniac in his sixties who has been on steroids since the ‘70s. He’s wreaked havoc on his body. He has no biceps. They’ve completely torn from the bone so that when he tries to flex his muscle, there’s nothing there. He’s blown out his knees. He has an artificial shoulder. If he lifts his arms above his head, he blacks out. He’s a walking testament to overtraining. But he embraces this idea of riding it until the fucking wheels fall off. I’m not really interested in that. To me, that’s counterproductive. I’m interested in health and in movement and in being able to exist and not be in pain all the time.”
Robert Ham is a regular contributor to Paste and the author of Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, out now via Regan Arts. Follow him on Twitter.