I Spent a Week Living as Joe Rogan
Weed gummies, sensory deprivation tanks, MMA, making people eat live crickets. I did it the whole Joe Rogan Experience.
Two years ago The Joe Rogan Experience was recommended to me by a friend of a friend. We were drinking at a house party and the guy insisted that the podcast's blend of stoner philosophy, humor, and scientific inquiry had introduced him to a whole new way of thinking. He said it genuinely changed his life. At the time the only things I knew about Joe Rogan was that he was the host of Fear Factor and somehow associated with the UFC. The idea that a life changing experience could come from the host of Fear Factor—a show where people once drank donkey sperm—seemed insane. I finished my drink and found someone else to talk to.
While nursing my hangover the next morning I started thinking about The Joe Rogan Experience. Knowing that I wasn't getting out of bed any time soon I threw on an episode. What started off as a morbid curiosity turned into a two-day binge session. I listened to Rogan talk with stand up comics. I listened to episodes with professional fighters and neuroscientists. I even got half way through an interview where Rogan suggested that the existence of Egyptian pyramids points towards a hyper advanced civilization older than recorded time.
Rogan's interview style offered insight into a type of masculinity that I never had access to. Growing up as an underweight, Depeche Mode-loving teen I immediately associated guy talk with the people who called me a fag and tried to kick my head in. There were things about the podcast I couldn't sign off on—Rogan was open minded enough to question if people had landed on the moon but not open minded enough to get behind preferred pronouns —but whether or not I agreed with everything he said I still listened. In the midst of all the macho posturing and weed induced rants there were nuggets of wisdom about exercise, mental attitude, and discipline that seemed useful for day-to-day life.
About a month ago I made the decision that I was going to live a week as Joe Rogan. The idea was that by embracing Rogan's brand of masculinity I would learn something about myself, or at the very least I'd get to do a bunch of ridiculous shit that I wouldn't normally get to do. When I told my friends about the plan it was met with mixed reactions. There were people who immediately started suggesting activities like bow-hunting, tracking down Big Foot, or embarrassing Carlos Mencia. Others were skeptical of the project. One girl said Rogan was "the physical manifestation of Axe Body Spray" and hoped his "bro attitude" didn't rub off on me. I tried to keep those criticisms in mind when choosing my activities for the week. I hoped I could address some of the bigger issues people had with the comic. I also hoped I could pay someone to eat a bug. The following is a day-by-day account of my week living as Joe Rogan.
Day 1: In which I eat a weed gummy and become convinced I am a piece of furniture.
Joe Rogan smokes a lot of weed. Like, a lot of it. Rogan is a functional stoner and gets a lot of shit done while high. When I smoke weed I giggle for ten minutes then spend the next three hours wondering if everyone hates me. I knew that living as Rogan meant getting high every day. Initially my plan had been to offset the weed haze by taking a smart drug called Alpha Brain, a nootropic Rogan reps through his company Onnit (who are dedicated to Total Human Optimization!), but unfortunately the Alpha Brain samples didn't get here in time for the experiment. Instead I consulted with comic Faisal Butt, who is a huge fan of both Joe Rogan and getting really stoned, about my best course of action.
"Ooh, Rogan smokes to write, do the podcast, workout. You're gonna want to go with a Sativa," said Butt. " You want something functional with a body buzz. You should also grab one of those gummies he talked about in the last special, but keep in mind he's built up a crazy tolerance."
On my first night living as Joe Rogan I ate ¼ of a weed gummy bear. An hour after ingestion I sat down to write and became convinced that there was no difference between the chair I was sitting on and my body. In fact there was no difference between me and anything else in the room. I thought that articulating this experience could be profoundly helpful, and then became upset at the limitations of words to describe transcendental ideology. To calm myself down I tried turning on an episode of The Joe Rogan podcast on my phone but got distracted by the act of scrolling. I wondered if this is how Rogan felt, an observer of larger philosophical reality while constantly trying to push the physical limitations of mind and body. Then I ate half a sleeve of cookies and fell asleep.
Day 2: In which I paid someone ten dollars to eat a live cricket.
Early in his career Joe Rogan was a regular on the criminally underrated sitcom NewsRadio, but it was his time hosting Fear Factor that really pushed him into the public eye. As homage to his time on the game show I wanted to see if I could pay someone to eat a bug. The offer was simple: forty dollars to eat three live crickets on camera. To find a willing participant I turned to Craigslist. Twenty-six people responded to me within the first day. One even offered to do it for free. I quickly realized that I didn't want to meet a stranger who was willing to respond to a Craigslist ad about eating live bugs. I posted the offer on Facebook citing a secret work project. My friend Lauren enthusiastically volunteered saying: I've had far more disgusting things in my mouth. I smoked a half joint of Sativa (pretty mellow!), hit up the pet food store, and met Lauren at her apartment.
After the shoot Lauren was describing the bursting sensation she felt when crunching down on the cricket and apologizing that she wasn't able to down all three. I smiled wondering if this was bringing me closer to Joe.
Day 3: In which I swing kettlebells and get tapped out by a girl fifty pounds lighter than me
In a post fight interview MMA fighter Nick Diaz once shouted out, "Train by day, Joe Rogan Podcast by night!" I don't really know what that means, but I do know that Rogan is an animal in the gym. He is a black belt in jiu-jitsu and constantly training with kettlebells, a Russian weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle. In addition to smoking weed everyday I knew that to live like Joe Rogan I needed to commit to a week of training. During the first two days of the project I kept with my normal jogging workout. On day three I consulted with Geoff Girvitz, owner/director of Bang Fitness, and asked about what a Joe Rogan workout might look like.
"People assume that just because you see a strong, muscular guy, you have someone who is going HAM all the time. But the question isn't how hard you can go in one session, it's how you can consistently train. You have to be more strategic for that," said Girvitz. "Rogan has talked about using [Russian kettlebell guru] Pavel Tsatsouline's approach—how he never trains to failure. I'm going to give you a taste of that. We'll work hard but leave a lot of life in you. And then we'll hit a jiu jitsu class afterwards and try to choke that life out of you."
Girvitz ran me through a series of kettlebells swings and leg stretching. The kettlebell swings looked like the hard part and the stretching looked easy, but the opposite was actually true. Throwing around the weight was doable. Lifting my legs a couple inches onto a box made me want to throw up. Fifteen minutes after the first workout we headed over to a local MMA facility for a lunchtime open mat jiu-jitsu session. One of my favorite Onion headlines is: Average Male 4000% Less Effective in Fight than they Imagine. Never in my life have I felt this to be more true. As Girvitz and the instructor ran me through drills I was comically ineffective at defending myself against my training partners. When I was paired with a petite brunette woman fifty pounds lighter than me I thought I might finally make some headway, but within two minutes she had me down to the mat and locked in an arm bar. After the session I regrouped with Girvitz who was really encouraging about the whole thing.
"People can make a lot of assumptions about fighters or weight lifters, but the truth is that these things take a lot of work. Anyone who puts in the time to get to an elite level like black belt has spent years honing and perfecting their craft with obsessive precision. That kind of discipline is to be admired. Also if you really want to train like Rogan you should come back again tonight. That guy is a beast."
Day 4: In which I recorded a podcast questioning the concepts of modern masculinity
On day four of the project, after smoking weed and swinging a kettlebell, I headed over to the Fight Network to shadow MMA Analyst Robin Black. Black has appeared on three episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience and his fight breakdowns are frequently featured by the UFC. Listening to Black and The Fight Network staff talk about fighting was like listening to another language. While hearing the science behind how people break each other was extremely interesting, I was keen to ask Black about other things. While today Black is immersed in the world of mixed martial arts, in another life he performed as an androgynous glam rocker. I wanted to get Black's take on the accusations of misogyny and bro culture often thrown against Joe Rogan and the fight community at large. We sat down in The Fight Network Studios and talked it out.
Day 5: In which I question the nature of reality in sensory deprivation tank
Joe Rogan is huge proponent of sensory deprivation tanks. A sensory deprivation tank is a lightless, soundproof, pod filled with Epsom salt and salt water. Individuals float in the tank and it's supposed to give the impression of being bodyless. Rogan has called his sensory deprivation tank the most important tool for developing his mind and brings them up on the podcast all the time. I figured if I was going to jump into the mind of Joe Rogan that this was something I had to do.
The hour in the tank is hard to describe. I felt a similar oneness with the world I had felt during the weed gummy trip, but without the head spins or body glow that accompanied it. I tried to think about Joe's stand up, or working out, or the way that other people perceive me in relation to my own masculinity. I thought about the article I was writing. But eventually all of those thoughts passed and I was left floating in the dark with just my breath. When the hour was over I felt incredibly zen. On the way out of the building I asked the front desk person if they had ever heard of Joe Rogan. They said they were a huge fan. When I asked what they thought about Rogan's macho attitude in relation to the serenity of the floats, they said that in order to get that loud you have to know how to be quiet.
Day 6: I watched UFC 208
After the conversation with Robin Black at The Fight Network he invited me to watch that week's UFC event with him and a couple of his friends. The night of the event Black was an affable host, keeping his friends entertained, and letting them know about my week living as Joe Rogan. As the prelim fights ended, one of Black's friends asked if I want to go full in on the experience and smoke some weed before the main card. I had already smoked earlier in the day, but I thought what would Joe do? and proceeded to take a huge rip off the bong. This was the first UFC card I ever watched front to back. The fights lasted for hours and I'm pretty sure I said less than five words the entire time. I couldn't keep up with anything and wondered how anyone's body moved the way the people on the screen's bodies moved. When the last fight went to a split decision one of the guests turned to me and asked who I thought won. I said the girl in the white shorts won and everybody started shaking their head in mock disgust. I was obviously wrong. I felt like I had let Rogan down.
Day 7: Reflecting on The Joe Rogan Experience
I woke up on day seven, hit the gym, smoked, and started to reflect on what the last week of my life had looked like. Between the workouts, the float tank, and the weed I felt more in my body than I ever have. I thought a lot about the conversations I had, the things I agreed with and disagreed with, and all the dumb stuff I laughed at. I tried to figure out if there was some lasting takeaway or a moral that I learned during my week spent living as Joe Rogan. There was definitely something to it and I questioned whether I should just continue living this way. To finish off the night I threw on one or two of Rogan's standup clips. In the first clip I chose Rogan called the audience bitches and said vaginas look like the Predator's mouth. I made the decision to go back to living my regular life.