He played Joe Garelli on NBC's News Radio. Anybody who has ever worked at a radio station has known Joe Garelli: the rock-steady tech-head who can fix anything--even if it isn't broken. Rogan added an edge and a certain measure of mischief to the role and in so doing created a classic TV character right up there with Klinger, Cliffy and Les Nessman.

When the editors of SHECKY! attended the Festival in Montreal, we made a point of witnessing the standup of Joe Rogan when he did the Best of the Fest show at the Comedy Works on Bishop St. It's easy to understand why Rogan cites Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks as influences on his standup.

With News Radio in his rear view, Rogan has plans for CD's, live appearances and more. He managed to squeeze in an interview with SHECKY!--Brian McKim

When and where did you begin your career as a standup comic?

I started August 27 , 1988, at Stitches in Boston.

Who was the first person to convince you that you could do standup?

I really never had any ambitions to be a standup comic. I was talked into it by guys that I used to work out with. I was always cracking them up in the locker room doing impressions of our friends, or talking about a girl I was dating that was a huge feminist. (She's actually in my act now.) And my buddy Ed was always telling me to do standup. I really never thought people would think that I was funny, I thought (my friends) thought I was funny because I was their friend, but other people would just think I was an asshole. I was at least partly right :-) That's actually one of the keys to my act, my act is so completely and totally uncensored that the only way I could really pull it off is if I treat the audience like they're my best friends and I talk to them completely honestly. People for the most part can smell lies, at least I thought that until I saw audiences applaud at Carlos Mencia :-)

Had you always
planned to become
an actor?

Nope. I never had any ambitions for that at all. I was on the MTV Half Hour Comedy Hour way back in, like, '94, and MTV asked me to do a pilot for some dopey game show they were gonna do. If I did the pilot I would have gotten $500 and I would have been exclusive to MTV for the next three years. (sounds fair, no? hehe) My manager is a slick motherfucker and he had an idea, he sent my tape out to all these network folks and said that MTV was gonna sign an exclusive deal with me, and if they wanted to do something with me they had to move right now!

Well, network folks, being the sheep that they are, immediately reacted and started a bidding war for me. I got a pile of cash and wound up on a Fox sitcom that Disney produced.

It was really weird, they had NO idea if I could act or not, and they just gave me the money and the opportunity. It wasn't until I was in L.A. in Dean Valentine(then "Mr. Big" at Disney)'s office that they even asked. It was odd. He said, "Can you act?" And I said "I think that if you can lie, you can act, and if you can lie to crazy girlfriends, you can act under pressure. So, I'm pretty sure I can pull it off."

If asked to name
your profession, would
it be actor or standup comic?

Standup comic. Say it loud, and say it proud.

Acting is just a part time job for me that allows me to buy expensive shit :-) If I could make the same amount of money doing standup it would be no contest. The problem is that if you do make that kind of money doing standup, it's not in clubs, it's in big auditoriums and large venues, and I really think something is lost when you do standup for a big crowd. It's sort of that diffusion-of-responsibility thing where the audience isn't totally connected to the show. It's no longer intimate, it's a "show" and you're not really "one" with the crowd for the most part.

I've done some big crowds at colleges and at the Wisconsin SummerFest, and I really prefer clubs.

What is the public's
biggest misconception
about standup comics?

Hmmm... I don't know what the biggest one is, but one that always annoys me is the misconception that standup comics are always "on." For the most part that's really only shitty comics that do that. I don't know ANY really funny comics that are annoying and constantly trying to be funny all the time in normal conversation. The ones that do that, without exception, usually suck--and probably steal. It's that "Robin Williams disease," Ya know? I saw him in Aspen and I had the overwhelming desire to tackle him and choke the fucking shit out of him. I just have this HUGE problem with joke thieves and needy fucks, and they're usually one in the same. I just don't understand how they get so far. It baffles me, and I can't understand why people think that's funny. But then again, "Titanic" won the Oscar, so what the fuck do I know?

Do you write most
of your material onstage
or off?

I write most of it offstage, but I certainly add tag lines and branch off of my jokes mostly onstage. Most of my bits are long stream-of-consciousness- type things, and when I'm doing them onstage, other places to take the theme or idea will hit me, and I just go with it.

That's one of the great things about working at The Comedy Store in L.A. It's a really loose room and it's really dark and creepy and a great place to explore your own thoughts onstage. I write a lot of my stuff from ideas that I get working there. It's supposedly haunted too. The history of the place is that it was Ciro's nightclub way back in the '50s and Bugsy Segal owned it. A LOT of dudes where whacked there, and almost every manager that's worked there has seen (or allegedly seen) some freaky things.

While you were on News Radio, most folks had no idea that you did standup. Did you choose not to publicize that part of your career for a reason or was it mostly out of your control?

I still did a lot of standup when I was on News Radio, but I wasn't really the main focus of the show, so no one really knew much about my background.

Whenever I would do a club, I think that a lot of the club owners thought that I was another actor with seven minutes trying to headline somewhere because I had a name. I think it's really just getting out recently that standup is my real talent.

Ray Romano was originally in the role of Joe Garelli. Would you switch places with him, or
are you happy with the way it's turning out right now?

I'm very happy with my life, and I'm also very happy for Ray. I remember when Ray first got that show and it was on Friday night. He NEVER stopped working on that show. Nobody works harder than Ray Romano, and it shows. The show is great, and in my opinion it's added new life to the traditional sitcom genre.

People always have it in their head that there's a trend, that this is in and this is out. And for a while it was being bandied around that the traditional sitcom was dead, that people were tired of it. But what they were really tired of was shitty shows. What people like are things to laugh at. Funny shows. It's all in the execution, the writing and the characters, not the setting. And the writing and the execution and the characters are GREAT on (Everybody Loves Raymond).

As far as my life goes, I wouldn't change a thing. I had a great time on News Radio, I got to make tons of money in relative obscurity and learn a lot about the TV biz and work on my standup act constantly. It was a dream gig.

Had you done any
television work before
landing News Radio?

I was on a show on Fox called Hardball, it lasted about six episodes before it got the axe. I played a jerkoff baseball star named Frank Valente.

It was a very interesting learning experience because it was a great show on paper until a horrible executive producer with a big ego was hired by Fox to run the show and he re-wrote it. The original writers were Jeff Martin and Kevin Curran. They had some great credits (The Simpsons, Married With Children), but Fox wasn't sure that they were tough enough to actually run a show, so they hired this hack, ass-kissing, talentless monkey to come in and helm the show. Well, he decided that he was brilliant, and re-wrote the whole pilot and jizzed all over the ideas that Jeff and Kevin had. They (Fox and Disney) finally fired him on the day the pilot was to be shot, but, by then, it was too late. The show was months behind schedule and there was no way to patch up all the holes in time. It sunk, and I learned a lot from it all.

I am guessing that a lot of people who know you from News Radio
are showing up at your live comedy shows...are they surprised by your standup act?

Well I have this thing built into my contract that the club has to put up a sign that says my act "contains the strongest language and material content imaginable," but, believe it or not, I still get complaints. People want you to be what they want you to be, ya know? If they see you on TV and that's what they like, they want you to be EXACTLY like that when they see you live. And if you're not, some of them get upset.

Comedy is a funny thing, and it's really not like any other art form in that it's very specialized and varied in it's content, but generic in it's title. You would never go to a club just to see "Live music," you would go to a jazz club to see jazz, a blues club to see blues, etc. But when you go to see "standup comedy," if you don't know the performers material, you really don't have any idea what you're gonna get. You might get Barry Manilow, or you might get Rage Against The Machine. I'm finally getting to the point now where most of the people that come to see me know what I do, but it's taken a LONG time.

Where is your
favorite place to perform?

Houston, Texas. The Laff Stop. Hands down. Houston people are way cool. They're smart, they know how to have a good time, and they have the hottest chicks on the planet there. Plus, for me, it really means a lot that I'm received in Houston so well, because that's the birthplace of my kind of comedy. Sam Kinison started out there and so did Bill Hicks, and, if I had to pick two guys who influenced me most in my career, those would be the two.

I really think that the attitude of the city has a lot to do with the type of comedy it spawns, and Houston has one of the best crops of up-and-coming talent I've ever seen when I go on the road. A lot of times you go into a town and they have a local guy MC or middle, and it's usually painful to try to watch their set, but in Houston most of the guys are really funny. I've even sat in on the open mike night at the Laff Stop and had a great time watching the performers.

Plus one of the great things about Houston is that they police themselves. It's the way Boston was in the '80s. No hacks or thieves are tolerated in the community, and that's HUGE. The up-and-comers see that they have to go about it the right way, with their own ideas and their own voice. If the comedy communities in all cities had the same attitude as they do in Houston, the comedy world would be in a much better place talent-wise than it is now. If I could, I would live there, and I would encourage any comic starting out looking for a good place to develop to move to Houston.

Why haven't you had a cable special? Was
it your decision, or was it
never offered?

Never offered. That's my main career goal right now, and HBO hour standup special. I have an album coming out on Warner Bros. soon called "I'm Gonna Be Dead Someday," and I'm hoping that this can get me closer to an HBO hour. It's really tough to get one these days, but I'm trying. My attitude is: Every day I don't do it is a day that I get better, so it's all good. When I finally do get one I'm gonna be so pumped I'm gonna explode onstage!

Do you travel with
your own opening act?

I usually travel with Chris McGuire, a friend of mine from Boston.

You're planning to record a comedy CD at the Houston Laff Stop.
Why the decision
to record a CD now? Why did you wait?

I always wanted to do one, but I didn't want to do one with a rinky dink label. I held out and I got lucky that Warner Bros. was interested in doing one with me. I have a three-album deal with them now, with my first album to be released this spring.

Did you have a favorite comedy album
when you were growing up?

All the Richard Pryor albums. I used to listen to them with my friends and we would laugh our asses off. I couldn't believe that a guy could be that funny just talking about things! I remember when I was a kid, I think I was like, 12, or something, my parents took me to see "Live at the sunset Strip," and I was literally bent over with laughter. At some point in the show I stopped watching the screen and just looked around the room and saw all the people in the audience just falling out of their seats laughing. I'll never forget the feeling I had, that I was experiencing a kind of brilliance that I never imagined existed. I had seen movies before that that had made me laugh, but I had never seen anything even remotely close to as funny as he was, again, just standing there talking. I was blown away, and I thought about that movie all the time for years.

After the passing of Phil Hartman,
was it difficult to work
on News Radio?

Terribly. The first episode back I cried more in that week that I have in ten years. He was a great guy and even funnier offscreen. Learn from his mistakes kids: Never stay in a bad marriage, and don't hang around with psycho coke fiends.

You just signed a deal to do
another sitcom. What type of show
would you like to do?

Something funny. That's my only goal. Surround myself with funny people, make sure everyone has a good time and works hard, and keep my fingers crossed. I'll keep you posted :-)

Will you continue to do standup regardless of what else you
do on your career?


Did you ever attempt to write any News Radio scripts?
Is that something you'd like to do?

I never did, but I've written other things. I just finished a movie that I wrote with Chris McGuire, we also wrote an animated show together and if I do a show I want to be on the writing staff, no doubt.

We saw you at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, at the Best of the Fest Show at the Comedy Works. Have you ever been asked to perform at the Galas?

Nope. I'm dirty, and I'm not cleaning it up for no Canadian television!!! hehe. I'm a nightclub comic. That's what I do, and at this point in my life if makes no sense doing a watered down version of my act. I work in the clubs uncensored because my mind is uncensored, and those are the thoughts that I have. I do the kind of comedy that I would enjoy seeing. I wouldn't totally rule out doing a set on Letterman or the Tonight Show if I had a seven-minute set that I just happened to write that I thought was funny but was still appropriate for network censors. But I'm not going to go out of my way to construct one.

What is your favorite comedy club crowd demographic? Do you prefer to perform for men or women? Old or
young? Or does it matter?

It really doesn't matter, but I prefer older people to college kids for the most part. I want people with life experience, people that understand where I'm coming from.

Why is your web site called "talkingmonkey?"
Is there a story there?

My company is called Talking Monkey, Inc. It's because that's what I think all people are: talking monkeys. I'm actually negotiating with the owner of to buy the domain from him to set up a site there. He's a real estate salesman from VA named (oddly enough) Joe Rogan. I own, so if he wants too much money I'm just gonna put up my site (at and see how confusing it gets :-)

What do you want to accomplish with
the site?

Same thing that I want to accomplish with my whole stinking life, Bitches and Money, G!! Peace out. HOME Back to the Top