Joe Rogan returned to the stand-up stage Tuesday night with a self-deprecating set that mocked and discussed his recent newsmaking.
Headlining an intimate show in Austin, Texas, before a rapturous crowd of fans, the embattled comic and podcaster tackled his controversies — particularly the widely circulated viral video of the comedian using the N-word on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.
“I used to say it if [I was talking about] a Richard Pryor bit or something, I would say it in context,” Rogan said. “Somebody made a compilation of every time I said that word over 14 years and they put it on YouTube, and it turned out that was racist as fuck. Even to me! I’m me and I’m watching it saying, ‘Stop saying it!’ I put my cursor over the video and I’m like, ‘Four more minutes?!’
“I haven’t used that word in years,” he added. “But it’s kind of weird people will get really mad if you use that word and tweet about it on a phone that’s made by slaves,” then he segued into a bit about labor conditions at overseas cellphone factories.
Later, I mocked his other major controversy — the vaccine misinformation that’s been discussed on his podcast.
“I talk shit for a living — that’s why this is so baffling to me,” he said. “If you’re taking vaccine advice from me, is that really my fault? What dumb shit were you about to do when my stupid idea sounded better? ‘You know that dude who made people eat animal dicks on TV? How does he feel about medicine?’ If you want my advice, don’t take my advice.”
During a question and answer portion with fans after the show, Rogan was asked if he would accept the $100 million offer from Rumble to move his show from Spotify to the right-wing platform. The comedian said he was planning to stick with the streamer. “No, Spotify has hung in with me, inexplicably, let’s see what happens.”
Another audience member asked him what makes him the most nervous. “Being a bad person,” he said, seeming sincere. “For real. I try to do my best.”
The show at the Vulcan Gas Company marked the first announced appearance by the comedian since he became embroiled in controversy (there was an unannounced “secret” show over the weekend at the same venue).
Earlier Tuesday, Rogan slammed his recent controversies as “a political hit job” in a new episode of his podcast. He also discussed his recent headlines with his guest comic Akaash Singh.
“In a lot of ways, this is a relief,” Rogan said. “That video [of Rogan saying the N-word in his podcast over the years] had always been out there. This is a political hit job. They’re taking all this stuff I’ve ever said that’s wrong and smushing it all together. It’s good because it makes me address some stuff that I really wish wasn’t out there.”
Rogan also pushed back on right-wing criticisms of his recent apology video, noting, “You should apologize if you regret something. I do think you have to be careful not to apologize for nonsense.”
Singh assured, “Real life is people who know you and you’re a great guy. … On a podcast where you’re talking for hours on end, I have said shit about every demographic of human beings possible and I regret every one that was, like… not funny. … The punishment is, everybody hears it, and I’m an asshole. But I can’t stop shooting, I can’t stop swinging.”
“Over time, people will understand you,” Rogan replied. “They know you. If you misstep, they know what you’re trying to do — you’re not a vicious person, you’re just trying to be funny.”
The move follows former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis separately weighing in on the comedian’s apology.
“Joe Rogan is an interesting and popular guy, but he’s got to stop apologizing to the Fake News and Radical Left maniacs and lunatics,” Trump said on Monday. “How many ways can you say you’re sorry?”
Meanwhile, DeSantis told Fox News Digital, “The mob will come after people, and they’re targeting Rogan because he’s threatening to upset the apple cart on some of the things that they’re holding dear. And with COVID, he’s just bringing opposing views. He’s letting people decide. They say he’s against [the COVID vaccine]. I do not listen to his show about him, but then I read he specifically advocated for people with co-morbidities and elderly to get vaccinated. I think a lot of the legacy outlets and I think the left fear the fact that he can reach so many people, and so they’re out to destroy him. But what I would say is, don’t give an inch. Do not apologize. Don’t know[tow] to the mob. Stand up and tell them to pound sand; if you do that, there’s really nothing that they’re able to do to you.” Both men are considered likely to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Former presidential contender Andrew Yang made headlines by deleting a tweet about Rogan where he had defended the podcaster by saying, “I don’t think Joe Rogan is a racist … The man interacts with and works with black people literally all of the time.” Yang called the tweet “wrong headed” and said, “It also hurt people, which is never my intent. I’m sorry.”
Rogan has been the focus of a major controversy in recent weeks following musicians such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulling their music from Spotify in protest of the streamer being the exclusive distributor of the comedian’s podcast, which has featured guests in recent months who spread misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines. The controversy became more heated last Thursday after musician India. Arie circulated a compilation of clips of Rogan using the N-word on her podcast over the years (Arie likewise requested her music from her be removed from the service).
Rogan took to Instagram to apologize for his use of the racial slur, calling his comments “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.”
Other top names such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jon Stewart have ventured into the controversy, expressing (and in some cases apologizing for) their own views.
Spotify has responded by removing more than 100 episodes of JRE from its platform that featured controversial guests or content but has otherwise stood by the comedian. CEO Daniel Ek told his staff about him in an email over the weekend, “I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”